Taonga: Dust, Water, Wind

SKY CITY Theatre, Auckland

12/03/2009 - 15/03/2009

Ngaio Marsh Theatre, Christchurch

09/10/2010 - 10/10/2010

Genesis Energy Theatre, Telstra Clear Pacific Events Centre, Manakau, Auckland

27/10/2010 - 27/10/2010

Kings & Queens, Performing Arts Centre, Dunedin

15/10/2010 - 16/10/2010

Auckland Festival 2009

Body Festival 2010

Tempo Dance Festival 2010

Otago Festival of the Arts 2010

Production Details

Founded in 2000, Atamira Dance Collective has been behind many of the most fresh and exciting local dance works of the past few years. For Auckland Festival 2009, Atamira steps up to the Sky City stage with a mesmerising piece of Mâori contemporary dance theatre.

Choreographer Louise Potiki-Bryant was inspired both by her Aunty Rona’s 80 years of life on the East Coast of the South Island, and the story of Rona and the Moon.

Poetic dance, a powerful original sound-score by Paddy Free (Winner of Best Music at Tempo Awards 2007 for his composition of Whakairo), and live music by Richard Nunns using taonga puoro (traditional Mâori instruments), combine in a piece that explores what is precious to us in our contemporary lives, how we cope with change, and the role of intuition versus modern technology.

Thu 12 – Sun 15 March
Tickets: $25 – $45
Bookings: Ticketek 0800 842 538

Tempo 2010

Performance Times:
Wed 27 Oct 2010, 7.30pm
Duration: 75 mins

Genesis Energy Theatre,Telstra Clear Pacific
770 Great South Road, Manukau City

PricesAdults – $20Tickets:www.ticketdirect.co.nz
Ph: 0800 4 TICKET

Otago Arts Festival
King’s and Queens Performing Arts Centre
15 & 16 October 2010
$40 / $30

1hr 10 mins, no interval

It takes a team to create magnificence

Review by Helen Watson White 16th Oct 2010

Taonga: Dust, Water, Wind is a fusion at once ecstatic and earthy of the music of traditional Maori instruments (taonga puoro) with contemporary Maori dance. The fifth work Louise Potiki Bryant has choreographed with Atamira in the last decade, it is based on the life of her grandfather’s cousin, Ngai Tahu kuia Rona Williamson of the southern seaside village of Kaka Point, and also cleverly elaborates on the myth of Rona and the Moon.

The legendary figure of Rona-whakamautai is given a stunning performance by the choreographer herself. In the version of the story behind the work, Rona went to collect water with her taha (calabash), guided by the Moon’s light. Momentarily blinded when the Moon hid itself, she tripped over a ground root, cursing the Moon. The Moon was angered, reaching down for her; although Rona grasped a Ngaio tree to save herself, both she and the tree were taken up into the Moon, where they can still be seen.

All versions have the same end point – it’s one of those legends that explains the existence or appearance of something in the natural world – but this fierce, manic and magnetic danced interpretation must be unique. The imagined identification of Rona with the Moon means that she now has extraordinary powers over nature, especially bodies of water, and over the humans in the ‘real’ story, including the real Rona. 

A bus from Owaka brought members of Rona Williamson’s Catlins community, and she herself was present at the performance I saw, which made it very special. A thrilling karanga made the connection between the players in the work, the people of its southern setting, those who have gone before, and the one whose voice is heard on audio and video remembering her childhood in the Depression (Rona was born in 1924). 

In the first section, DUST (intuition), the experiences of the family are danced, beginning with an uncle’s death by drowning. Rona’s voiceover recalls how you never turned your back on the sea, for a wave was building long before it reached you, and if you didn’t see it beginning far out, if you weren’t aware of it, it would soon be upon you – “and you’d be gone’’. A grandmother dies young, and we meet grandfather Henare in grief. From dust to dust: one of the instruments played in this section – in a live accompaniment by Richard Nunns – is simply a stone.

Intuition of earth extends to the birds, the ruru (owl) and a jerky, quirky fantail, who are imagined to have brought Rona’s ‘Mum’ (the one who raised her, her Great Aunt Emma Potiki) advance news of the death of her brother Tom. How else, before the human messenger came, could she have known? Jack Gray and Mark Bonnington create beautiful visual images of the birds. 

In the second section, WATER (ritual), we see Emma (Justine Hohaia) washing April (Gaby Thomas), a girl with polio, in the healing waters of the sea; twisted limbs are reflected in interleaved flukes of kelp on video behind. Other rituals interwoven in a graceful series include the harvesting of water and food (the moon overseeing it all), the washing of white linen in copper tubs, the plucking of fowl – feathers everywhere – for pillows or the table (there was a playful table-setting in the first section), the actions of fishing and killing and gutting the catch: acts of generation and continuing and completion as people work up a sweat in what seems a perpetual motion machine. 

The main ritual is the daily work necessary to keep the whanau alive. Men and women together, a dance company in full flight is a joyful expression of equality and interdependence; they make a great team.

The last section, WIND, images healing and release. In Rona’s words, “I started to think well if I was home the East Wind would heal me and it did.” The wind blows the rain sideways: Len Lye-type etchings on video make a dynamic backdrop representing a powerful rain-bearing wind from off the sea.

The pounamu gong Richard Nunns was playing in the WATER section gives way to a number of wind instruments, including a very long one, with the hollow sound of a didgeridoo. The washing of the last section is now loose white clothes blown about by the whirling figures; in the background, sheets hung up make an effective multiple video-screen. 

Repeated elements build a woven structure incorporating (literally, embodying) many parts of an individual’s history. The girl Rona (youthfully and truthfully rendered by Bianca Hyslop) is held and carried and cared-for by a devoted ‘Mum’, but in terms of the whole work, by all the others at the same time, in a startling image of how it takes a village to raise a child.

In the same way, Louise Potiki Bryant’s choreography and video design, conceived in tandem, are supported by the music, costume and lighting design, plus producer and production manager, rehearsal directors, touring and stage managers, a sound and AV operator and technical advisor, plus a host of others listed in the programme.

There are more ways than one to tell a moving story, and there are more artists than the seven dancers playing key parts in this magnificent Auckland-based dance company.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Make a comment

Poems inspired by a kuia

Review by Bernadette Rae 14th Mar 2009

Louise Potiki Bryant’s recent works have all reflected on her Ngai Tahu heritage and in particular, the Potiki whanau. This time she is inspired by the memories of her aunt, Rona, now 82 and still living in Southland’s Kaka Point.

Her image, a laughing face, a lined and lovely kuia’s face, is shown briefly, at the end of the performance. [More]


Make a comment

From family dinner to cultural romanticism and exoticism

Review by Cat Gwynne 13th Mar 2009

Rona (Pare Randall) is positioned centre stage, alone. Her face – light and young – pierces through the vast and empty darkness. She dances in duet with her spirit (Dolina Wehipeihana) to the sound of grating stones (Richard Nunns).

A family is sitting at dinner. They enter into a theatrical, almost mimetic meal, which is then broken up by a cleverly crafted collapse of the table they are sitting around.

The dancers are scattered across the stage, sparse. Bits of table. Chairs. A tree. The glittery fantail (Jack Gray) enunciates cheekiness and charm through his body. Emma (Nancy Wijohn) and Henare (Moss Paterson) dance in duet. They find Tom (Taiaroa Royal) limp on the ground…

A theatrical duet between Rona and the fantail, a sunset scape behind the slow walk of Emma. Suggestions of presence, the sound of a deep flute, dreamlike, subconscious, romantic.

We see a large gourd being played, a deep resonant sound tipped by rattling fingers. The group dances in unison with their own taonga puoro under three huge hanging ‘pods’ constructed out of bamboo.

A percussive haka in circle formation spliced with repeating gestural movement leads into a trio performed by the men, then a nurturing contact dance between Emma and the two Ronas.

The women spear and pull in the men with their mana wahine, the men are like fish in front of the moonlight. The gong-like sound haunts… And then the women are hanging huge white sheets to a clothes line…

Tom and Henare duet with conviction, another group dance of flowing movement, and the sheets are hoisted up to become the screen upon which a lighthouse is projected. Emma enters through the sheets, and then the group.

A long group dance finishes the piece, flowing movement clothed in white. A projection of the storyteller, Rona Williamson, brings us back from the wind.

This piece gets me thinking about cultural romanticism and exoticism, and the ways in which Te Ao Māori is portrayed to a wider audience.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council