The Basement, Auckland

25/02/2015 - 28/02/2015

Auckland Fringe 2015

Production Details



Choreography by Jahra Rager and Grace Woollett

Sometimes your tongue gets cut out of your mouth at birth. Sometimes your mother gives you salt instead of water. Sometimes you dye your clothes with someone else’s clay. Sometimes you mistake being a woman with being everyone else at once.

Inspired by Arts Pasifika Emerging Artist Award recipient Grace Taylor‘s poetry collection Afakasi Speaks, MOTHER/JAW is a haunting choreography by Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala and Grace Woollett with music by Addison Chase which premieres as a full length work at the Auckland Fringe from 25-28 February.

MOTHER/JAW is a raw contemporary dance work exploring the rites of passage into young womanhood.

MOTHER/JAW is a raw contemporary dance work connecting young mixed blood to old stolen blood. MOTHER/JAW is the ritual of moulding a new tongue from many earth’s.

MOTHER/JAW is every young woman’s jaw filled with their mother’s teeth.

MOTHER/JAW is a she-mongrel.

An excerpt of MOTHER/JAW was performed in Short and Sweet Dance 2014, where it won Judge’s Choice, Best Ensemble and Best Female Performer (Grace Woollett).

This is cutting contemporary dance – not to be missed this Fringe.

Auckland Fringe 2015 is an open access arts festival where anything can happen. It provides a platform for practitioners and audiences to unite in the creation of form forward experiences which are championed in an ecology of artistic freedom. The 2015 programme will see work happening all over the show, pushing the boundaries of performance Auckland wide from February 11 to March 1.


Dates:                   25th – 28th February, 8.30pm
Venue:                 Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
Tickets:                 $18-$15
Bookings:       0508 iTICKET (484-253)

Performers: Jahra 'Rager' Wasasla, Grace Woollett, Alisha Anderson and Vivian Hosking-Aue.Produced by Kerry Wallis.

Musician/Guitarist: Liam Kiely

Photography by Richard Symons.

Performance Poetry , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

50 mins

Dancing in the Fringe, Auckland 2015

Review by Paul Young 07th Apr 2015

The four contemporary dance productions in the 2015 Auckland Fringe Festival provide diverse representation of the local dance community as well as familiar themes and shared vocabularies. Inevitably it’s the riskier offerings which make the greatest impact. 

In contemporary dance, game playing is often performed literally as a choreographic device while ‘game’ can also refer to the rules of any particular relational interplay. These ideas provide some common ground between the two group shows in this year’s festival …

Themes of matriarchy, bones, and identity link the other two works by choreographers at polar ends of their careers. …

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Jaw Dropping

Review by Matt Baker 01st Mar 2015

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Provocative, political and powerful

Review by Carrie Rae Cunningham 26th Feb 2015

Provocative, political and powerful
Allow me to begin with a series of statements MOTHER/JAW co-creators Jahra Rager and Grace Woollett have given us to consider.
Sometimes your tongue gets cut out of your mouth at birth.
Sometimes your mother gives you salt instead of water.
Sometimes you dye your clothes with someone else’s clay. 
Sometimes you mistake being a woman with being everyone else at once.
If this is the foundation for the work that we are about to witness, then be prepared to form a few statements of your on.  As well as questions.  Lots of questions.  And that is the crux of this work, really.  Rager and Woollett have crafted a stunner of a show that will no doubt get everyone talking.  Talking about identity, culture, human-ness, the corporeal body, the ethereal body, our chosen (?) uniform, blood, history, politics, grief, submission and resistance.  And definitely a few I’ve left out.
MOTHER/JAW is equal parts choreography, spoken-word poetry, performance art, dance, theatre, installation, sculpture (living and otherwise) and music.  The entire cast is absolutely brilliant, including the live musical accompaniment, by Christop El’ Truento and Addison Chase of Cosmic Compositions and Liam Kiely, made up of manipulated electronic soundscape, guitar, ambient noise and audio snippets including a blueprint for the ‘breeding out’ of the Aboriginal race and Kevin Rudd’s famous “We say sorry” heard round the world.  The work’s content and meaning is as multi-faceted and layered as the components that make up its form, so I’m going to take some artistic liberties with this review to give one person’s opinion (mine) of how MOTHER/JAW was perceived with some statements of my own.  I am very interested to hear other’s views as well.
To begin, Woollett enters as a soloist, a seemingly delicate beauty with fluid arms and torso, dressed in a fleshy-coloured tunic.  Her moves are unearthly yet grounded.  She is confident, strong, in command of the space in all her ghostly splendor.  She is an embryo swimming in the amnio.  Or she is from the Dreamtime.  Or she is a spirit, a primordial molecule making up the essence of all life on Earth and beyond.  Or she is all of this and more.  For certain, she is captivating to watch and draws us into a realm that exists in the Between.  (More on that later.)
Enter Rager and dancers Vivian Hosking-Aue and Alisha Anderson dressed in matching oversized black suits cradling jaw bones in their arms.  They have brought Woollett her own suit to put on.  The suits simultaneously define their forms as ‘modern human’ and yet shroud the contours of their form, rendering them into ambiguous upright creatures.  They begin chanting in monotone.  Hosking-Aue takes the bones from their arms and places them ritual-like on the stage.  (Is this an altar?  A tomb?)  And then.  Oh and then.
Sometimes words get stuck in your throat.
They pile up under an invisible trap door.  They build up momentum and gather speed.  They swarm around each other faster and faster until they burst through with such force that they may not even be words anymore.  They may become something else.  Who? What? When? Why? Where?  These simple questions become the dialogue of the ensemble who try to communicate with each other  (the words are still slightly stuck, you see) sometimes accusing each other, sometimes laughing at the situation that they (we) have all found themselves (ourselves) in.  They wretch their way out and are birthed into truths.  Anderson becomes the ‘white’ voice.  Bottled up confusion, guilt and well-intended honesty about ethnicity, ancestry and race land SPLAT! on the floor.  (There is much audible response from the audience to this section – the “Mm-hmm”s and snaps signaling resonance and acknowledgement, the creaks of shifting bodies registering an unease perhaps.)  Anderson looks exhausted and relieved.  The stage is split.  White on the left, brown on the right.  Hosking-Aue and Rager react and more words get stuck.  Metaphors.  Misunderstanding.
Sometimes you are caught with your pants down.
The performers drop their pants.  It’s intentional (power).  It’s embarrassing (accidental).  It’s humiliating (forced).  It’s exposing parts that you’d rather keep under cover – parts of your skin, your history, your fears.   A marching drumbeat rattles through the ensemble who alternate taking off and putting on their suit jackets and pants in military style.  It’s unclear whether this is voluntary.  The civilized self and the primitive self.  They speak in unison – SORRY! – a kind of urgent chant to the heavens, to themselves, to no one.  They shed the suits for minimal fleshy-coloured garments mixed with black garments.  Transformation.  The skin of both.
Sometimes things are not always what they seem (but sometimes they are).
The movement becomes ritualistic, conjuring totems and swaying spinal columns, manifesting altars, summoning ancient deities, breathing life into the secrets kept inside bloodlines.  The performers become the Other.  They exist in what many Pacific cultures refer to as the Va, the space between.  In fact, at one point Rager shouts out I AM THE VA! and there is not a soul in the audience who does not believe her.  She is the Va, the Between of culture, of race (Afakasi).  The words that recur throughout MOTHER/JAW are inspired by those of Grace Taylor from her Afakasi Speaks poetry collection and mix with Rager’s own words to thread the piece together.  She becomes held together (literally) by the other performers and contributors, their own – her own – identities, histories, ethnicities and whakapapa guiding how she moves.  I AM THE VA.  The words become a confirmation, an affirmation.
But sometimes there must be sacrifice.  An offering of the self to what ultimately made the self.  The ends of Rager’s long, braided hair are cut and added to the pile of bones.  The trance-like state is broken.  The performers pick up the jaw bones and put them to their own faces, as if trying to fit them back into place.  But do they belong there?  Can they be reclaimed?  Or is it that their own jaws have been forged from something else – a culmination of the loss of one thing and the acquisition of another.
The work ends on the stage with the ensemble gathered around their altar/shrine, handling the pieces with an urgency that implies they are either desperately looking for answers among the pile of bones or desperately trying to put the pieces back together.  Or both.  And for whom?  Looking towards the heavens they utter one word – an apology.  And they utter it apologetically, like they are saying sorry for saying sorry.
To whom?  For what?  When?  And why?
I say that’s how the work ended onstage because the indelible mark left by MOTHER/JAW continues to burn in the complexities and intricacies that are embodied within the overarching themes of identity throughout the work.  It is a triumph for both Rager and Woollett who have been developing their choreographic voices over the past few years, incorporating their own unique approach to performance which seamlessly blends their dancing bodies with their speaking bodies, creating provocative, political and consummately powerful works that speak loud and clear.


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