30/09/2015 - 03/10/2015
MITIMITI KAU ANA I NGA TOENGA A TE MORE
Mitimiti rests somewhere in the dunes, and on the edges of bloodied dreams, calling us to enter a new realm.
The bones of yourself, of an ancestor, a whale, a house literally become fleshed out by multiple design and movement innovations.
Bursting through the veil of stage to audience — film installation, live kapa haka, surround sound, Atamira dancers and international special guests — unveil secrets of the Atamira (platform) in a unique multi-level gallery-style.
Plunging bravely into the Te Rarawa lineage of choreographer Jack Gray, Mitimiti is the departure point to disrupt, reconfigure, and invoke; charging the theatre space with collective resonance.
“Mitimiti, …lifts an avant garde lid off the bucket that contains themes of colonisation, urbanisation and globalisation. What might it look, sound and feel like today for Tangata whenua and New Zealanders collectively?” (NZ Theatreview, Tia Reihana Morunga, Mitmiti, KAHA 2012)
PLEASE NOTE: This show contains smoke/haze, strobe lighting and high levels of bass music which may affect some people. If you have any concerns please contact the Q Theatre box office on 09 309 9771 before making your booking.
Join choreographer Jack Gray, Atamira Dance and guest cultural collaborators for a post-Opening Night review and panel dialogue.
Where: Rangatira, Q Theatre
When: Thursday 1 Oct, 1pm – 3pm
Cost: Free (registrations essential: register here)
Guest artists: Robyn Kamira; Jordan McConie, Rachel Cocker Hopkins, Josh Cocker; Dakot-ta Alcantara-Camacho
Guest Movement Collaborators: Iratxe Ansa (Basque Country), Wikitoria Hunt (Aus), Frances Rings (Aus)
Additional music: Earth & Sky performed by WAI.TAI - music and lyrics by Robyn Kamira
Haka o Mitimiti composed by Te Arahi Easton, and Te Rarawa composed by Tiana King
Performance installation , Multi-discipline , Maori contemporary dance , Dance , Cultural activation , Contemporary dance ,
Connections, reciprocities, responsibilities, reverberations
Review by Jacqueline Shea Murphy 06th Oct 2015
Mitimiti, a new work choreographed by Jack Gray with Atamira Dance Company, has just concluded a four-day run at Q Theatre in downtown Auckland, where it premiered, and also opened the 2015 Tempo Dance Festival. Its rumblings began Wednesday night when the theatre lights went down and the stage floor and balcony seats began to shake with sound composed and designed by François Richomme, and legendary dancer Taiaroa Royal drew creation onto the stage, having come to form as a “trans tupuna” (a term he used at a discussion forum about the work held last Thursday), drawing pods of dancers onto the floor under his regal train.
Actually though, the piece started just before that, when dancer Te Arahi Easton cajoled the audience sitting around the edges of the theatre floor (“Kia ora! Thank you for coming to the theatre! You’ve all come out to see Mitimiti, eh? What’s your name? Nice to meet you. I just have to say one thing: you all look absolutely stunning this evening.”). Or maybe it began just before that, when dancers and children and other audience members filled the perimeters of the stage floor with chalk drawings, that then sometimes rubbed off on their clothes. Or with the bowls of “Universal Taonga” scented oil that the ushers offered audience members. Or maybe actually just before that, on Upper Queen street in front of the theatre, when Chamoro performance artist Dåkot-ta Alcantara-Camacho lead a smoking ceremony and called the four directions.
Really, though, Mitimiti started globally well before the Q Theatre doors opened last Wednesday, in the dozens of “# Mitimiti” twitter and Facebook connections posted online from all over the world over the past month or two. And it also premiered earlier this year at a Mitimiti DYI event, where the Atamira dancers went up to Mitimiti, in the Hokianga (where part of choreographer Jack Gray’s family is from) and helped rebuild the wharenui of Matihetihe marae. Or – maybe its opening was five or so years ago, when Gray first learned about and was starting to reconnect with his whanau from Mitimiti (facing some resistance and suspicion at first, because he didn’t grow up there, but was born and raised around Auckland)? Or did it begin in the stories and travels and discussions and writings and earlier staged renditions that Gray developed since then, with an ever-widening group of collaborators (including myself, a non-Indigenous U.S.-born dance scholar who has been talking and listening and writing and reflecting on Mitimiti, with Gray, while traveling together across oceans and continents, for years)? Or did it begin before Gray even knew about his connection to Mitimiti, through his desires for connection, and the practices that its intention requires?
Mitimiti, choreographed by Jack Gray with Atamira Contemporary Dance Company, happened over four nights this past week at Q Theatre in Auckland, to responsive audiences, with palpable energy and excitement, in packed rows on opening and closing nights. But really, that was just one of the work’s manifestations. And Mitimiti closed last night, with the Atamira dancers framing each other at the back of the theatre space in a striking final dancer-built DIY marae pose– made with brooms they’d brandished as taiaha, and towels and sweat and hard work. Though really, too, that was just one of its endings: after the round of cheers and applause that marked that final pose, Mitimiti kaitiaki Robyn Kamira came out on stage and sang us a waiata of hers, in the dark, on her guitar, to ground us all together again (some of her relations called out their recognition to her). And then Alcantara-Camacho returned to lead a hip hop spoken word “hashtag Mitimiti” version of the round dance (which Jordan McOnie, a Kiowa friend of Gray’s, had led on opening night), and the audience filled the stage to join, and applaud and then to mihi to Gray and the Company for all the piece had offered. And then, around the circle of water that had (in the midst of the dance) streamed down from above into a center-stage reflecting pool that flashed and shimmered with each step and splash and sound, Gray’s whanau who had driven down from Mitimiti – a dozen kids, all in blue, and 30 adults wearing black “#Mitimiti” t-shirts they’d had made—mihied to Gray with their recognition of him, as their relation, with its gifts and responsibities, affirming the land and water as well as their own stake, on their terms, in this work called and manifesting Mitimiti. And after that the piece went on in the mingling and laughing and hugging and Instagram posting in the theater lobby, with its celebratory drinks and discussions, plus an Atamira haka that shut the music down. Along the way, a few of the folks in the #Mitimiti t-shirts told me they can’t wait for Gray to bring Mitimiti up to Mitimiti. Of course it will continue.
In the middle of each night’s performance of Mitimiti, that pool of water that streams onto stage ripples with shifting sounds and reflections. And for a long and difficult period, full of loud and frenzied pulsing, the Atamira dancers dance their all out around that pool: Nancy Wijohn with stunning strength; Bianca Hyslop with undulations of abandon; slithery Matiu Hamuera, full of allure; Jasmin Canuel in conscious connection; Gabrielle Thomas, in sculptural precision; Easton propelled by open-hearted energy. But though they collide and interact, at times, no one is connecting. Finally Thomas’s anguished scream calls on elders (Taiaroa Royal and Frances Ring, of Bangarra Dance Theatre, in town from Australia) who dance together, holding the space, dipping their toes in the water circle and shifting its currents into a place of still-and-always-was-there-for-connection.
As ritual, performance, happening, Mitimiti continues from the temporal space of this past week in Q Theatre, in all its sensory assaults and playful interactions, in ripples that started who knows when and are still happening. The show offers its dancers, collaborators and audience members recognition of the pain, turmoil, disconnection and loss of colonization – and at the same time, powerfully brings into form, and strengthens, ways of being, acting, knowing and perceiving that supercede those histories.
One of these ways of knowing that Mitimiti brings forward is a way of experiencing and perceiving that requires intense focus, as well as trust in what you are not able to focus on right then. The show happens on so many levels at once, including spatially: upper levels with multiple rippled projections of shifting light; blue neon horizon lines marking the liminal space between upper and lower – the balcony, where one can sit and watch with a bit of distance, and the ground floor, with its liveliness, humor, crowds and chaos, its activities and portals, its own liminal spaces between ground and water, so alluring and attractive. Then there are the sensory levels, the visual projections and flickers, the immersive, invocative, soundscape that permeates and envelops and penetrates, the kinesthetic energies of the dancers connecting them to each other and to us, the words (Alcantara-Camacho’s spoken words, Easton’s powerful haka and cajoling, Hamuera’s sweet voice, Kamira’s gentle guitar playing) that give us word-meaning to connect with, and recognize as evocative. And that’s just the obvious stuff: there are the levels of play, work, sweat, sweeping; there are children and elders and ancestors, there are levels of spirit brought in and acknowledged and engaged. However many times you see it (and many audience members came more than once, or attended the Thursday forum, or the Saturday VIP back-stage walk through, or watched the podcasts that have been appearing online leading up to the run) from wherever you are seating or standing, whatever physical, emotional, spiritual space you’re in, you can really only take in a part of it.
That, as I see it, is part of its point: the recognition that there is always stuff happening all around us, on other levels that we can only catch glimpses of. Sometimes I couldn’t see AV designer Lisa Reihana’s evocative layered video projections at all, and even when I could they were just fragments on set designer John Verryt’s hanging strips of translucent screen. But I caught slivers of it. That’s what it felt like, that sense of power and potential, where there is so much swirling, always, everywhere, and you have to find your way into it, because it’s (still) there, even when it has (perhaps even for generations) been muted or obstructed from view. It’s not that the piece is trying to be obtuse – in fact, Gray is an open and generous communicator and the run offered multiple opportunities (the podcasts, the forum, the interviews, the walk-through) to learn more about all the layers that went into making the work. It’s just that what its rituals and medicines and ways of gathering, its hard work and playfulness, are enacting, are huge, and these activations require a kind of attentive listening without the presumption that one can or should grasp it all, immediately.
At the same time, finding and owning that sliver of perspective, for each of us who have seen and sensed a small part of Mitimiti, from wherever we’ve been sitting or standing or singing or reading or #posting, is Mitimiti’s offering, too.
From where I write (now, on the plane, from Auckland to LA, heading back from this week of intensive Mitimiti immersion to my work as a dance studies scholar writing on Indigenous dance) I see it offering an experience that answers to questions like: how do we connect with others, with family, with place, with parts of ourselves we’ve left aside or unseen? How do we connect back to a people or a place we came from as a child, or a generation ago, or more? Or lived in before, but moved away from, and haven’t been to in a while? How do we connect to peoples and places that we have been cut off from – by political shifts (like colonization and migration and fascism), economic shifts, personal shifts? How does ‘doing’ – being a participant, showing up and joining in and putting yourself there, in the midst of it – provide a way of connecting back so as to belong (again?)? And what possibilities and issues does this raise? Does participating make you belong? In what ways? With what limits? How do things like lineage – whakapapa, ancestry, blood memory, family line, racial and ethnic identity – interweave with participation – the showing up and doing and being connected to and accepted by? What is the connection between “the genealogy of universal mana,” as the program describes the work dancing, and the “invocations of the spirit and restoration of our ancestor, Tumoana,” that Gray writes are embedded within its choreography? How is taking part in something (and this work invited and compelled us all to take part in it) related to, but different than, having a claim to it through that participation? How are Mitimiti’s terms of participation about being in relation rather than about incorporation, in multiple senses of the term, including the bodily, and the capitalist economic of taking over so as to own?
Mitimiti is not just about Jack Gray’s connection to his Mitimiti whenua and whanau. It is also an enactment of these connections, with the reciprocities and responsibilities that these relations entail. Nor is it just enacting Jack Gray’s own ancestral land and family relations, but also about – and also enacting — the possibilities and challenges of relation and connection between all of us, from our universal mana as well as our specific, distinct, ever-shifting, locations. What it activates is palpably hopeful and exciting, which is probably why Mitimiti is and has been, in its continuing reverberations, eliciting so much joy around the world.
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Medicine making in the story circle
Review by Dione Joseph 03rd Oct 2015
Mitimiti was the first show I had been invited to review since I returned from Turtle Island.
After two weeks spent in Saskatchewan, including time at First Nations University on Treaty Four territory, there was much sharing and connecting, learning and witnessing that I brought back home to Aotearoa. But in between multiple worlds, the artist and the academic, the institution and the indigenous worldview, the constant navigation of spaces and place there were many moments of intersection, conversation and medicine making.
Jack Gray’s Mitimiti allows all those traces and residues of the past two weeks to be brought forward in an exceptionally beautiful work. Q’s Rangatira theatre space is transformed into a story circle where friends and families gather together to come and witness the collaboration and efforts that bring together incredible talent from across the land. It is familiar, recognisable, colloquial; a gathering of community that offers a place to centre myself only five days after coming home. Layered between shimmering tapestries of earth and sky, our senses gather to wananga in ways that honour the earth, our ancestors and our peoples.
It begins with a deep and almost urgent rumble from the belly of the earth and the sounds completely change the vibrations in the space. It isthe breadth of the land, heaving, swelling, and we are in a cavernous space watching an unfolding, a birthing.
Jack Gray is an incredibly talented and generous artist, but he is also an oskâpêwis. This is a Cree word that I learnt from a friend and colleague, Curtis Peeteetce during my time with Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company. The word signifies a helper to the elders during ceremonies, and is what I often refer to as dramaturgically as the one who cradles the space. Gray with humour and spirit brings a ceremony to the audience that is rich, evocative and is in the process of slowly unearthing its enormous potential.
Deeply layered and rich in the multiple sculpted landscapes brought together, there are distinct signatures of all those involved. Waimihi Hotere’s Kaikaranga is deeply powerful and moving and opens up the various surfaces onto which Lisa Reihana’s AV design creates multiple words. In this work, the elements are so close. Hokianga is here. Kupe is here and so are we.
Whether seated at ground level or watching from above, the cosmos is hardly static. Frances Rings, dancer and choreographer, is a Kokatha woman whose long history of working with Bangarra Dance Theatre brings a rich sculpted narrative to a very aural landscape. The music from of earth and sky (2009) also reverberates in this chamber, and her work, deeply connected to the land and its ripe colours are also reflected here. Taiaroa Royal also brings a strength, the weight of gently uncurling realities that are found at the fringes of where the water meets the land and as guest dancers on opening night, audience are privy to a wonderful sculpting of space by these two amazing taonga.
The lighting by Vanda Karolczak and sound design by Francois Richomme beautifully accompany the various worlds that intersect throughout the space. Rosanna Raymond and Ruth Woodbury’s adornment designs also capture the contrast of different materialities, the soluble and the indissoluble, artificial and natural, and together these aesthetics carry the stories of First Nations people who gathered here on this whenua to celebrate this space.
The womb as our gateway to the world is always present but most vividly so in the circular flush of water and movement; the heavens open and it pours down a blessing, living water and equally a way to connect earth and sky. There is so much aurality in the physique and movement of the bodies changing, extending and carving patterns; it’s mesmerizing to watch. But equally the pragmatics of cooking and cleaning, the high vis vests and the mops give a grittiness to the work that refuses and refutes any notion that these stories are ethereal.
Alive, vibrant and dynamic the work is still moving, developing and finding new moments in which to keep reaching out and connecting to its audiences. The braids of knowledge are still being woven from our various grandmothers and grandfathers and the vocabulary will continue to grow over time. The signatures of the various artists and collaborators including Iratxe Ansa, Wikitoria Hunt and Frances Rings all contribute towards creating a contemporary and unequivocally Indigenous response to the land and the people with whom these stories are shared.
Tonight is closing night so if you can do make an effort to get along and witness this powerful work, there is a shift in geographies, narratives are being changed, and Mitimiti is the start of that journey forward for us here in Aotearoa.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
A feeling experience, rather than a thinking one
Review by Bernadette Rae 02nd Oct 2015
Mitimiti has its beginnings in choreographer Jack Gray’s personal journey in search of a closer connection with his Te Rarawa heritage and marae in the Hokianga. But in the five years the show has been in the making, he has come to include the united voices of indigenous people far beyond Aotearoa’s shores.
So although Gray and Atamira Dance Company are known as Maori dance artists and Mitimiti is rich in Maori symbolism, its scope is broadened by a deep connection with the similar stories, magic and “medicine” of other first nations.
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Mitimiti - a collaboration of indigenous voices
Review by Dr Tia Reihana-Morunga 02nd Oct 2015
Tonight I enter into the familiar space that is Q Theatre… to mingle once more with whanaunga and loved ones from creative circles. As we smile and rub shoulders, hold hands, hongi and hug we are all in felt anticipation of the coming, arrival and continuum that is Mitimiti, the new work of Atamira Dance Company and choreographer Jack Gray. What feeds the anticipation of those gathered is the inclusivity that well before opening night of Tempo we have all in some way lived a connection that has created shared narratives to Mitimiti and its coming.
And it is here… and as I enter through the door of the theatre to greet her, him, them, us, I am also greeted with the unsettling of a space in flux… The major structures of the conventional space, such as seating, have been removed.… The space is already breathing and moving as dancers in relaxed welcoming states have chalk and are in midst of ceremony making, drawing pictures and themselves smiling, rubbing shoulders, holding hands, sharing hongi and hugs. So inside we have gathered, we negotiate, we shuffle, sit, stand and shift in finding a belonging of place that Jack so intently offers within the experience.
Belonging and themes of place and knowing are undercurrents of Mitimiti that places performer and audience together in states of exploration. Once settled, the dancers withdraw warmly as we the manuhiri, the guests, remain still abuzz with anticipation, energy, in what is, or, may come.
What comes soon after is a deep sensory vibration… a feeling of pukuriri with deep rumbling sounds that are physically felt. An intrinsic rumble also continues to move us from the conventions of theatre performance, encouraging a shift from dominant discourses so often found in contemporary performance.
Mitimiti may be considered a contemporary performance, but as discussed by Māori Dance pioneer Stephen Bradshaw the following day during a performance forum, it is, distinctly, and, uniquely Māori. The history and whakapapa of Māori performance, dance and theatre moves from origins, developments and connections of an enriching and somewhat untold indigenous history of dance in Aotearoa. This makes the work of Jack Gray even more necessary as it speaks back to the colonized imagination that can appropriate and assimilate understandings and expectations of Māori performance and performers in Aotearoa and internationally.
Mitimiti is living within its own landscapes. In the space of the performance these are tangible and reflexive with the lighting designs of Vanda Karotczak and the set design of Jonn Verryt. Gray has gathered people that emerge from very potent and potential places. Within there is also a collaboration of tangata whenua and established artists engaging in creative processes of self, whanau and environment. The AV design of Lisa Reihana that moves on and off and through hanging shifts of shape, offers thoughts of futuristic pou. Extending themes of place and purpose, the work of Reihana is exceptional and richly rough in tohu and time. The adornment design of wahine toa Ruth Woodbury and “Savage K’lub” and Pacific artist Rosanna Raymond brings reminders of an urban underground of land-based and futuristic contemplations. Plastic meets, silver, meets wetsuit, meets mud, all carrying and fed on the intention of performing agency.
And the agency of the performance comes on the other side of sounds of rumbling whenua, and the kaikaranga. A beginning appears with Papatūānuku moving within the realms, dancer Taiaroa Royal as an ambiguous silver moving of tane and wahine that is birthing pods of potentiality… as we too merge from the nothingness that is of course everything in the ever enriching realm of Te Kore.
Watching the work unfold, I have feelings of how we move in pods that grow under whare, home and place. And this place is Mitimiti, and here within the realms of Q Theatre, Mitimiti and tūpuna are shown with flowing water, multi-dimensional movement and ongoing rhythms that forgo counts of eight, lines, structure. The dancers’ relationships instead supply pulsing ongoing kinaesthetic necessity. During moments of moving conversation, projections of road occur above. These flashed visions of familiarity remind me of driving home and feeling an urgency to place my feet within the landscape of my tūrangawaewae. The idea that we are all driving somewhere… returning home.
The locations of where and how we can find home are also shown in unconventional ways in Mitimiti. The choreography of Gray suggests our raukau are mops, and our DIY of home and marae is also about coming together and the rediscovery and reinventions of something deeply meaningful. Yes Jack, I love that you bring meaningfulness with a mop. That the knowing begins in the working together. At home this is no more apparent that in the whare kai, the cooking of kai, the mopping, the washing, the doing together, the manaakitanga, the whakawhanungatanga, the whanau.
Under the collage of community there is also the moment that sees the union within space of Taiaroa Royal and Frances Rings. A rangatira of indigenous dance in Australia, known for her work with Bangarra Dance Theatre, the arrival and collaborative contributions of Frances have us spinning in appreciation and well, quite frankly… awe. The moment that Taiaroa and Frances enter space is a movement of dance heaven. Seeing them, watching, feeling, there is a knowing witnessed in the dip of waewae to water that is simple, yet within the space of authentic collective, so very important.
The authentic collective discussed in deeper contexts during the forum the following day acknowledges that Mitimiti involves a collaboration of indigenous voices. Each area of Mitimiti flowed through with performing inclusivity of song and spoken word. Doing so we also experience the value and reflexivity of indigenous expression in current placements of local and global communities. Within body, shape, lighting, sound, song in space, Mitimiti is a work engaged in a deepened intrinsic knowledge of place, whakapapa and tikanga. A work that encompasses as Jack states “deep medicines of indigenous knowledge” the knowledge’s are ongoing and shared collaboratively by performers and at the end of the evening, the audience.
Medicines of knowledge are also shared with the puna that is in space. In the centre of the Mitimiti floor, a puna of water exists as a place of being, meeting, knowing, moving, cleansing. A spring of possibility, this is a very powerful vision experienced and moved beautifully by the dancers. Atamira within the choreography were offered spaces to dance a certain responsive reciprocity that manifests a definite personal narrative underbelly to the work. The layers of Mitimiti offer a multitude of reflexivity, critical reflexivity, reclamation and restoration.
Mitimiti is a work in progress, because life is a work in progress where ideals of beginning, end, contemporary, traditional, past and present are encouraged to remain outside in the foyer. We were warmly invited in to share and participate in something refreshingly imperfect, conditional, subjective and living. I celebrate the ceremony of Mitimiti that encouraged my living within it. It is collaborative, and its many spaces that exist outside the tangible hour of the performance extend to indigenous and non-indigenous communities in local, international and cyber spaces.
I hope you got to go, or, are able to create an opportunity to see this new work by Atamira and choreographer Jack Gray. It’s important for ALL dance and life lovers… as a reflective and deeply felt moment of life and living. To Atamira, Jack, and his whanau of Mitimiti who were also rubbing shoulders, sharing breath and holding hands… Acknowledgements to you and thank you for having us visit x x
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