Kaha (2013-14)

Hawkes Bay Opera House, Hastings

13/06/2013 - 13/06/2013

Theatre Royal, TSB Showplace, New Plymouth

16/06/2013 - 16/06/2013

Gallagher Concert Chamber, Wel Academy of Performing Arts, Waikato University, Hamilton

19/06/2013 - 19/06/2013

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

18/10/2013 - 19/10/2013

Regent Theatre, The Octagon, Dunedin

14/10/2014 - 15/10/2014

Theatre Royal, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson

16/10/2013 - 16/10/2013

Dunedin Arts Festival 2014

Nelson Arts Festival 2013

TEMPO Dance Festival 2013

Production Details

Artistic director: Moss Patterson
Choreographers: Moss Patterson, Kelly Nash, Nancy Wijohn, and Gaby Thomas

Kaha 2013 presents seven short works choreographed by company members. Haka fuses contemporary and traditional movement; Moko explores the art of body tattoo; trio, Te Paki explores the rhythm of the sea. NEW work Paarua explores competitive mental strategies and features jump-style dance and sport infused moves, compelling and colourful high-vibe work Indigenarchy, Pou Rakau inspired by the traditional Maori song and stick game, and a special version of Poi E Thriller from the movie BOY.

Dance , Contemporary dance , Dance-theatre ,

1 hour

Strong and empowering, yet playful

Review by Hahna Briggs 16th Oct 2014

KAHA is made of up 7 short diverse works by various choreographers, beginning with a modified traditional haka, Wairangi, and ending with the well-known Poi E Thriller dance, choreographed by Dolina Wehipeihana, as seen in the film Boy.

Artistic director, Moss Patterson narrates the show by giving a korero before each dance sharing memories, stories and thematic inspirations for each work. In his introduction, Patterson offers the audience two words that encapsulate the show, strength and empowerment. I would also add playful and accessible.

To elaborate on accessibility, the audience are very appreciative as evident in their enthusiastic cheers at the end and as the lights came on I notice a lot of young people in the audience. This is a great show to introduce young people to Māori contemporary dance. Kaha displays a diverse range of styles and genres within Māori contemporary dance, and at times touches on themes that I believe can engage young people, such as popular culture and the New Zealand sporting culture. In addition, young audience members, many of whom will be learning such art forms in the class room, have the chance to see how haka and pou rakau can translate into the theatre.

I feel frustrated at the darkness of the entire show. Large black curtains against dark costumes and minimalist directional white/yellow lighting are used in the majority of the works. At times, I find it difficult to see the dancers’ facial expressions and their movements. The similar lighting states used throughout simply get a bit boring and the occasional shift from this is not enough of a change or contrast. Perhaps I expected more from a dance theatre show being held in the Regent. However, I do enjoy the effective lighting illusion of dancers’ suddenly materialising on stage.

As previously stated the show begins with Haka, choreographed by Moss Patterson. The modified Wairangi haka is a powerful beginning. A lasting visual image is of crouched dancers with muscled arms strongly rooted to the ground. This image emphasises the ‘call to action’ and the readiness of the dancers to perform.

Te Paki is next, also choreographed by Patterson. This work is inspired by ‘te paki o te ngaru’ (the clap of the waves), a method of watching waves to find an internal rhythm and quality from which to create poetry and movement. The repetitive, cyclic and fluid nature of this dance certainly reflects waves as the dancers flow effortlessly from one movement to next.

Pou Rakau is next and is choreographed by Gaby Thomas. Dancer Jack Gray seems to lead this work asaaaaaaaaa his group of rakau (dancers embodying rakau) move rhythmically behind him, later transforming into Pou; the simple gesture of standing tall and firm as they assertively move from space to space wi a nice contrast to the constant flowing movement of the previous dance.

Paarua, choreograped by Nancy Wijohn is a drastic shift in pace as a sport-inspired, fast paced and athletic dance unfolds. Dressed in bright sporting costumes, the dancers move from warming up, to training, to full on competitive scenarios. No sport is left untouched, including inspiration from Māori warfare tactics. Not only are team players displayed on stage but two flirtatious referees also take to the stage with their power hungry whistles.

Indignenarchy, choreographed by Kelly Nash, explores indigenous symbols within mass media. Many recognisable symbols appear then quickly disappear again amongst the tension filled movements. This seems to reflect the way indigenous symbols are often appropriated, become trends overnight, only to be quickly replaced by another popularised symbol.

Moko Is the longest work of the evening and the last dance before the Poi E Thriller finale. Choreographed by Patterson, Moko Is inspired by the Māori art form. The work Is shown in three sections, a choreographic triptych. The second section appeals to me the most. This section is playful; two dancers constantly manipulating each other’s body parts and reacting to each other’s impulses. The dancers have a strong connection and appear to enjoy performing this section. The music is very familiar to me and reminds me of the Gathering music festival days. My connection to the music and the fluid conversational movement put me a soothing relaxed and meditative state. 


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Sharp acts

Review by Jesse Quaid 19th Oct 2013

Kaha, the latest offering from Atamira Dance Company, is a tight and highly physical show. The programme of short works is bookended by Moss Patterson’s Haka and Dolina Wehipeihana’s Poi E Thriller, neatly encapsulating Atamira’s strategy for taking the traditional and adding their own interpretations.

As with any short works programme the pieces are varied in content. The consistency, however, of the movement style that the company has developed works to tie these pieces into a whole. We are guided through the show by Moss’ commentary which, as well as providing the back story, acts to dispate the energy generated by each piece and to make the pieces personal to the performers and the audience.

Following the vibrating power of Haka is Moss Patterson’s Te Paki; a fluid, rolling trio that embodies the natural rhythms of ocean waves. The strong diagonal patterns and repeated motifs create a soothing and entrancing cadence. This piece highlights Atamira’s choreographic strength when working with trios, the inherent imbalance opening up the vocabulary and allowing for more nuanced decisions.

In contrast to the harmonic nature of Te Paki, Gaby Thomas’ Pou Rakau was more like watching a game of chess. This piece takes the movement of the rakau and extends it through the dancers’ bodies, creating a precise yet fluid vocabulary and structure. This includes a clever interpretation of the rakau game, with the use of Jack Gray as the ancestral figure providing an additional gravitas.

Paarua, by Nancy Wijohn is a fluoro romp. Playing with cliched sporting themes it engages the audience through its energy and humour, especially through its use of cameos. Jack Gray is priceless as the camp referee in a duelling whistles duet, and the image of Mark Bonnington and Andrew Millar as Irish dancing racehorses will definitely linger for a very long time.

Kelly Nash’s Indigenarchy allows the stage to become an anarchic place of morphing and shifting characters reminiscent of a sideshow and drawing on aspects of medieval festivals. It deals with the idea of image which in these times of instant media is chaotic mix of semi-cliches, commercialisation and simplification of culture. At times the dancers fully inhabit these ideas but they never quite seem to own them, reducing the overall impact of the piece.

Returning to a traditional vein is Moss Patterson’s Moko. Presented as a triptych, the first section has an urban vibe, the second a primal, earthy presence and the third what Moss describes as “the moko rising off the skin”. Despite the shifts between sections there is a lack of variety in the vocabulary which makes it difficult for the audience to sustain attention; the patterns are beautifully executed, the movement sharp, but the whole lacks life.

Replete with sharp and highly physical movement, limbs and bodies arcing cleanly through space, Kaha shows the company at its technical best. The pieces showcase the new direction this company is heading in, even though the works do not yet appear to be fully developed. Hopefully with more time and familiarity the dancers will come to inhabit their works fully. 


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Assured, articulate Atamira

Review by Anna Bate 18th Oct 2013

The articulate and charismatic director of Atamira, Moss Patterson, introduces each work in Kaha before they are performed. This practical move is generous and personal allowing audience members a verbal inline to the work. I however find it hindering my imagination as I search and don’t always find what I have been told to look for. Perhaps this information could follow each work, as you then become more actively engaged as an audience member, contributing more openly with your own ‘this and that’ before you are fed the artist’s intentions. 

The confident and charming cast of Atamira, one of New Zealand’s contemporary Maori dance companies, brought Kaha to the Theatre Royal in Nelson last night, with a central north island Haka, Wairangi, reworked by Moss Patterson. I can’t help but notice the colonial architecture of the Theatre Royal (1878) and entertain fleeting thoughts about what layers this particular context adds to the work, or in fact all of the works. There is a claiming (or re-claiming) of space beyond the physical flesh of the dancers’ bodies as they assuredly assert their presence and begin to share their work.

Following this is Te Paki, another choreographic iteration by Moss. This trio is dense with undulations, curves and spirals. As a spectator I feel myself joining in on the ride, subconsciously emulating the rhythms and wave like qualities that the dancers’ bodies produce. On these terms, the work is successful.  

Gabby Thomas’ Pou Rakua brings to the contemporary dance stage the classic hit Titororea from my primary school days. This work incorporates Mau Rakau (traditional Maori stick games). Punctuated with fast articulate stick work, it expands from more traditional Mau Rakau vocabulary to incorporate and intermesh contemporary dance traditions. Deviations from such traditions, in both forms, occur, as dancers ‘become’ raukau. This is a smart move choreographically and for me shifts the work into more interesting terrain.

Paaurua (Double Contact) by Nancy Wijohn is the most playful work in the program. Investigating the relationship between sporting tactics and Maori warfare, the choreographer clearly draws material from the sporting arena. This shift in language is a welcome one for me. The work at times is a little juvenile, verging on kids show material, but more sophisticated interplay emerges as the work progresses. I would have happily watched the racehorses for some time and Jack Gray and Daniel Copper deliver a mimetic comedic referee scene to great effect, showcasing, in particular, Jack’s versatility as a performer. I would like to see a remake of this work, with a sharper focus on the concept 

Conceptually Kelly Nash’s Indigenarchy is the most intriguing and potentially rich for me. It investigates how mass media represents indigenous images in Aotearoa. Whilst some powerful images emerge  and dissolve , these moments are fleeting. There appears to be a lot more scope for this work to directly engage with its concept.

Moss Patterson’s Moko is next in the program, a longer work in which the dancers skills are undoubtedly showcased. Divided into three sections, the choreography is generally made up of a series of motifs that are re-configured in different ways throughout the work. Cut, splice and paste. It is skillfully crafted pattern making, and that’s where the moko theme comes into play, but to be honest my attention wanes as I have seen so much work like this before in New Zealand. From my perspective it’s time for a change.

The show concludes with a heart-warming rendition of Poi E Thriller adapted for the company by Dolina Wehipeihana. It’s an uplifting way to end the show; one can’t help but be a little tickled with joy.   

Being such a tight collective has its benefits. As a company the dancers are charming, articulate, and playful performers. And because Kaha has been touring for some time we are witness to choreographic work that has settled, giving the performers, in a sense, more room to move. This is a rare treat. However, in such a tight group, there is a circular system of creation where everyone choreographs on each other and dances in one another’s work. For me, in Kaha, vocabulary seeps from one work to another and it is difficult to clearly differentiate choreographic signatures. You could call this ‘the collective style of the company’ and be done with it, but I am of the opinion that perhaps there is a lot more room for deviation, experimentation and variation within the choreographic palate of an Atamira short works show. 


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Sustained flow of energy

Review by Liza Kire 20th Jun 2013

Atamira dance company is currently travelling throughout New Zealand with their ‘Kaha Tour 2013’ which showcases beautiful dance pieces mixing contemporary movements with Maori culture.

After training at their dance studios in Auckland, artistic director Moss Patterson has put together a show that is sure to blow anyone away.

Using a Haka as their opening number the performers of the Kaha Tour started out the show fierce and exciting, incorporating new moves with traditional Maori actions. Surprisingly they had the female dancers of their company doing the same actions as the males which may rub some people the wrong way but if they are trying to establish equality,  then it could be called perfect.

Mr Patterson introduces each number providing background information about why and how the dances came to see the stage.

One particular gem of the show is performed to a song titled ‘He Taonga’ by well known Maori singer/song writer Whirimako Black. The dance is an interpretation of waves crashing at a beach providing a beat that Maori people would use to create songs and dances from.

The flawless flow of newest company member Andrew Miller was absolutely spectacular to watch. The breathtaking fluid motions of his body mimicking the way waves move so naturally on our shores was clear and concise. It is always a pleasure to watch someone dance, getting caught up with their passion for it and forgetting that there are people watching them.

Timing is another aspect that people will be critical of however; Atamira Dance Company has immaculate precision with everyone in sync making it obvious that they move as a group and not as individuals.

Using their bodies as a group to create what appeared to me like the entrance to a Marae, a race to the finish line and at one point to create the feel that a Ta Moko was being lifted off the skin and taken into a three dimensional form shows the dedication of these performers and the hard work they’ve put in. The culturally rich meaning behind all of the numbers is a pleasure to see taking elements such as the traditional Maori stick game to a whole new level. Gone are the days of simply sitting on ones knees and keeping the simple beat to the song E Papa Waiari. The same beat was used but kicks and jumps, leaps and flips have been added to give it a modern feel that I can see taking off and becoming the new challenge in terms of tititoria (short sticks).

The comedy elements in some numbers will have you giggling and you are sure to laugh out loud when performer Jack Grey takes the stage as a referee sporting fluro pink clothes and a hilarious camp like attitude.

Ending the show the dancers perform what has become a classic Kiwi favourite ‘Poi E’ as done at the end of the movie BOY. The energy never dies throughout the entire show which had me feeling a little breathless just by watching it. Although some numbers aren’t as clear to understand the beauty behind contemporary dancing is that you take your own interpretations from it. 


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More than you can take in during one viewing

Review by Peter Nee Harland 16th Jun 2013

KAHA is a work designed to coincide with the advent of Matariki and the Māori New Year.  In astrological speak the seven stars comprising Pleiades become visible in the pre dawn sky. The significance of seven is echoed by the fact that KAHA 2013 is performed by a troop of seven dancers who skilfully perform seven works.  Beginning with Haka and concluding some one hour ten minutes later with an enjoyable rendition of the iconic Poi E – my 12 year old daughter and I agreed it was a keeper.      

The Hawkes Bay Opera House experience began with a staff member who was available to personally greet the paying public, I was prepared to be immersed and out numbered by theatre regulars but was pleasantly surprised to be amongst a wide cross section of people. 

Ka tangi te titi,  Ka tangi te kaka, Ka tangi hoki ahau.  Artist Director of Atamira Dance Company, Moss Patterson, MC for the evening, respectfully beckons the attention of the audience whilst clearing the air of lingering negative forces.  With each of the seven works prefaced by an explanatory comment offered by the impossible-to-dislike artistic director I thought lets get it on!

The collection starts with Haka an acknowledgment of traditional Māori dance and Moss Patterson’s Tuwharetoa upbringing.  Te Paki also by Moss Patterson highlighted the extreme fitness of the dancers evident in their effortless execution of this choreography, recognisable as that of the ocean.  To those who have been off shore, one doesn’t see the sea as much as feel it – the whale back of Te Moananui a kiwa.  This work succeeds in evoking an emotional glimpse of that experience.    

Third was Indigenarchy by Kelly Nash, which I found to be an eloquent way of intimating that while Maori live in a world saturated by mass media, our values are not necessarily of that world.  This is a clever work but at times felt that the narrative was lost in the detail.  The chaotic vibe to the piece could possibly have been enhanced with projected images, but the spectacle of the beautiful Nancy Wijohn performing with her blanket more than compensated.

The audience openly giggled throughout Paarua by Nancy Wijohn, what with a tongue-in-cheek display of human nature in sport. The comedy inherent in the challenge of the whistle blowing referees was well executed by Jack Gray and Daniel Cooper.  I particularly liked the ‘race’ track scene.  This piece was funny and accessible. 

Rakau by Gaby Thomas stood out for me.  Inspired by the familiar stick game and waiata E Papa, the dancers kneel quietly in formation creating and building upon rhythms clack, pa pa, clack, pa pa…  The scene is disturbed by the figure of a man in traditional dress.  Jack Gray’s performance was impressive, his careful deliberate actions emotive…  What was he symbolic of?

Moko by Patterson, is a work about the art of tattooing and is the longest piece in the set.  To see the female dancers entwining neck around neck was evocative and alluring.  At times I suffered from sensory overload however the personification of ta moko was unmistakeable.  In spite of the reality of its length, I came away thinking I would like to see more of that piece.

The finale Poi E was a nice touch.  A celebrated classic originally arranged by the genius of Dalvanius Prime, I remember the Patea boy in the original Poi E music video, jiving and break dancing in concert with the Patea Māori Club performers.  The familiar music had the audience tapping along to the beat, any longer and we would have been up out of seats trying a snake!  The acknowledgement of Boy the movie, and the work of Atamira founding member Dolina Wehipeihana are wholly consistent with the sensitive and thoughtful way that Atamira’s KAHA 2013 was presented. 

Overall I felt that the show required more than one viewing to take in.  For that reason I will try to see KAHA and the Atamira Dance Company again. With something for everyone including nga tamariki who whooped with delight at the sight of familiar icons, an enjoyable time was had by all.  On behalf of nga tangata ki Heretaunga may I wish you Atamira all the best on your tour of the Central North Island and to the U.S.A.  We look forward to your safe return. Kia manawanui.  Kia ù ki ngà tikanga tuku iho.  Hold fast to the inherited treasures of our shared ancestry. Kia KAHA and happy New Year to us all.


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A spicy plate of tapas offered with warmth

Review by Kathleen Mantel 15th Jun 2013

Kaha is a collection of 7 short works by Atamira dance company.  It’s a spicy plate of tapas offered with warmth.  From the beginning we are welcomed into the space, into the world of dance.  Artistic director Moss Patterson introduces each piece and offers a background to the works providing a fascinating insight into how each came to fruition.  This insight makes the performances appeal to lovers of dance, and those new to dance. 

The dancers each bring something of themselves to the performances.  Kaha is dance, but it is also theatre.  We see strength, pain, fire, flirtatiousness, ego, vulnerability and laughter in a way you don’t often see with dance. There is a real sense of human connection on an intimate and personal level. There is a depth to the works, many steeped in Maori mythology and glimpses of lives we somehow remember but may have forgotten along the way.

Highlights for me are Paarua, inspired by choreographer Nancy Wijohn’s fascination with Maori warfare tactics and the way competition triggers a desire to win, it’s also a  hilarious take on the physicality of sport.  Who thought you could laugh at dance?  But laugh we did, and whoop at the prancing horses and the whistle-blowing, hip-swinging madam.  Moko is another absolute standout.  Choreographed by artistic director Moss Patterson, Moko is a work of sheer beauty.  We seep into the dance becoming part of it, feeling runny ink and needles penetrate as the movement plays tricks with our eyes.  There is no laughing, no whoops, just a quiet awe at the beauty and emotion caught inside the movement washes over us.

We don’t see a lot of dance in the provinces, and the chance of seeing New Zealand’s leading Maori contemporary dance troupe was not an opportunity lost.  When the dancers appeared after the performance they were swamped by their adoring audience who gathered for a glimpse and a photo, that will no doubt end up on many bedroom walls. 

Atamira is electrifying dance theatre going from strength to strength.  They have an exciting year ahead of them touring New Zealand and the United States.  So bring your mates, your Nan and your kids because Kaha is a performance everyone will love.




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