Hannah Playhouse, Cnr Courtenay Place & Cambridge Terrace, Wellington

06/06/2019 - 08/06/2019

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

02/10/2019 - 02/10/2019

Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre, Rotorua

15/09/2023 - 15/09/2023

Tempo Dance Festival 2019

Kia Mau festival 2019

Aronui 2023

Production Details

 Bianca Hyslop, Rowan Pierce, Rosie Tapsell, Tui Matira Ranapiri-Ransfield and Emma Ransley.

Pōhutu is a new full length multi-disciplinary dance work created by choreographer Bianca Hyslop and multi award-winning performance designer Rowan Pierce, two artists at the forefront of their practices here in Aotearoa. The result of their collaboration is a rich synthesis of image, object, movement, and sound where the past, present and future abruptly intersect.

The wider creative team behind Pōhutu establishes new collaborative connections between Bianca Hyslop, Rowan Pierce, Rosie Tapsell, Tui Matira Ranapiri-Ransfield and Emma Ransley.

Bianca’s grandmother Ramari Rangiwhiua Morrison was born in Te Whakarewarewatanga-o-te-ope-tauā-a-Wahiao, Rotorua. Whakarewarewa is situated on a double fault line and is home to Pōhutu; the Southern Hemisphere’s largest active geyser. It is a place of tremendous power where the natural geothermal landscape is forever re-shaping itself.

At the age of 88, Bianca’s grandmother now has Alzheimers. Pōhutu draws parallels between her shapeshifting mind and the restless landscape of Whakarewarewa; the whenua she was born from and will return to. The work manifests connection to memory, time, place and loss.

Made from the echoes of lived experiences, of multi-layered realities and of re-imaginings, this three night season of Pōhutu will be a world premiere not to be missed.

Bookings: https://www.iticket.co.nz/events/2019/jun/pohutu#/buy-tickets

2023 Bookings

 Bianca Hyslop, Rowan Pierce, Rosie Tapsell, Tui Matira Ranapiri-Ransfield and Emma Ransley.

Multi-discipline , Maori contemporary dance , Dance , Cultural activation , Contemporary dance ,

50 mins

We are transported to life at Whakarewarewa. Puarenga stream, bubbles and water.

Review by Te Ao Tahana-Prangnell  21st Sep 2023

The title of a dance piece will always reveal a sliver of what you can expect to see. Pōhutu is a pouwhenua of Te Arawa situated in Whakarewarewatanga o te ope tauā ō Wāhiao in Rotorua, it is the largest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere. I have felt the intense pressure build from the earth through my body as the waters begin to overflow and the landscape changes as the water cascades to reveal beautiful colours hidden underneath the white scenery. There is a sense of release as Pōhutu explodes high into the sky and I marvel at its majestic beauty. Walking into this collaborative performance tonight has laid down an expectation purely based on its title Pōhutu

I set myself quite close to the front and am immediately intrigued by the set design by Rowan Pierce. Hanging from the ceiling is a long angled clear window. Four square pieces all joined together to make one side and two pieces on the other to make an uneven triangle hanging calmly in the middle of an intimate stage in Te Haumako of the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Center, Rotorua. 

I am always sceptical when Te Ao Māori is infused into a Te Ao Pākeha construct of modern dance, however knowing that this is a piece of work by Bianca Hylsop based on her kuia Ramari Rangiwhuia Haslen nee Morrison and her journey through Mate Wareware (Alzheimers), I go into this performance with a clear open mind. 

The lights go down, in the darkness the karanga silences all those in the theatre. Aunty Tūī Matira Ranapiri Ransfield, te Mātanga mātauranga Māori me te kaitito waiata has become a well-known figure in the New Zealand dance industry with many choreographers turning to her for guidance in Te Ao Māori.

Her karanga is live, so soft and sets a tone to the beginning of the performance. I relax into my seat, I feel quite alone with my thoughts. A huge contrast to what happens next, the sound booms to what feels like white noise with the bass vibrating at the bottom of my feet, I feel the pressure. A single red spot vibrates and the smoke permeates through the space. My senses become overwhelmed, my eyes are playing tricks on me as I see through the thick of the smoke, a figure etches forward from behind the clear panel.  A really clever design by Pierce almost paralyzes the audience. A dancer appears wearing a very delicate red see through netting dress that looks so similar in style to what kuia would wear at the marae back in the 70s and 80s. All focus is on the dancer with her clear patu held above her head. The pressure continues to build to a point I actually have no more capacity to hold on, my senses are overloaded. Then suddenly white lights blind us for a couple of seconds with the sound continuing, so encompassing. The white lights and sound disappear, all we are left with is a lit blank stage as if nothing happened at all.

I now know that this performance is going to keep me on the edge of my seat. I prepare myself. The lights black out again and when it reappears so do the dancers, Hyslop and her counterpart and co-divisor Rose Tapsell. They are wearing three quarter red pants and a simple brown crop top. A good costume design choice by Emma Ransley as the red signifies to me toto (blood). As the dancers move through the space, the contrasting movements match the contrasting music, I feel this is going to be a consistent element in this performance. It is interesting how the dancers move in a fluid sequence in the Māori music as opposed to the classical music that cuts through and immediately the dancers’ movements become hard, rigid, straight with reminiscence of kapa haka style. With the combination of the costume design and dance sequences, the thought of disconnection and reconnection enters my mind. I see the dancers as brain activity, organised by structure. The wiring of the brain called connectome represents the pathways of which information flows. The movements of the dancers are indicative of my theory, the erratic movement created on the floor by the dancers screams neurons as they fight against the inevitable outcome of death. The use of the panels as the dancers’ reflections flick in and out as they move across the floor is intriguing, it feels like there are more dancers on the stage. A voice over begins: tamariki (children) are talking, he kōrero Māori ratou. I love that they speak in reo Māori. The visual graphics appear on the panels and we are transported to life at Whakarewarewa. Puarenga stream, bubbles and water. Hands appear as they dive down to find the coins that I assume have just been tossed in by tourists. I once had the privilege to hang out with my cousins at Waka and they showed me and my sister the ropes of penny diving. Watching my cousin fill her cheeks with coins was a sight to behold. We had hot chips that day, an unforgettable memory. The use of breath is a pleasing layer. The weight bearing floor sequences are captivating as the waiata pakete whero is playing. The still movements to the waiata are unusual and interesting. It feels like you are transported to a specific memory. 

 The partner work engaging the mirroring and shadowing phrases is indicative of the connections to self-awareness and memory, another clever choreographic choice with the dancers becoming one person utilising the window panels reflection too. It’s very eerie to watch as the dancers move in front and behind the panel. 

Smoke is released into the panel and the swirling of the smoke is provocative coupling as the clouding of the mind. The waiata sung by Ransfield is very beautiful as imagery appears on the panel of Te Pakira marae, whanau, and whenua.  After a black out, the dancers reappear with clear sticks with maurakau phrases. I wonder why Hyslop made the choreographic decision to add maurakau here? It feels disconnected from what we have seen so far, unless that is the point she is trying to make? If you were to use weaponry, may I suggest maupatu. Aunty Tūī is an expert. That would tie in with the beginning imagery of the kuia. Engari, kei a koe. 

Coming towards the end, the imagery of the kuia in red is very powerful paired with the lighting, sound and smoke. Hyslop is captivating, brave and beautiful as she unveils herself. Whakangā au, I inhale. I understand your vision, I admire your bravery. The lasting image at the end of two bodies lying one on top of each other is thought provoking. Whakahā au, I exhale. 

My last thoughts as we exit from the space, are that this performance is a strong collaboration between Hyslop and Pierce. A technology heavy production that really draws the audience into the space. A positive balance between movement and technology. I need to acknowledge the dancers, Hyslop and Tapsell who are mesmerising, strong and hold mana on that stage. Another recognition goes to Pierce for his bravery to find ways to support Hyslop’s vision through the use of sound, lighting and set design. 

Te Ao Māori has so many layers in history, whakapapa, tikanga and kawa to offer Māori artists like Hyslop to explore not only their chosen craft but to delve deep into their own sense of identity and to tell their own stories. I feel like I was an observer looking intimately into the life of a beautiful wahine. I feel very privileged. As a Dance Teacher in secondary school, this dance piece would be a great resource, giving permission to students to tell their own stories while discovering their identities through Hyslop’s process. Ever thought about creating a dance resource Bianca?


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Tangible and intangible landscapes reimagined

Review by Dr Tia Reihana-Morunga 16th Oct 2019

When papatūānuku gives birth to whenua, I am able to see this pūrākau played out in volcanic eruption, surge and explosion of lava from the depths of earth. I have watched films that demonstrate rich red lava rolling into seas to solidify and make new landscapes. Rūaumako the atua of earthquakes, volcanoes, and seasons, the youngest son of papatūānuku (earth mother) and Ranginui (earth father) is also demonstrated in these movements, reviving and recreating whakapapa as he lays in the Kurawaka of our mother. Its’ a vast intergenerational relationship to witness as tāngata, and only briefly comprehended during my own labours and birthing of my son Kauri. It is about cycle and natural processes. That when things are well there is natural order to participate in, and our intergenerational relationships with people and place can help create new understandings.

Birthing in many states, and creation via the eruptions of body and memory are recollections in PōHUTU. Created by Bianca Hyslop and designer Rowan Pierce, much like the creation of whenua, this work situates itself on what Hyslop contends as the “restless landscape of Whakarewarewa” and the embodied shifts in internal landscapes of her kuia Ramari Rangiwhiua Morrison.  Her grandmother’s Alzheimers is held and richly reflected on through explorations in the whakapapa of their whenua as means to whakamana her kuia and their whanau. The fragility of our loved ones, how we may understand our life’s cycles in particular where memory and cognitive decline may occur are reverently communicated, re-considered, and decolonised in this work. That memory is held and nurtured in the whakapapa of our landscapes are important whakaaro for which comfort in the often uncomfortable can occur for whānau, hāpu and iwi. Hauora of our whanau is a critical consideration, and more importantly that these stories are shared by the people for which they belong. In this work, Ramari Rangiwhiua Morrison as a collective, whenua, eruptions, recollections, states of reminiscing, intensities, burdens and vulnerable beauty is imparted in theatre.

Te Whakarewarewa-tanga-o-te-ope-tāua-ā-Wāhiao the home of PōHUTU (constant splashing) geyser that erupts several times every hour is our whakaaro in which to sit as audience. I have not seen rolling lava, but I have touched, felt, smelt, swam, healed, cleansed in the surrounds of Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao mana whenua. The wairua is monumental within these distinct landscapes, and with the performance of PōHUTU we are granted the slightest of access through the immediate and tangible, lithe and agile performances of Bianca Hyslop and Rosie Tapsell. It is a duality that works well. Kinaesthetic strengths that exist within a becoming of the dancers activate the choreography throughout. They are in relationship and co-inhabit this kaupapa with capable certainty.   

And the choreography is dense and often thrusts forward in meanings. This statement perhaps reflective of the hikoi Bianca and Rowan have travelled. PōHUTU has merged from ongoing collaborations to the evening’s acute articulations. It has taken its time to arrive at the Rangatira stage, Q Theatre. Perhaps not still without some duress in process… but still time from its initial navigations to arrival at the Tempo Festival… and time when we consider the pūrākau that we tell as iwi, is an interesting concept to appease within the frameworks of professional dance and theatre.

In recent days and in critical reflection of other dance works happening in Tāmaki Makaurau, time has presented itself as a significant characteristic for us to be tika and pono. That time enables us to engage more meaningfully with the mātauranga, to locate ourselves within the creative processes, and therefore in the performative outcome in a positive, autonomous way is considered.  

Initially first experienced as an artistic development in Hou with Atamira Dance Company, the work has developed from experimental and uncharted territories to extend clearer image and impression. The most evident of this for me was to have Bianca dance, and that the ihi, wana, mana and mauri of physical pūrākau was more activated in relation to the tangible and intangible landscapes for which its intent belonged. Uncertainty was regained with certainty, the mono-dynamic with eclectic movement sequences that sat strongly within the embodied capabilities and status of Rosie and Bianca. People were still. Audience watching… We were feeling, and there were connections made.

Also in strong development from its initial inceptions was the set design by Rowan Pierce. Disrupted forecasts of how fixed landscapes may appear in life and within the atamira were achieved as the hanging plastic V shaped frame swung in space. Often like the fragilities of our hinengaro, we could see through, it was clouded in haze (smoke), clarity appears, and we can draw our memories however real onto and into, as means to make sense of our environment, relationships, and the cosmos. Much like the living experiences of her kuia, the screen as boundary, memory, transparency and visionary placed diverse landscapes in which to solidify past and futuristic considerations of whakapapa. Earth offered as plastic with ambiguous drawings done in fluro pen by the dancers from memory, communicated aspects of creation in parallel.

Amongst the assertions of contemporary dance technique, there also existed a section of mau rākau. Here wood was replaced by long clear perspex taiaha used in duration. Where many years of dance training within a particular aesthetic began to interact with the skills of this taonga and healing modality, I appreciated the humble engagement for which Bianca and Rosie performed. That it was not about the execution, as opposed to the exertion, of mana, mana whenua, mana motuhake, mana ātua, mana tāngata was significant. Seeing dancers wero through pathway, hā, and waha… felt like reclamation within the choreography that returned to something solid and corporeal.

In completion of PōHUTU, we are presented with Bianca holding patu. Clear and translucent this vision is ataahua because in Bianca we are with her kuia, her tūpuna, and whānau. That this resolution relates to the programmes notes descriptions of, “multilayered realities, and of re-imaginings” is apparent for me. What follows is Bianca’s “shapeshifting” through the body in states of wairua and wiri. A trembling pukuriri arrives to body with pūkana that further inscribe distinct and embodied activations. Perhaps much like the eruptions of her tupuna Pōhutu in surrounds of Te Whakarewarewa-tanga-o-te-ope-tāua-ā-Wāhiao, layers of clothing are peeled to nothing.

In a brief moment and ending, Bianca shifts to side stage to lower her naked body, back to, and on top of Rosie, now also resting on floor naked. Together they form another landscape, literal of how we as iwi Māori may consider our physical relationships with our environment. That this is where we return to, and rest, alongside our tūpuna is also a powerful stimulus.

The performance of PōHUTU at the Q Theatre also marked the opening night of the Tempo Dance Festival. Prior to the performance, we had gathered in foyer to acknowledge each other and share in karakia, waiata and gifting of taonga to the festival wakahuia. We circled, held hands, gently rested on shoulders to feel Mauri as a collective and to acknowledge the whenua for which we were standing. In the PōHUTU programme the collective ‘team’ is also acknowledged. Like the opening ceremony and Tempo Festival it advances PōHUTU as collaboration between people in place, kaianga, maunga, ngāwhā, puia, whenua and more.

That our lived experiences of the opening ceremony were carried into the theatre, made the work by Hyslop and Pierce more pertinent. To reflect on how important it can be for inter-generational knowledge to sit, foster and flourish within contemporary dance praxis, influential… The points of departure to navigate complexities, re-discover protocols, and to welcome the contentions, can happen. The latter perhaps well beyond my understanding as outsider, yet heavy in suggestion as audience member, and for Bianca, her grandmother, and whanau, enduring in this work and the current realities of living. That this everyday phenomenon was observable in the performance, and reflective of its creative collaborations, was meaningful and a fundamental reasoning for its overall success.

Mauri Ora.


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Shape-shifting dance, stunning imagery

Review by Nicole Wilkie 03rd Oct 2019

Pohutu is a dance and multimedia work that engages the senses and has the audience on the edge of their seats from the onset. Beginning with deep bass that seems to emerge from the earth itself, we see figures appear and vanish into smoke, stunning visual images achieved with clever lighting and set choices. The use of lighting, music and set design throughout the work is skillful and lends itself perfectly to the movement material performed by the dancers.

The dancers, Rosie Tapsell and Bianca Hyslop, complement each other well and share qualities of strength, endurance, and the ability to evoke emotions from the audience with their performance. They are fierce yet feminine, and they move together effortlessly with an alluring fluidity.

Combining the elements of choreography and projected images, a story is woven before us that draws on connections between the power of the constantly shifting landscape of Pohutu, the largest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere, and the changes that happen to our psyche and our sense of identity as we age. Hyslop draws on her grandmother’s life and her struggle with Alzheimer’s, and how the disease causes restlessness in the mind. We see contrasts of intensity and calm, fierceness and vulnerability that are no doubt relatable to all audience members.

Pohutu is a dance work that I think will continue to live in the minds of those who witness it for a long time. It is simply stunning and I hope that this work has an opportunity to be seen by more people, both in Aotearoa and beyond.


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Heart breaking, terrifying, resonant

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 07th Jun 2019

An assault on the senses in every way. Loud sound, strobes that never stop and lighting that blinds create a discomfort that brings us to the edge of our seats – the eruption feels too big for this confined, conventional theatre space – it needs a universe!

Pōhutu opens with an ethereal figure shrouded in tulle reflected through a large hanging screen that forms the focal point of the work. Cloudy images, clouds, drawings and film cross this screen as two dancers are both reactive and proactive to its influences. Design and technology by Rowan Pierce are the standout, creating brilliant impressions as Pōhutu progresses.

The dancers, Bianca Hyslop and Rosie Tapsell carve their personal pilgrimages as a unison or in irrevocably connected stories until the end. Hyslop is named as choreographer and Tapsell as co-devisor- they are both riveting performers and bring themselves passionately to this work.

Pōhutu is a geyser and I came to this work knowing this but with no other prior information. The work stands proud and strong and is evocative of times past, of shadows in the mind, of restless and elusive images, of being uncomfortable and  alienated. Emaciated anguish and audible disparities morph into a duet of shared responsibility and calm concern, angular,  ugly movements collide with earthed and grounded then arise to fly free – insistent and incessant.  I am searching for the reason for such turmoil as Pōhutu erupts before me. The steam /smoke /cloud of the geyser overcomes the stage and provides wonderful effects.

The use of perspex taiaha and meremere is exciting. The final solo is both heart breaking and terrifying – what have we done? What have we become?

Pōhutu speaks to us all and resonates on behalf of humankind. I return home shaken and disquieted with eyeballs and ears seared and sit quietly to write and to read the programme note. The ghost-like shapeshifter figure that opens and closes Pōhutu is the living figure of Hyslop’s own  grandmother Ramari Rangiwhiua Morrison and I relax a little in the knowledge that this woman is treasured, close and cared for. Faith in humanity restored, I sleep well.

Kia Mau is a wonderful initiative and is strong. Thank you to Hone Kouka and Miria George and all who make the Kia Mau Festival happen.


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