Nga Hau e Wha

Kings & Queens, Performing Arts Centre, Dunedin

09/10/2012 - 10/10/2012

Middleton Grange School Performing Arts Centre, Christchurch

12/10/2012 - 13/10/2012

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

18/10/2012 - 20/10/2012

Hawkins Theatre, Papakura, Auckland

24/10/2012 - 26/08/2012

Otago Festival of the Arts

The Body Festival 2012

Tempo Dance Festival 2012

The Real New Zealand Festival

Production Details

Renowned for their productions Tama Ma and Nga Hau E Wha, coupled with international success,
revered contemporary dance company Okareka tour the New Zealand arts festival circuit
throughout October with the vaunted Nga Hau E Wha.

Is it Earth? Is it a Creature? Is it Human? Somehow it moves. Superb specialized lighting nurtures the wonderment, hiding the frailty of human form, and I am happy to stay in this trancelike state”
– Greer Robertson,

Eight dancers roam a barren land, the earth cracked and the air hot. Human figures are transformed into unearthly creatures as they travel the world’s winds, its water, its earth and fire as dancers dare to defy the constraints of earth’s gravity, to burrow into the earthly breast of Papatuanuku, and to bathe equally in her storms and tranquil depths.
Steeped in Maori legend, Nga Hau E Wha’s debut brought dance royalty once again to New Zealand stages; Taane Mete and Taiaroa Royal. Having formed Okareka Dance Company in 2007, the pair continues to successfully fuse contemporary dance with a number of other creative art mediums.  Fundamentally guided by Maori beliefs, the new show yet again follows their credo; Mana (Honour and Integrity), Whanau (Family) and Matataki (Challenge).
This cast brings together a triumvirate of choreographic talent with Mete, Royal and Ross McCormack banding together for the performance. A 2001 graduate of the New Zealand School of Dance (with an award for Excellence in Choreography and acclaimed review for his graduating performance), McCormack has performed with The Royal New Zealand Ballet and with Belgium’s Les Ballets C dela B; a company who pride themselves as a “unique mixture of artistic visions”.
The spectacular production also houses the work of respected NZ musician Eden Mulholland, creating a stunning sound-scape that also features Taonga Puoro musician Alistair Fraser and a waiata from composer Tweedie WaititiOkareka brings back the respected talents of set designer John Verryt, the costume design of Elizabeth Whiting and video and lighting from Mike Hodgson and Paul O Brien.

Don’t miss the company named by critics as “sensational”, “extraordinary”, and “profoundly important”.

 “The final image, achieved by ascent of a vertical rope, echoed the power of whakairo, carved figures on a pou. It reminds us that all Maori art forms share their founding strength in legend and history
Jennifer Shennan, Dominion Post

Act 1: WIND – choreography Taane Mete and Taiaroa Royal
Act 2: WATER – choreography Taiaroa Royal
Act 3: EARTH – choreography Ross McCormack
Act 4: FIRE – choreography Taane Mete

Running Time: 1 hour approx
*contains semi nudity

Nga Hau E Wha plays:
Otago Festival of the Arts – October 9th & 10th.
Visit for more information.
Christchurch: The Body Festival – October 13th & 14th.
Visit for more information.
Auckland: Tempo Dance Festival – October 18th – 20th.
Visit for more information.
Auckland: South Side Arts Festival – October 24th – 26th.
Visit for more information.

Dance , Contemporary Ballet , Te Ao Māori ,

65 mins

From primordial time to the near present

Review by Raewyn Whyte 22nd Oct 2012

In just 70 minutes, Okareka Dance Company’s major new work, Nga Hau e Wha, traces the arc of man’s development from strange primordial organisms to symbol-sharing, community based humanity. In the process, legendary elements of Maori creation are brought to the stage.

The work’s four sections are those of legend: Hau Puhi (Travelling Wind), Wai Rere(Water that Flows), Papa Nuku (Earth Mother) and Ahi Mura (Glowing Fire).

Each section has a distinctive and evocative visual environment comprised by set and lighting element

Read the review


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Earth, Wind, Water, Fire and Dance

Review by Dr Tia Reihana-Morunga 20th Oct 2012

In the beginning was Te Kore, the nothing, and from Te Kore came Te Po, the Night. In that impenetrable darkness Rangi the Sky Father lay in the arms of Papa the Earth Mother. The gods, who were their children, crawled through the narrow space between their clinging bodies. They longed for freedom, for wind blowing over sharp hill tops and deep valleys, and light to warm their pale faces…

Te whenua, our origins, as foetal forms on stage, dancers remind me of our atua making their way through their parents towards freedom and the beginning. Dancers move as larvae, in cocoon, in womb, simplistic shuffled movements that reveal vertebrae and rib cage, strange yet organic.  I see pale bodies, dusted in ochre, kokowai, whenua…

Okareka Dance Company’s presentation of Nga Hau e Wha begins with essence of birth and reminds me of stories that speak of the origins of life. A performance with intent to explore the elements of dance within the elements of wind, water, earth and fire, the audience is taken on a subtle journey through the relationships that Taane Mete, Taiaroa Royal and Ross McCormack have with self, other, environment and cosmos. The sections of the performance are continuous and reflective of the ongoing cycle of life, linked through the symbolic transition of dancer entrances and exits.  

Hau Puhi, the travelling wind places the audience within the realm of Ranginui as we float from the depths of earth, whenua and womb to take place amongst starts and the repeated stillness of dancer’s bodies. The dancer’s pathways within torso and placement of body in space embed a sense of limbo. The mood is enhanced by lighting installations that suggest deep dark skies and stars used by Māori on waka to navigate Tangaroa and grow kai in Papatuanuku. 

Wai Rere – Water that Flows, demonstrates the mana of the tane clustered on stage. Beauty behold, clean structured, regal motifs that reflect the currents of river and ocean. The universal strength is represented in the movements of dancers.  Choreographer Taiaroa Royal searches for the relationships between masculine and feminine as I am engaged in thoughts of Hinemoana and her relentless crashing of waves against Paptuanuku. As wahine and tane we are engaged in thoughts of our own relentless reshaping of inner landscapes.  As a wahine I engage in thoughts of the male and female in us all.

Amongst the tapu flow of water the audience is surprisingly moved to the volcanic sulphur activity of Rotorua. The lights become bright, the dancer’s personae shift and we are taken on a tour of Whakawerawera hot pools. The tour then becomes the soundscape of the internal pools of the human tinana as dancers begin to smell and … and… experience flatulence  amongst each other. .. It’s strange and unexpected and I hear the audience laugh in response as they are presented with Royal’s own ‘tiki tour’ of home. 

Papatuanuku, Earth Mother by Ross Mc Cormack continues the swirling undercurrent of the masculine and feminine, Rangi and Papatuanuku, mother and father, brother and sister, friend and lover, me and you. These relationships are explored in the contracting fluidity and extension of the male dancer, the grit and growl of the solo wahine on stage, the collision of contact, separation and weight transfer from the dancers and the emphasis of breath.  At times I feel confronted by the intensity of kinaesthetic contact between dancers. The somewhat anxious and aggressive interaction between Rangi and Papa, as they began to invade, involve, evolve, stand on, pull, grab, twist, roll and grapple with the other. It looked primitive, archaic and unique, and, I was intrigued.

Ahi Mura – Glowing Fire, emerges from earth mother, as the dancer enters and runs a circle or cycle on stage. It seems that we have progressed from the early stages of the deep earth to the urban denim of the current, the present, the now. Dancers are designed in clear formations and move with agility that is heated and strong. What concludes is a beautiful visual, as dancers separate, ascend, or descend to take their place within whenua. Suspended on rope we are presented with a powerful image as a waiata is sung to acknowledge whakapapa and the thread that connects us to environment and each other.

Throughout the performance I was moved by the music composition of Eden Mulholland that progressed through a minimalistic journey of raw, transverse, intersecting sounds. I thought I could hear the connection of materials such as marble and stone as distinct noises echoed accompanied by dancers’ movements. The lighting design of Paul O’Brian complimented the moods beautifully, washing over choreography, draping dancer’s bodies, and, giving impressions of drifting amongst stars, being  near cool waters and in deep caverns.

The narrative is rich in Nga Hau e Wha, the dancers are strong and connected. The mahi of taonga, Taane Mete and Taiaroa Royal is always to be respected as is the richness of their performance on stage. They have an organic energy that ripples through to audience.  As tangata whenua whakapapa warms the work that is presented. The work is contemporary because it is present and now, the work is traditional because it is connected to wairua. The Okareka Dance Company has gifted another dance story to add to the kete of creativity distinctive to Aotearoa, New Zealand.




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Haunting, poetic, uplifting

Review by Toby Behan 13th Oct 2012

Back in Christchurch following their highly successful season of Tama Ma last year, Okareka return to the Body Festival in 2012 to convincingly underline a trajectory that is clearly upward. The company has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2007 and their clear company mission and commitment (toward being guided by Maori beliefs) infuses all that they convey, produce, and communicate with an authenticity that is necessary for great dance to occur. On the evidence of last night’s performance, such greatness appears inevitable.

Nga Hau e Wha, the company’s second major work, is conceived around the four elements – wind, water, earth and fire – and selected Maori mythology related to these. The four sections of the work are distinct, but the separate choreographers have wisely decided to weave these sections together with tight (and not overdone) transitions that leave a very smooth and uninterrupted opportunity to absorb all that is on offer. There is certainly room for development – one is left with the feeling that there is more potential impact to be wrung out of this performance as the company continues to develop its voice, but we also have the confidence that Okareka will do this.

The offerings themselves are well worth the contemplation. All major elements within the performance (the dance, design, and music) are undertaken with extremely high production values and the result is a performance that will visually linger with you for quite some time – at turns haunting, poetic, uplifting – with a ferocious dedication from the performers at all times.

Here we must mention the extraordinary presence of company directors Taiaroa Royal and Taane Mete. By extending the Okareka company and bringing some young (and excitingly talented) dancers into the mix, they generously share the irreplaceable skill and craftsmanship that has established them both as huge contributors to the contemporary dance and Maori arts sectors in our country. Watching these two artists on stage is simply a joy, so confident are they in their own incredible abilities that they guide a willing audience through this evocative landscape with seemingly no effort. The young dancers with Okareka will do well to absorb as much as humanly possible from such presence.

Hau Puhi (Travelling Wind) opens the show with tightly focused lighting from designer John Verryt providing pinpoint illustration of powerful inert bodies being gently, ever so slowly, moved across the stage. The movement and groupings within this piece evolve organically before our eyes, alternately appearing as separate entities and one writhing mass. The transition into the next section – Wai Rere (water that flows) – is as imperceptible as entering the farthest shallows of the ocean, with the tone of the piece mostly serene (save for a somewhat sudden venture into Rotorua!). Papa Nuku (Earth Mother) choreographed by Ross McCormack is an absolute triumph and perhaps the most overt depiction of the evening in terms of Maori mythology. Dealing with the embrace, entanglement and separation of Ranginui and Papatuanuku, McCormack uses dominant themes from the legend (touch, frustration, breath, sneezing) and weaves them with astounding visual effect into a segment of dance that expertly combines authentic movement and gesture in order to convey such a daunting tale. The discipline of the dancers in this section particularly is hugely commendable (should we be thanking rehearsal director Daniel Cooper here?). Ahi Mura (Glowing Fire), choreographed by Taane Mete, showcases tightly constructed group formations and high-tempo dance, but closes with a slow, powerfully built and magnificently effective series of images culminating with the dancers suspended between earth and sky.

One of the most heartening aspects of the performance (from this reviewer’s perspective) is freshness. Freshness in movement vocabulary is hard to come by, and there have been no shortcuts here with ‘re-using’ movement combinations. The movement instead springs naturally from the source material and (like all good story-telling) uses every available means to communicate the message. This is a positive indictment of the creativity within the company.

The technique of the dancers themselves is also of a very high standard – although in terms of performance when confronted with narrative requirements (and especially humour) – the younger dancers need to mature – something that will only come with time and applied effort. Natural humour is difficult to accomplish, and with the next Okareka work giving all the appearance of having a large element of humour involved, it would pay now to give mind to developing this ability in all who might be a part of that season.

The music (composed by Eden Mulholland) is certainly appropriate for the performance, although it is arguably ‘serviceable’ to the onstage action rather than being towering in its own right.

This is a performance that must be viewed by all dance lovers in Christchurch whilst Okareka are here. Why not do a friend (who has not experienced dance before) a favour and bring them along too? Disappointment will not be an option – this is wonderful dance theatre.


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Utterly compelling

Review by Hannah Molloy 09th Oct 2012

Utterly compelling. From the understated and mesmerising beginning to the emotional and powerful conclusion, Nga Hau e Wha definitely goes down as the best I’ve seen in ages. The lighting was evocative and imaginative, the music was intensely beautiful and the choreography stretched the boundaries of this experience well beyond the usual.

Nga Hau e Wha, by Okareka Dance Company, tells a story in four parts of a barren world with mythical beings expressing the physicality and emotion of the elements. The four parts, Hau Puhi – Travelling Wind, Wai Rere – Water that Flows, Papa Nuku – Earth Mother and Ahi Mura – Glowing Fire, are utterly different but merge and flow into each other just as the elements do.

The opening choreography, with bare bodies curled, hunched on the floor and articulating with minute movements of their back muscles the terror and pangs of the grief and rage of Tawhirimatea at the separation of his parents. The dance was spare and beautiful, eliciting an awed hush from the audience.

Described in the programme as “exploring the fusion between the male and female energy in relation to water … this idea is realised when feminine movement is imposed on the male form”, the liquid bodies in flowing black skirts performing Wai Rere, with the sound of the waves washing on the shore, defined masculinity completely, through the grace and femininity of their arms and hands and torsos. I could have watched this for hours, until Taiaroa Royal’s reference to his home town Rotorua. The descent into decidedly male giggles in this very literal dance about bubbling sulphur gas, with associated sound effects, was hilarious and, although the audience was a tiny bit bemused at first, there were several smallish boys in the audience who got the laughter going. The pantomimic performance smoothed into another beautiful sequence and the audience (including smallish boys) was entranced again.

As the waters receded, the motifs of sound returned, with dripping water and stone scraping, and the sole female dancer appeared as Papatuanuku. This dance was parasitic and desperate in its intensity, with roles reversing from submission to dominance and back in a tussle for superiority. These creatures of earth were base and sexual, creatures of power and sinew and urgency. Papatuanuku was exquisite in her terror and frustration and her enfolding of Ranginui was almost difficult to watch.

Ahi Mura expressed fire in a less usual manner than I had anticipated. It was almost a parody of classical balletic sequences and the dancers’ sense of place on stage, with their wild flinging movements never colliding with or interrupting each other, was entirely reminiscent of flames blending and devouring each other without apparent effect.

The lighting throughout this dance was truly amazing. It was unusual and clever and drew the eye without distracting it. It had texture and movement of its own that complemented the dancers and the choreography and it defined and enhanced the smallest movements, the stretch or flex of a back muscle, and threw them into clear relief. Even if the dance hadn’t been so beautiful, the lighting would have almost been enough in its own right.

The meticulous placement of the dancers’ feet and hands as they rolled and lifted and swept each other across the stage for an hour was a testament to their skill and the hours of work that go into the creation of such a piece of perfection.

Some dancers have such ability to express the joy they have in their own skin through the control they have over the smallest muscle and causing it to shift in a poignant and fleeting way. These dancers epitomise that joy.

If Nga Hau e Wha comes to a town near you, you should go to it. I would go again.




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