MANU and WEARING MY MAP - Double Bill

Pātaka Art + Museum, 17 Parumoana Street, Porirua

02/12/2016 - 03/12/2016

Measina Festival 2016

Production Details

Manu – Taofi Mose-Tuiloma         

“E felelei manu, ae maau I o latou ofaga” – (Birds migrate to environments where they survive and thrive)

Choreographer Taofi Mose-Tuiloma in collaboration with graduates of Whitireia’s Performing Arts programme, Jullie Nanai-Williams, Jasmine Leota, Jordan Fuimaono, Evan Fuimaono and Krystal Clarke, present ‘MANU‘, a contemporary dance interpretation of our muagagana/alagaupu  (language of our ancestors) explored through bird-like movement in a contemporary Samoan context.

Wearing my map – Sunameke             Dance

Choreographed by Julia Mage’au Gray

It’s a given, If you’re of mixed heritage or live outside of your country of origin, you’ve dealt with issues of identity.
Other peoples perceptions, our families expectations, and more importantly our own realisations.
“This is a work inspired by my own experiences of learning aspects of my culture through dance, outside of my country of origin. As a Papua New Guinean I have rarely been placed within my own people and often have been warmly accepted and adopted into outside pasifika nations (mainly Polynesian).
This work introduces my Melanesian ancestry to the place I now call home, Aotearoa, New Zealand”.
WEARING MY MAP combines Melanesian forms of dance with an evocative video narrative designed to place Melanesian presence within Polynesia.
“Through my work with Sunameke, we have endeavoured to create art that reflects our own culture of Pasifika Diaspora, people that are connected and accountable to their families, yet often are not accepted in their countries of origin due to appearance and location.”
WEARING MY MAP moves from the Time of Darkness to the Age of Light, exploring White Noise and Dark Silence.

“Gray’s work creates a space that calls us to recognise our 8 million neighbours in our ocean’s backyard and the strong Melanesian presence right here in New Zealand.” – Dione Joseph, Theatreview (Theatreview) 

Performers: Julia Gray, Elaine Pokarop, Toria Maladina, Aisa Pokarop

Click your chosen session to book tickets:
 6:30PM Friday, 2 December, 2016 NZ
7:00PM Saturday, 3 December, 2016 NZ

MANU Dancers:  Jullie Nanai-Williams, Jasmine Leota, Jordan Fuimaono, Evan Fuimaono, Krystal Clarke

WEARING MY MAP Performers: Julia Gray, Elaine Pokarop, Toria Maladina, Aisa Pokarop

Pasifika contemporary dance , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

1 hour

Strong contrasts in Measina double bill

Review by Chris Jannides 06th Dec 2016

The Measina Festival at the Pataka Art & Museum institute in Porirua is a platform for contemporary Pacific artists working in the mediums of theatre, dance and music. This review is of a double bill in the festival featuring the works of choreographers Taofi Mose-Tuiloma and Julia Mage’au Gray.

Taofi Mose-Tuiloma’s dance, Manu, uses contemporary dance and bird-like movement to explore what she describes as ‘ancestral Samoan languages in a modern day context’. Her dancers are Jullie Nanai-Williams, Jasmine Leota, Jordan Fuimaono, Evan Fuimaono and Krystal Clarke. These are joined onstage at one point by the singers Isitolo Alesana, Lameka Nehemia and Dominic Taura.

Simple in structure, this dance is made up of a series of short solos, duets and trios that culminate in a group piece for the whole cast. The bird themes are explicit, however the exploration of ancestral languages is perhaps less clear. Arms moving wing-like in flying actions and low animalistic shapes and qualities make what they are referring to unmistakable. Tastefully designed costumes add more of the appropriate information – head-dress like a peacock tail, feathers on a bodice, pigeon-green eye makeup.

The movement language ranges from delicate and restrained to energetic. There is drama in the expressions and personas of the performers. We see smiles, seduction, threat and aggression on faces and bodies. The environment is a mixture of primitive and elemental. At one point there is confrontation between two of the bird people, with one of them defeated by the sinister-looking of the two. Another dancer dances with the victim, employing a few contact improvisation lifts, before carrying her inert body off on his back with bird-like leg flicking steps.

A memorable section involves a trio of musicians stylishly dressed in black shirts, black lavalava and yellow ties singing a lovely version of the ‘Yellow Bird’ classic. Two female dancers in yellow skirts with lyrical arm and hand movements dance in a sultry fashion, glancing at us over their shoulders. Like the rest of the work, the style and look is aesthetically polished and has a professional sleekness to it. Mose-Tuiloma’s use of sharper dynamics in her choreography, and her competent crafting, improve the technical levels of the dancers.

The second item in the double bill, Julia Mage’au Gray’s Wearing My Map, stands in stark contrast to the choreographic offerings emerging from the Whitireia performing arts camp and its graduates. Hers comes from more of a performance art approach. There is less of an emphasis on virtuosic displays of traditional and contemporary dance mixed together. Quite the opposite in fact. Where most of the Pacifica contemporary dance choreographers I’ve seen in the festival seem attracted to the visual impact and beauty of movement, Gray is drawn towards the power of stillness. Swept up by the abundance of choreographic structures in the other dance works in this festival, this piece takes me by surprise. Its contrast draws me in.

A major player in this performance piece is a large video projected on the cyclorama. It is a collage of still and moving images masterfully edited together. Next in line comes an eclectic and beautifully put together sound score. The mixture of these two technologies provides a rich tapestry of audio-visual information that well support the theme of the work and its sensitive portrayal and exploration of Melanesian identity.

The visual material skips from children climbing coconut trees, to text about mixed race marriages, poetic laments to ‘black girls’, modern day photos of women in bikinis, adverts of Hawaiian hula girls juxtaposed with primitive female statues with exaggerated pointed breasts, ornately costumed native women dancing in grass skirts (sorry to use this cliched term, but I wasn’t able to find out their correct name), modern day fashions derived from traditional indigenous costumes, city street scenes haunted by Papua-New Guinean women with afro hairstyles and grass skirts whose naked backs are heavily tattooed with ornate tribal patterns, and at the end of all this, a wooden church. For its part, the music is equally as diverse, from tribal chants to classical music, contemporary electronic dub and bass and large swathes of white noise.

In fact, the bulk of the movement content, in terms of complexity and change in this piece might be said to exist in the video and sound contributions. The performers – Elaine Pokarop, Toria Maladina, Aisa Pokarop and the choreographer herself, Julia Gray – are restricted to an extremely minimalist vocabulary. Gray is dressed from top to toe for the first section of the work in black, in the fashion of a missionary. She has her back to us in the dim light and barely moves, occasionally lifting her arms in gestures of admonishment or drifting like a crucifix from one side of the stage to the other.

The three ‘native’ women on stage are those seen in the video – afro hairstyles, long grass skirts, naked ornately tattooed torsos and legs. One stands completely still, another walks randomly round the space, while the third stoops and sweeps the floor with a small brush broom. The women’s heads stay lowered and their arms remain crossed around breasts the whole time, conveying complex signals of modesty, shame and a desire for protection and comfort against vulnerability. They have been plucked out of the past and placed before us like iconic faceless ancestral souls. We mostly see their backs. This performance is not directed at us. They mostly face the way we are facing – upstage – drawing our attention not only to the video but to a distant horizon beyond time, beyond past, beyond present.

The climax of the work is beautiful. After suddenly breaking into a long-limbed contemporary dance solo between the static bodies of the other performers, Gray strips her top and covers her breasts in the same fashion as the tribal women. To a lovely rhythmic piece of music, all face us and finish the work doing a simple hip-swaying hula movement in unison. It is both potent and mesmeric.

There is a strong concept in Wearing My Map that is well held and put together. The mix of multi-media, live performance and minimalism is finely crafted and affecting. I am appreciative of Gray’s work, there is an individual mind at work here. Her (re)search into personal identity and cultural displacement is artful, thoughtful and gentle.


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