Hannah Playhouse, Wellington

06/06/2019 - 08/06/2019

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

02/10/2019 - 02/10/2019

Tempo Dance Festival 2019

Kia Mau festival 2019

Production Details

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 HyslopRowan PierceRosie TapsellTui 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

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

50 mins

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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