Tama Ma

Concert Chamber - Town Hall, THE EDGE, Auckland

09/10/2008 - 14/10/2008

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

14/10/2014 - 14/10/2014

Q Theatre, 305 Queen St, Auckland

14/10/2014 - 14/10/2014

Tempo Dance Festival 2014

Tempo Dance Festival 2008

Production Details

New Zealand Dance Royalty Leaps into the Spotlight 

Two of New Zealand’s most acclaimed contemporary dancers launch their new company Okareka Dance Company with a premiere performance of Tama Ma at Tempo – New Zealand Festival of Dance.

Tama Ma tells the story of two men who travel from boyhood, to manhood, and the real life tale of love, life, joy and sorrow. The five part act moves from a short dance film projected on stage to a drag queen’s journey to femininity and the return back to masculinity. A young boy’s connection to his Whanau (family) and Iwi (tribe) and a mature man’s ideas of identity are also deeply explored.

Presented as a five act autobiographical dance journey; each segment of Tama Ma is choreographed by a renowned New Zealand choreographer and powerfully performed by Taane Mete and Taiaroa Royal; the distinguished Douglas Wright choreographs Act 2 while the extraordinary talents of Michael Parmenter shape Act 4. This is the first time that the celebrated choreography skills of Douglas Wright and Michael Parmenter have ever been presented in the same show.

Also collaborating on Tama Ma are Mark Summervile and Heather Lee from ‘Zoomslide’ who are directing and producing a short film that will be played in Act 1 of the performance while also creating a documentary about the process of making the dance. Eden Mulholland is also on board as musical director, using his vast talents to create a magical soundscape.

Okareka Dance Companyis a vibrant contemporary New Zealand dance company formed in 2007 and led by Taane Mete and Taiaroa Royal with the aim to fuse contemporary dance with other creative art mediums. The essence of Okareka Dance Company is guided by Māori beliefs, these beliefs – Mana (Honour and Integrity), Whanau (Family) and Matataki (Challenge) are brought to its work and to its audiences.

Through choreography, set design, and costume, Okareka Dance Company strives to tell bold, spiritual stories that are of and from New Zealand. Through careful collaboration the company seeks to extend its creativity and its influence by engaging experienced choreographers, musicians, film producers and performers to create evocative, beautiful dance works that tell a story.

“Taane Mete and Michael Parmenter, a brilliant partnership, producing stunning dancing. They combined strength and vulnerability, with Mete’s subtle and elegant physicality complementing Parmenter’s rugged, tormented introspection.” -New Zealand Listener

“Taiaroa Royal is the anchorman of Aotearoa.” – ‘Black Milk’ reviewed by Jennifer Shennan – Dominion Post.

Act One: Pito
8min 16mm short dance film projected on stage without live performance.
Dancers: Taane Mete and Taiaroa Royal
Choreographers : Taiaroa Royal and Taane Mete in collaboration with Mark Summerville
Film Director: Mark Summerville
Film Producer: Heather Lee
Music Composition: Eden Mullholland/ Linda Lepou

Act Two: Tama Ma
Dancers: Taiaroa Royal and Taane Mete
Choreographer: Douglas Wright
Music Composition: David Guerin realises piano recording from composer Provokiev
The dramatic and almost tragic metamorphosis of femininity returning to masculinity. Drag queen’s who lose their fabulousness to again become ordinary men. This act explores the emotional, physical and physiological characteristics of the drag queen and her regression back to a man.

Act Three: Rangatahi
Dancer: Taane Mete or Taiaroa Royal
Choreograher: Taiaroa Royal and Taane Mete
Music Composition: Eden Mulholland
A solo that remembers the connection to the whanau ( family ) and the iwi ( tribe ). It is a progression of the dance from childhood to adolescence and the pathway to becoming a dancer. Performed by Taane or Tai in alternating performances. 

Act Four: Hand to Hand
Dancers: Taane Mete and Taiaroa Royal
Choreographer: Michael Parmenter
This act centres on the issue of identity. Central to this issue is the polarity of being same or being different and the exploration of the tension contained in this polarity. The choreography will investigate the difficult territory between improvisation and set composition.

Act Five: Whanaungatanga
Dancers: Taiaroa Royal and Taane Mete
A return to spirituality and the importance of whanau ( family). This act pays homage to the fathers of Taane and Tai, both whom have passed away. A moving piece that see both men reflect on the important life lessons learnt from their fathers’ tautoko (support) and korero (talking, speaking).

Tama Ma plays as part of the 2008 tempo – NZ Festival of Dance

Venue:  The Edge / Concert Chamber
Dates:  09th – 14th October 2008, 7.30pm
Booking:  Tickets will be released through The Edge mid July.
Tickets:  $15 – $30 + any applicable transaction fees 


Returns to Tempo 2014 for one show only, 14 October 2014

Dancers: Taane Mete and Taiaroa Royal

60 mins

Biographical dance journey a pleasure to watch

Review by Briar Wilson 15th Oct 2014

Okareka Dance Company first presented this “biographical dance journey” of Taiaroa Royal and Taane Mete six years ago at Tempo, and it still thrills with great dancing and theatre.

The show opens with a film, Pito (or umbilical cord), created by the dancers with Mark Summerville, showing their birth into a dark savage other worldly place – the world of dance?  Almost naked, they are joined together by a thick rough umbilical cord, grunt and snarl at each other before they chew the cord through.  It turns into two eels, and red blood leaks out.  This starts off the next section with the shock appearance on screen of the two dancers in wigs, red party frocks and high heels, and so dressed, they now appear on stage!

This part, Tama Ma, is about them as drag queens.  Choreographed by Douglas Wright, it is accompanied by piano –David Guerin playing Prokofiev.  Royal and Mete gradually strip and we get a picture of the pain and hard work they go through to create their female glamour, till at last they are able to dance freely as themselves.  There is more than one crazy bit – and each gasps when the other tears off and eats the other’s false eye lashes!

A lit one bar box heater then appears on stage, and Royal, clad in a white shirt, and then Mete, huddle about it, sit on it, to sound from Eden Mulholland.  We can hear a clock ticking and children’s voices.  It’s called Rangatahi and is about the dancers when they were young.

The next section, Hand to Hand, choreographed by Michael Parmenter, starts with Royal alone on a dark stage, dressed in a suit, anxiously waiting for someone.  Mete, also in a suit, turns up and they shake hands, and gradually get comfortable with each other.  So develops this duet as they remove jackets, then socks and shoes, and with more confidence, are able to dance together, almost continuously in touch to build up a marvellous display of exchange of weight and support.  Eden Mulholland provides the music 

Finally, Mete and Royal come onto the stage from behind a loosely woven black back curtain split by a V of light.  They are in white, long, divided skirts and this part is called Whanaungatanga and is in memory of their fathers.  With arms lifted, and chests raised, and lit from the side, they float.  They move with breath, and their dance flows.  It is very moving.

A wonderful evening with just one negative – no programme was available for an almost full audience, and one that may never have seen the show before and so might have liked to know more about it.

Such a great pleasure to see this piece again – it has not lost any of its strength and still entrances.  We have been privileged.  


Editor October 16th, 2014

Thank you Rachael -

As noted at the end of the review, production information may also be found by clicking on the title at the top of the review. 
Or here: http://www.theatreview.org.nz/reviews/production.php?id=900  

Rachael Penman October 15th, 2014


I am the general Manager/Producer for Okareka Dance Company and I must appologise for the lack of programme.  We had just arrived back from WOW on Monday and being part of a festival,  programmes skiped my mind. (no excuse)

 I appreciate that it is important for people to have an understanding of the work beforehand especially with dance.  I recommend any one that has or hasn't see the show going to vimeo.com and watching the documentary that was made by zoomslide on the making of Tama Ma and please visit our website Okareka.com for the story of Tama Ma.  We really do welcome feedback such as this as we want to share our storys and NZ's storys with you.

Warm regards

Rachael Penman

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Free spirits, dancing towards heaven

Review by Raewyn Whyte 11th Oct 2008

A sustained standing ovation greeted dancers Taiaroa Royal and Taane Mete at the closing of Tama Ma on opening night.
The applause honoured the breadth and depth of their richly satisfying performance, their extraordinary artistry, and the excellence of all aspects of this highly collaborative project. And it honoured their courage, after 20 years of dancing for others, in establishing the Okareka Dance Company as a vehicle for further artistic collaborations of this far-reaching nature. [More]


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New Zealand contemporary dance at its most excellent

Review by Jack Gray 10th Oct 2008

Tama Ma is the stunning result of two years of hard graft by two of Aotearoa’s most gifted and lauded dancers, Taane Mete and Taiaroa Royal, and a fantastic debut performance to herald the national premiere of their newly minted Okareka Dance Company.

The realisation of this project was eagerly anticipated, drawing together a team of collaborators, including Douglas Wright, Michael Parmenter, Eden Mulholland, Jeremy Fern and Elizabeth Whiting, to rival any production of this calibre both here and overseas.

Presented at the Concert Chamber at the Auckland Town Hall, the space is transformed by a dramatic red velvet curtain theatre evoking images of the Moulin Rouge or Broadway.

The premiere began closer to home however, with a customary mihi (welcome) by a Kaumatua (elder), whose oration eloquently and purposefully opened the whare (house), creating a sacred space, the inviting of ancestors and an acknowledging of papa (earth), tangata (people), whakaari (art), mauri (life force) and the pito (umbilical cord). He farewelled the late Mahinarangi Tocker, whose voice also features in the final act of the show. Appropriate and important, this protocol set the precedent for the connection we all have to aspects of life and culture that were explored within the show. It also honoured the mana and integrity of the two dancers who were to grace the stage, uplifting marginal communities across all barriers: cultural, gender, politic and personal.

Tama Ma is shown in 5 acts. The first is a film, Pito, directed by Mark Summerville that is projected onto a wheelable white silk screen sitting in the middle of the stage.  Two foetal figures, crouched against a black rumbly sky, introduce us to a world of the ancients, inhabiting Te Kore and Te Po. Ancestral and primordial, the two distinctly muscular dancers are joined by dreaded hair in a massive wig in the style of an umbilical cord.

Incredible cinematography leads us to a grove, a pile of dead leaves where these monstrous beings awaken in fits and starts, becoming aware of their own vulnerability as they are birthed into this scary place. Their defensiveness kicks in, as they take on dark panther-like and guttural forms, viscerally eating their hair, salivating, with eels propagating from the tear between them.

This Lord of the Rings-esque prologue is suddenly whipped away, as the two find themselves thrown into slinky dresses in full drag make-up, shaking the audience up by surprise and laughter. Joined by the real-life dancers in identical outfits, we are treated to a ‘Pussycat Dolls’ style show, preening themselves to the applause of the (willing) crowd as they ably milk the limelight.

This leads itself into Act 2, Tama Ma, choreographed by the great Douglas Wright. Set to Prokofiev, this work explores characters and the subtle and not so subtle shifts between gender roles. Acting drunk, fixing their hair, clips falling out, the two stumble un-glamorously, baring their bottoms clad in g-strings. Their little burgundy two-tone, froufrou skirts, give us images of Polynesian drag queens on Karangahape Road.

As the classical music envelops the space, they run across in diagonals, make grotesque and melodramatic clown like facial expressions, screech, and turn into high-heeled animals or yetis with their wigs masking their faces. As I watch Tama Ma, I have a thought that recurs throughout. I imagine this show being exported overseas as its global appeal is so excitingly obvious, a class above many other recent productions as far as performance goes and breaking boundaries in so many significant ways.

Back to the piece however: eyelashes are eaten and spat out, tissues drop from the sky, they become grotesque masked bandits with stockinged heads, a snake with the words etcetera is pulled across the stage. Tongue in cheek and playful, they variously become boys, men, women, creatures, instruments of god and finally tekoteko carvings in various stages and states of undressing and stripping away.

The third Act, Rangatahi, is a solo alternately performed by either dancer. Tonight was Mete, in a simple dance that began sunning his bottom lying near a heater. Gradually it warmed up, also with the lights and sound, where we see a childhood hearth and then a young man emerge.

Exposed, playful, melancholic. With lighting design by Jeremy Fern, a long bright window gobo creates a sensitive and beautifully orchestrated transition into adulthood.

The doorway into the next Act, Hand to Hand, an exquisite partnering duet from the one and only Michael Parmenter. A misty outdoors scene, gentle crickets, a suited up Royal texting and waiting, Mete appears (also suited), as a standoff and yielding to each other takes place.

Intensely focussed in the centre of the space, set to a clever soundtrack by composer Eden Mulholland, the duet explores a tension akin to martial arts or flamenco. Deep intensity is built through ease, fluidity and precision in an evolving series of lifts, grips, throws, catches, slides, and spins. Effortlessly done, yet undeniably tricky.

At this point the show takes on a whole new level, dispensing with humour to display the performers resonance with movement, years of artistry giving us the opportunity to bear witness to the highest expressions and ideals of dance. Emotional for the viewer as the work winds its way to its conclusion, the dancers every heartbeat is palpable and experienced, their love, passion and friendship enduring and endless.

The final act in this remarkable show is my favourite and the payoff we all want and expect. Whanaugatanga, choreographed by the duo themselves, is at the point I decide to stop making notes. Dedicated to the memory of their fathers, the middle of the backdrop lights up like an arch to heaven, as the two angels appear bare-chested in white skirt-like harem pants.

With Tocker’s voice sampled on the soundtrack, they float into a cascade of black transparent curtains. Blue gobos light the floor and them as if they are underwater or above the clouds, the backdrop looking like a feather cloak. It is truly beautiful, astonishing and heartfelt. I’m not ashamed to admit I had tears.

It is such an accomplishment of the spirit and everyone present is blessed to see such a display of New Zealand contemporary dance at its most excellent. Kia kaha e hoa ma.


Celine Sumic October 13th, 2008

I saw Tama Ma tonight, and while I'm not sure about the use of superlatives in terms of fulfilling the narrative promised, I did enjoy the sculptural use of clothing in the form of men's suits in the fourth section (Hand to Hand), choreographed by Michael Parmenter. The lighting contributes to this effect which seems to be woven somehow into Taane and Tai's movement, which in its timing and nuance reminded me of the swans I used to watch on Lake Pupuke when I was a teenager... they had the most acute, tense yet graceful mating dance.  Which is what I saw in Hand to Hand; a lightly played yet intense, sophisticated choreography of male sexual tension.

While this section of Tama Ma held my attention, it seemed out of place with the other parts of the show.  The extended time spent in drag playing with each other's parts did nothing for me...  (I would have the same reaction whether it were straight, gay or bi men and/or women doing the same thing on stage). 

I thought you were going to tell me the story of your life/ lives...  Beyond the fact that you're gay, (not that thats not valid to explore and present), but its not everything?  Why don't you tell me about the meaningful things that happened that lead you to this point in your lives?  The people, the places - that moved you, that challenged you, that changed you?
Then your considerable gifts would become a considerable gift to me.

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