Manaia - short works premiere season

Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

05/07/2016 - 09/07/2016

Production Details

Atamira Dance Company’s new short works programme showcases the strong female choreographic voice within the company. This voice has long been an important driving force within Atamira, supporting a pedigree of respected female dancers and choreographers who continue to align with and emerge from the company.

Under the theme of Manaia (from the mythical creature of the same name with the head of a bird and body of a human) this year’s short works programme bridges human endeavour to spiritual aspiration.

Gabrielle Thomas with her trio of women dancers, delves into the meaning and symbology of Manaia. Kelly Nash presents a powerful duet that reverses common known myths and histories, and Nancy Wijohn’s solo performance weaves physical opposition with illusion.

“I am really excited by this opportunity and thrilled to be co-directing this show with such diverse Wahine. The platform given, helps us all too expand artistically and lift the esteem of woman choreographers in dance.” (Kelly Nash)

Daily at 8pm. 
Tickets: Adults #30. Concession/Group of 6 = $20 pr person

Dancers include: 

Hannah Tasker Poland and Emmanuel Reynaud

Paige Shand, Tyler Carney and Imogen Tapara

Nancy Wijohn

Maori contemporary dance , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

New works in development

Review by Dione Joseph 07th Jul 2016

The essence of the Manaia is that it is always more than it seems.

Depicted as having the features of a bird, serpent, fish as well as that of a human, this mythological creature carries an innate power transmuting the world around it as much as it transforms into different versions of itself.

It is appropriate then that the Manaia is the inspiration for Atamira’s new season of three brand new works by female choreographers packed into an hour long performance.

Nancy Wijohn’s piece begins the evening’s programme with Pito, a work that centers upon an umbilical connection with our tipuna wahine. As the lights dim Wijohn lies face-down against a lengthy coil of tawny rope that hangs suspended from the ceiling….

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Manaia-connected choreographies

Review by Raewyn Whyte 07th Jul 2016

Atamira Dance Company’s 2016 development season, Manaia, presents three short works which engage with some aspect of that mythological entity, a bird-headed man most often found as a carved design motif in buildings, stone and pounamu jewelry.

The manaia is known as a shape-shifter which can slip between space and time, and operates in the space between the human and spirit worlds, at times offering protective powers. These shape-shifting capacities are celebrated in Te Waenganui, choreographed by Gabrielle Thomas, a rich exploration of slowly mutating manaia-like sculptural forms which seems to explore all the possible variations in triadic spatial arrangement.

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Manaia: thrice diverging

Review by Sarah Knox 06th Jul 2016

Atamira Dance Company presents Manaia, a triple bill of contemporary Maori dance works. Staged at Q Theatre Loft, the space is transformed into three adjoining worlds: connecting to the past, witnessing the present, and questioning the future.

Nancy Wijohn’s Pito is an exploration of maternal connection. She is marked by a ghostly silhouette, fading in and out of murky darkness. Is it a shedded former self, a mother long gone, or a guardian angel? In the heavenly otherworld a thick hanging rope descends to her earth, presenting a safe haven, an umbilical cord, dragging her to assess moments in time. It becomes burdensome, no longer serving her, like a grief that should have passed but which will always be there. At times however, choreographically, there might be a little too much arbitrary knot tying and swinging. I also yearn for Wijohn to put her body into positions of more risk so we can see the instigation for the many falls and collapses, moving them beyond appearing superfluous. She is a masterful performer though, and she has a way of looking at us with arresting authenticity and vulnerability. It is beautifully confronting, as art should be. The use of projection provides opportunity to connect with the other, and it creates a presence in the space that haunts her and us.

 Gaby Thomas’s work Te Waenganui features the performances of three recent graduates from the New Zealand School of Dance, Paige Shand, Tyler Carney and Imogen Tapara. With the endearing precision and performative ambition that only a 20 something can have, they each capture the unaffected simplicity of the design and rhythm of the work. Like shards of mirror, they whirl around the space in never ending formations, reflecting something of ourselves back at us. Shand is an eternally calm presence in the space, her power ripples under her flesh, unseen, until she unleashes it towards us in warning. Carney, an undercurrent, a guardian, scans the horizon. Tapara, a tentative support system, is understated, unknowingly majestic, subtly magnetic. The space is simply framed by strips of light, making the dancers seem as if they are floating like fireflies outside a misty window. However, in the activation of the performance space by the presence and power of the dancers, and in creating a unique world within which the piece is performed, I do question where the dancers go when they run off stage between sections in the work. What are they doing back there, and how does it relate to what they have shown us on stage? For me, this diminishes my experience of imaginative captivation and I wonder what might be enhanced in the work if they were to remain connecting, contributing and communicating within the performance the entire time?

In the last piece of the evening Mā, Kelly Nash attempts to capture the multifaceted subject of gender: stereotypes, and patriarchal hierarchies. A large endeavor! Through the manipulation of gender we witness Sean McDonald release his wrath and inhabit the feminine flesh of another. Hannah Tasker-Poland’s fierce presence demands our attention, as always. Swathed in black she begins as a faceless feminine god, eventually shape shifting into a human woman. Milly Kimberly Grant provides an exceptional and diverse live sound score for the work. Her ability to shift the tone of the piece from section to section is fantastic and is clearly an integral aspect of the work.

 AV design by Rowan Pearce provides a cohesive connection between the first and second works in the programme and also plays a poignant hand in the successful creation of the two worlds; as does some wonderful lighting by Amber Molloy. However, for Mā the AV appears to be more of an after thought and somewhat unnecessary.

In the midst of the current dialogue about the lack of women dance makers in the world, Manaia sits well as an injection to this conversation. Although by no means a concept unique to Atamira, a programme of three female choreographers is fine affirmation that female creators are working in full force in New Zealand.


You can see Manaia tonight (6 July) until 9 July, 8pm at Q theatre. Tickets available from Q. Make a night of it and see Sunset Affair at the Basement at 6.30pm as an appetizer. 


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