Tama Toa (2017)

Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland

22/06/2017 - 23/06/2017

Pacific Dance Festival 2017

Production Details

Pacific Dance Festival 2017 15-24 June at Mangere Arts Centre

Pacific Dance Festival 2017 runs 15–24 June at Mangere Arts Centre in Auckland, and has expanded over two weeks, presenting a programme that embraces contemporary Pacific dance in the most populous Polynesian city in the world.

The first week of the festival will present Wahine Toa over two nights, a collection of four works by female choreographers in a celebration of the strength and diversity of Pasifika women: Tai Akaki by Tepaeru–Ariki Lulu French, Ave by Ufitia Sagapolute, West Meet South by Losalia Milika Pusiaki, and Found Words by Julia Mage’au Gray.

The week will conclude with the debut performance of the highly anticipated Nu’u by Freshmans Crew on Saturday 17th June, fusing together Pacific, Maori, Urban and Contemporary dance styles in a story exploring three characters and their experiences growing up in New Zealand. Nu’u will debut at the Pacific Dance Festival before travelling overseas, with interest from as far abroad as Hawaii, Los Angeles, and Utah already being expressed.

Week two will feature the men of the programme in action, presenting Tama Toa and consisting of five original works: Muamua and Keeping the Faith by Joash Fahitua, Fa’aafa by Pati Tyrell, Mea Tau by Elijah Kennar, and Tu Move by the New Zealand School of Dance.

Closing the festival is a huge double bill performance of Aumaga by Le Moana and Le Mau by Jasmine Leota, showing on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th June. Aumaga explores the spaces inhabited by the ‘untitled’ men of Samoan villages, their day to day activities, and their service to family and culture.  Inspired by the ‘Mau Movement’ of  the  1920’s, Le  Mau fuses  traditional  Samoan  song  and  dance  with  movement  from Tonga,   Tokelau,   and   other   dance   genres, fused together by a core of live music played on traditional  instruments and sharing universal tones of the strength and resiliency of Pacific people.

In addition to the evening performances, the Festival is inviting schools in South Auckland to attend free matinees of four of the works, TiaKeeping the FaithLe Mau and Aumaga as part of their commitment to nurture and support the stories of young Pasifika people.

Tickets are now on sale at https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2017/pacific-dance-festival-2017/auckland/mangere

Performance installation , Performance Art , Pacific contemporary dance , Contemporary dance ,

1 hr 15 mins

Something to delight and entertain everyone

Review by Ria Masae 23rd Jun 2017

‘Pacific Dance New Zealand’ presents a second year of its Tama Toa showcase as part of the Pacific Dance Festival in 2017.  This year offers five contemporary dance performances with an assortment of themes, dance expressions, mediums, and flavours; something to delight and entertain everyone.  

The first act to kick off the Tama Toa showcase is Mea Tau, consisting of five male dancers and choreographed by Elijah Kennar. Mea Tau takes us on a journey of invention and discovery by using movement, stillness and dance to personify weaponry.  During the ‘still’ moments, the lead dancer moves amongst his rigid and motionless co-dancers, manipulating their bodies individually and then in joined shapes.  The movements are often robotic yet athletic, showcasing the endurance and flexibility of the group.  Curiosity heightened, I found myself discovering and mentally building constructions alongside the dancers.  What happens if I join this body part with that body?  Which is the more dangerous weapon: the ones created by our hands, or the more accessible ones – our bodies?  In-between these constructions are inserts of dance routines, from the stomping fa’ataupati to more contemporary movements involving energetic leaps and rapid hip-hop precision.    

Collaborating with choreographer Victoria Colombus, Toa Paranihi and Connor Masseurs from The New Zealand School of Dance make up the dynamite duo in S.U.B. Their contemporary piece explores four different expressions of dance that takes us through a river of movements that flow from jagged power to raging grace. Paranihi and Masseur bring an attitude and energy that demands attention.  They not only dance from their bodies, but their facial expressions startle and engage the audience, too.  Their synchronisation is meticulous, to the point where I wonder if an underlying theme is mirroring or reflection.  Are they expressing two contrasting qualities, that is, the opposite halves, of the Self?  A riveting and dynamic performance.    

Kaya Campi and Leighton Rangi make up the male and female duet in the contemporary dance piece, Muamua,meaning First in Samoan – which explores the ideas of firsts and new life. The piece by Joash Fahitua begins with a standing Rangi facing the audience while Campi sits motionless on his shoulders with her back to us.  Then Campi slides to Rangi’s thighs without aid from Rangi.  The movement is captivating and beautiful, yet, the gravity-defying slow motion in its execution sets a nervous tightening in my stomach, like watching a trapeze act from a circus floor.  This feeling continues throughout Muamua with movements that evoke a sense of exquisiteness and tension simultaneously.  At the end of the act, when Rangi walks backwards off-stage with Campi again on his shoulders, I think of the end of one journey and the hope for the beginning of another.       

Pati Solomona Tyrell creates a visual feast by combining dance, film, costume and poetry to explore the concept of fa’aafa, or Half.  Fa’aafa explores the idea of ‘otherness’ by shattering the Western conventions of the term.  It stretches the genre of dance by incorporating visual arts and poetry.  It brings traditional Samoan dance and concepts into the contemporary space, thereby birthing a Pasifika identity that is a hybrid yet still has its umbilical cord attached to sacred roots of the old and of the Motherland.  When Tyrell dances the siva Samoa dressed in sheer black material, he exposes the grace of masculinity and the warriorness of femininity; he is aitu – a Samoan spirit – bringing the rise of dead concepts into swaying new life.  In this contemporary Pasifika otherness, or fa’aafa, there is no exclusion, but merely different hues of uniqueness that fuse into a powerful oneness.    

Tama Toa 2017 ends with the choreography of Joash Fahitua in Keeping the Faith.  Three long benches and a total of ten dancers set the scene of an assembly at church.  The action kicks off when a popular Samoan hymn blasts from the speakers.  The dancers move into various contemporary dance routines – sometimes as one entourage, sometimes in small groups – that portray the concepts of faith and the different personalities you may find within church walls.  The faithful leap from benches.  The gossipers whirl from bench to bench.  The saved are lifted high in the air.  Towards the end, the benches are moved to form a cross, which then becomes a coffin as a male dancer lies its centre while his company mourn.  He rises to dance on the bench, showing acute agility and great balance before he sinks again into the coffin.  As he is carried off-stage, there is sense of salvation and resurrection.   

As I walked out of the Mangere Arts Centre to the carpark, I felt encouraged and inspired.  As a Pacific Islander as well as an emerging artist in creative writing, it is reassuring to know that spaces like the Pacific Dance Festival exist.  I have known the Director of Pacific Dance New Zealand, Iosefa Enari for a few years now, and commend him for creating this much-needed nurturing space.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council