ASB Waterfront Theatre, 138 Halsey St, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland

11/06/2021 - 12/06/2021

Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

17/06/2021 - 19/06/2021

James Hay Theatre, Christchurch

24/06/2021 - 24/06/2021

Forum North, Whangarei

13/08/2021 - 13/08/2021

Toitoi - Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre 101 Hastings Street South, Hastings

31/08/2022 - 31/08/2022

Regent On Broadway, Palmerston North

09/09/2022 - 09/09/2022

Regent Theatre, The Octagon, Dunedin

19/10/2022 - 19/10/2022

Kia Mau Festival 2021

Production Details

Atamira Dance Company

Te Wheke is a powerful collaborative dance work which  brings together Aotearoa’s leading names in contemporary dance including Arts Laureate Louise Potiki Bryant,  Dolina Wehipeihana, Taane Mete, Kelly Nash, Gabrielle Thomas, Kura Te Ua and Bianca Hyslop.

These eight choreographic practitioners, with a cast of eight dancers including the renowned Sean MacDonald, explore the dimensions of human experience symbolised by the eight tentacles of Te Wheke – the Octopus, a powerful guardian on this journey from past into future.

“Atamira wanted to represent the legacy of the many artists who have contributed over the years, and instead of a retrospective collection we are producing something that holds all the hallmarks of what has made our mahi so integral to the dance landscape of Aotearoa over the last 21 years” Jack Gray,Founding member and Artistic Director, Atamira Dance Company


Atamira Dance Company
Artistic Director - Jack Gray
Choreographers: Louise Potiki Bryant, Dolina Wehipeihana, Taane Mete, Kelly Nash, Gabrielle Thomas, Kura Te Ua, Jack Gray and Bianca Hyslop.

Dancers: Brydie Colquhoun, Emma Cosgrove, Eddie Elliott, Caleb Heke, Sean MacDonald, Oli Mathiesen, Dana Moore-Mudgway, Abbie Rogers

Maori contemporary dance , Dance-theatre , Dance , Cultural activation , Contemporary dance ,

90 mins

A Graceful Whakapapa

Review by Jessica Latton 21st Oct 2022

Very occasionally, watching a performance work, I feel like I am at the centre of the world – that we are the surging wave leading humanity forward, that the atua are present with the performers on stage and hovering above the silent crowd and we are all in this together. This was my experience last night with Atamira Dance Company and their new work Te Wheke in Dunedin’s iconic Regent Theatre.

Te Wheke, the celebration of 21 years of Atamira Dance Company is anchored in a selection of retrospective works recognisable as a graceful whakapapa, from which explode eight new solo dances.  Under the guidance of Artistic Director Jack Gray, these new works crafted by eight Tuakana/Teina pairs of dancer and choreographer, are testament to Atamira’s commitment to the art-form’s longevity and continuum.

The solos are based on Te Wheke/The Octopus, Dr Rangimarie Rose Pere’s model of hauora, a graceful framework for the hauora of the whole self-comprised of Mauri, Whanaungatanga, Wairua, Whatumanawa, Hinengaro, Mana Ake, Tūpuna and Tinana.

The supreme prowess of the dancers, the breathtaking new lexicon of movement within the new solos, spoke deeply to my own experience of these times and mark the cultural sand of these shifting tides in our land. It is a strange ephemeral ecstasy that we are immersed in, this fleeting moment, these dancers at the height of their powers… this too, shall pass.

Giant video imagery by Louise Potiki Bryant stream onto eight illusionary sweeps of black habotai silk suspended high above the stage, through which dancers both in the flesh and on screen appeared and vanished, not out of the past, but more like from the future.

This huge crystalline geometry breathed with a life of its own, the orderly intelligence of the universe, paired with the mesmeric intelligence of Paddy Free’s original music score.  Muscle rippled and twitched within the light and dark of Vanda Karolczak and Marama Lloydd’s flowing silk costumes, that moved and breathed in their own bio system within the dancer’s movement.

This is a show created in the pandemic, and articulates this unique time.

Feel like you can’t keep up? Got digital catatonia? Are you really an ordinary messy human of flesh and longing and chaos and love beneath the sleek, black devices now at the centre of our world? Do you long for those moments of human ecstasy, fluidity and timelessness that make us human? Do you feel alone in this, shut off from our flesh and blood whānau? Atamira lay it all out with preternatural freedom, conveying the deepest human beauty that can only be conveyed by dance. Few of us can hope to move like these dancers, but they do it for us.

The world as we know it is being swept away, becoming unrecognisable. Yet here, our artists are doing what only artists can do: putting frame, reference, understanding to the incomprehensible barrage of contemporary life.

I left feeling disturbed, the deep underwater currents had been stirred, a prophecy, a promise.

This unique art form of Māori contemporary dance is a magical and seamless layering of multiple expert facets, all contributing to a wairua way bigger than the sum of the parts. Shocking, audacious, brilliant. It knows and owns its whakapapa and leaps from it. This community of artists have streaked out far ahead, scanning the territory before us and bring back reports from the future. We are in good hands. This should be seen by everyone.

Jessica Latton – Ngāti Wheke / Waitaha / Kai Tahu.



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Te Wheke Has Many Tendrils

Review by Hannah Molloy 21st Oct 2022

As its name suggests, Te Wheke by Atamira Dance Company has many tendrils, and it slips through tiny spaces in your mind while you’re watching, touching thoughts and ideas that perhaps you hadn’t thought were there, or were well tucked away.

The work marks 21 years of the company’s worldview, based, as the co-founders explain after the performance, in deep research, tikanga, and whakapapa. The programme describes it as “reflecting the eight tentacles of the graceful octopus … We surrounded [the solos] with worlds drawing on both our legacy of memories and on new inspirations”. There’s something about looking back to move forward, walking backwards into the future, that resounds as we move through the world in 2022.

There are eight dancers, each paired with a choreographer to articulate one of the elements of Te Wheke: Nancy Wijohn with Kelly Nash as Mauri; Sean MacDonald with Dolina Wehipeihana as Whanaungatanga; Madison Tumataroa with Gabrielle Thomas as Wairua; Cory-Toalei Roycroft with Bianca Hyslop as Whatumanawa; Dana Moore-Mudgway with Louise Potiki-Bryant as Hinengaro; Oli Mathiesen with Jack Gray as Mana Ake; Abbie Rogers with Kura Te Ua as Tūpuna; and Caleb Heke with Taane Mete as Tinana.

There’s a seam of elemental beginnings, of cellular composition and evolution – apt given the intention of the work. As the dancers whip forth a billowing sheet of charcoal silk, it covers them, so at first they’re invisible. A roiling nothingness until the silk settles, forming mountain ranges and valleys, lit in the burning muted glow of an orb carried undulating past them. It brought to mind a recent telling I heard of the story of Papa and Rangi and the squabbles of their children over hundreds of years before one of them saw a glint of light and negotiated with his brother to investigate and see what would happen if they let in a little more light. The storyteller used her hands to describe the story as much as her words and the image on stage of bodies, still under an all-encompassing darkness, reminded me of her fluidity.

This digression exemplifies my experience watching Te Wheke – each part, each solo, each ensemble, each piece of music, and each projection drew my mind elsewhere, to a memory of a moment or a sensation, while my eyes stayed drawn to the flickering ghostly movement.

There are constant undertones of breath, of the movement of corpuscles through narrow veins, of sinew and muscle both taut and relaxed. Bodies tell the stories of ages in the microcosm of our most minute structures. They give us a sense of place and scale – the atua and tūpuna projected behind the dancers give pause to the relentlessness and jitter of the day-to-day in a post (notpost)-pandemic world.

I come away from Te Wheke feeling grounded and blessed. I’m not a religious person in any sense and often feel a bit rootless as I go about my life, so I don’t say that lightly.



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Atamira is one beautiful creature

Review by Louie Zalk-Neale 10th Sep 2022

Atamira is one beautiful creature. They have summoned te wheke, the octopus, as a creature of multiplicity, to guide this kaupapa. An octopus can change their colour and texture, and their body morphs into whatever they need to become.

The show is set in the sounds of the ocean, a breathing in and a breathing out with each wave rolling onto the sand. Framed by the ornate expanse of the Regent on Broadway in Te Papaioea, we are looking at a black stage backed with shimmering projections and fine black silk hanging from above. We’re in the depths of the ocean, so deep down that the sky doesn’t even exist in this realm. Things move differently here. Maybe this is Te Pō. A space that looks empty, but is full, with a thick, gooey darkness.

From a layer of subtle misty smoke, someone moves fluidly onto the stage. A human, symmetrical with an arm and a leg on one side, and an arm and a leg on the other side. Behind them, someone else raises their arm and lays a hand on their shoulder. The pair hold each other in a tight embrace. I can’t help but think of Papatūānuku and Ranginui. An archetype of beginnings, he tīmatanga tēnei. But these two on the stage, they drift apart, and then hold each other again, moving fluidly, their connection never lost. A rhythm of connecting and separating, of building and receding. I know that their mundane hugs would seem monumental in 100,000x slow motion. I realise also, that with their bodies embraced, their form has 8 limbs.

A knotted white taura is draped around the shoulders of one of the performers. These ropes are extensions of their body, whipping around with agile speed and a heavy flop. In other moments, the taura becomes kōiwi, like bleached bones, and at other times, a sleeping pēpi cradled in someone’s arms. Draped back over the shoulders, another performer is spinning like a spider, creating a whirlpool of energy in the centre of the stage. The performers know exactly how to make this knotted rope shapeshift like the wheke.

Throughout the show, the silk that hangs from above is illuminated with giant human figures, which multiply, melt away and disappear into the ripples of water, or sharp diagonal rain. These are atua and tīpuna, whose wairua, presence, can move freely between forms of humans and any other piece of the world. They are shape-shifters, unbound from painful consistency. They are Tipua; their power flows off them in abundance for the performers to absorb.

A performer is convulsing and writhing with a long piece of industrial black tubing encasing their body. From big speakers we can hear rasping grunts, squeals, vocalisations and screams. With dancers swarming around them, this creature is undeniably from deep in the moana. Then a taniwha appears, long, red and silky. Two arms reach out like the long eyes of a snail – another slimy mollusc – then the taniwha sheds their silk and takes the form of a human.

The athleticism of the performers is incredible to watch, and with kapa haka merging fluently into the language of contemporary dance, I think their joints must be oiled with magical squid ink. When the soundtrack is quiet, I can notice that every jolt of the performers’ bodies forces air from their lungs. Gasps and heaves as they exert their energy. Other sections use the reo of mau rākau, accompanied with a rumbling pulse; and the sound design ranges from the texture of beach gravel and volcanic glass tinkling through molten rock; to the breathy whistles and whirrs of taonga pūoro; and iconic waiata from Alien Weaponry, old recordings from when your nanny was young, and choirs performing hymns; amongst other talented tūī.

The feeling of a huge surging wave rolls over us all when the performers pull a wide metallic sheet of fabric across the stage. The dancers are hidden below to form maunga, their limbs forming ridgelines, and the gaps between becoming valleys to channel rain into awa. A glowing orange orb appears in the hands of one dancer – Tamanuiterā, the Sun – and they make their way across the rolling hills. This feels like a time that no human has ever experienced; maybe in the future, maybe in the past; maybe both, or maybe neither.

With 25 collaborators creating this astounding performance, Atamira demonstrates that the future of Te Ao Māori is unfolding in ways that our tūpuna might not have been able to imagine. Still, our ancestors set us up to make decisions with the right considerations if we can tune in to listen to them. We need to make decisions that decentralise our brains. Collective thinking. Thinking with all of our limbs outstretched. As the dancers reflect at the end of the performance in a Q&A, they talk about moving their thinking to be more like the three hearts of te wheke, thinking with their hinengaro (minds), their manawa (hearts), and their pūmanawa (guts). We can learn a lot from shape-shifters.

Palmerston North performance announcement, the performers include: Taane Mete, Nancy Wijohn.


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Te Wheke – a legacy work

Review by Kim Buckley 05th Sep 2022

I’ve had the honour of staying on marae a few times over my life, in both Te Ika-a-Maui and Te Wai Pounamu. And now I have the same feeling of sitting in a wharenui, listening to a story telling kaumatua, watching the energy of the story rise into the rafters like woodsmoke, to mingle with the words of the ancestors. It is the same tonight; Immersive. Time is suspended. I don’t feel any boundaries between past and present, it seems there is no linear timeline in this work offered by Atamira. The whakapapa of this immense work is incredibly satisfying. I am seeing the essence of those who have gone before, embodied in the current dancers. If dance is an elemental force, then the mana is palpably visible. This is my experience sitting in the Toitoi tonight, watching and feeling Atamira Dance Company.

Structurally, this work models itself on Te Wheke; Maori Health Model, created by Rose Pere. It is Hauora. It is tikanga which gives life to the very essence of the movement. Te Wheke is created by pairing eight choreographers with eight dancers, to create eight solos. Each pair create the work together “reflecting the eight tentacles of the graceful octopus.” (Jack Gray, Artistic Director) These are: Mauri – Total Wellbeing of the Individual and Family; Whanaungatanga – Extended Family; Wairua – Spirituality; Whatumanawa – The Open and Healthy Expression of Emotion; Hinengaro – The Mind; Mana Ake – Unique Identity of Individuals and Family; Tūpuna – Breath of Life from The Forbearers; Tinana – Physical Wellbeing.

Each solo is threaded into the wider ensemble connected by duets, trios and groups. It works, with most of these transitions seamless. The dancers move with precision and stealth, their fluidity illuminated by the stunning kakahu created by Marama Lloydd. This work is vastly layered, each layer rolling in, wave-like, bringing more meaning to feel and read. Visual Design from Louise Potiki Bryant draws together elements from the natural world, te taiao, beautifully incorporating iconic imagery from historic Atamira works. I feel like I’m looking through old photo album owned by Koroua. A warm feeling surrounds my physicality… Love. Paddy Free delivers quintessential sound design, assimilating emotional texture into his arrangement. John Verryt cleverly brings breath to the dance space with eight vertically hanging black habutai silk. As the silk animates with the wafting air from the dancers’ movements, I feel invited to ponder the duality of what I am watching… simultaneous vulnerability and strength and how these ideas weave back into and through the work. And, Vanda Karolczak strengthens all these layers with her lighting design.

There are excerpts from past works, beautifully woven into the present of this shimmering fabric. Nga Tahu 32 (2004) by Louise Potiki Bryant, Memoirs of Active Service (2006) by Maaka Pepene and Moko (2014) by Moss Patterson, just to name a few. It is heartening to see that these excerpts have stood the test of time. Excellence always will.

Te Wheke is a legacy work of this 21-year-old Maori Contemporary Dance Company. Since their conception, Atamira have always been exploring new frontiers. Pushing boundaries, always working from a cultural foundation with a perspective to “cultivate dance practice defined by tikanga Māori and whakapapa.” (Jack Gray, Artistic Director). Not even a global pandemic could keep them from developing this work. Te Wheke strengthens Atamira.


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New to the contemporary dance scene.

Review by Olivia Garelja 20th Aug 2021

Being a new audience participant to the contemporary dance scene, it was Atamira Dance Company’s marketing imagery that first captured my attention and enticed me to get a ticket. It challenged the eye and before I knew it, I felt extremely privileged to be experiencing a truly beautiful and captivating performance.

Te Wheke is beautifully told with so much strength, yet delicacy and raw emotion emitted through every single element that one could tell had been well considered and executed with total precision. A great sense of personal growth and phenomenal sensitivity from each dancer takes the story telling to greater heights physiologically.  I as a viewer didn’t expect to be weaved into such depth where I forgot about my presence as an audience member. The dancers’ movements expanded in time through the development of the narrative. 

A great understanding of detail across every layer that left me feeling I was watching a performance like a film premier unfolding, unforgettably. Te Wheke would leave anyone in awe of the transformational power of Māori storytelling through contemporary dance. Beautifully dream-like, I felt a true connection of travelling with each scene narrative and dancer. A great sensual use of lighting and congratulations is due for pushing the boundaries in making such interactive unique work that the world needs to experience. 

The solo and group performances carried themselves with strength and unison utilising the floor to an exceptional level. They involved interaction with props that added illusion and took the viewer deeper into the narrative.  The sensitivity of Te Ao Māori rich in value and wairua could really be felt from the stage. 

I was left feeling I had experienced some spiritual bewilderment, of time that lives in between the here and now as If I had been taken to the depths of the ocean and back to the surface. 

A meditative work of empowering hope for survival through emotional growth. I look forward to seeing developments in 2022. The after show talk with the team really added context to a celebration of the networking and transfer of knowledge and growth required for the success of this intricately woven piece that embodied greater depths than just movement. I look forward to the next Atamira initiative.


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A single connected entity

Review by Dr Ian Lochhead 28th Jun 2021

It is a cause for celebration that Atamira Dance Company has reached its twenty-first year, and even more so that, on the evidence of its current programme, Te Wheke, it has reached this milestone in robust good health.  The changed working environment resulting from the global pandemic has been particularly challenging for dance companies but Atamira has responded by pairing eight choreographers, all with close connections to the company formed over the last 21 years, with its eight dancers.  Working together over the course of the last year has allowed them to create a fully developed programme that shows now sign of being a makeshift response to challenging times.  The company has also avoided the potential trap of celebratory occasions in which a selection of extracts from past works is assembled in a gala programme; although it pays tribute to the past, Te Wheke is a new work that stands proudly on its own two feet, and is as much about the future as it is about the past.

 The set, by John Verryt, consists of a series of drops that can be raised or lowered to suit the needs of the different sections of the programme; they also allow the dancers to slip between them for entrances and exits and act as a blank canvas for Louise Potiki Bryant’s video design.  This draws its inspiration from the natural world but also includes images from the company’s past.  At times it is possible to imagine that this is a stage setting that Ralph Hotere might have conceived, the ripples of the suspended drops suggesting his corrugated iron works and the dappled patterns on some reminiscent of his un-stretched, paint-spattered works.  It is serendipitous that a Hotere exhibition is currently on show in the Christchurch Art Gallery.

 The sound of the ocean opens Te Wheke and signals its close and the work in between has an almost cyclical quality.  The metaphor of te wheke, the octopus, with its eight limbs connected to its central body, is an ideal one for this programme, with its eight choreographers all connected to Atamira.  The work evolves more as a single connected entity than as a series of separate, individual components, the whole linked together by Paddy Free’s continuously evolving sound design.  This sense of a work that is larger than its component parts is aided by each choreographer’s commitment to a modern dance language that is strongly based in a movement vocabulary that could only originate in these islands.  The confidence and assurance of both dancers and choreographers evident in Te Wheke can be seen as the culmination of a shared vision that has evolved over the last 21 years.  As we learned from artistic director Jack Gray when he spoke to the audience at the end of the show, three of the dancers on stage are the same age as the company.  It is something of a triumph that we now have dancers who have always lived in a world in which Atamira has existed; right from the start they have had a goal to aspire to and a home company to join.

 Less than a week ago, in a review of Rebound Dance Company’s In the case of…  I bemoaned the fact that our dance companies often struggle to find the funding to take their work to a broad New Zealand audience.  Now we have Atamira at the start of an ambitious national tour.  If they come to a town near you don’t miss Te Wheke.  Atamira Dance Company deserves your support and you won’t be disappointed.

Over its 21 years Atamira has become a national taonga and the printed programme for Te Wheke is something of a taonga in itself, providing extensive notes on the current show but also including a record of the company’s evolution from its beginnings to the present.  It deserves to be read and preserved, but although beautifully designed its tabloid format makes it impractical to use when seated in a theatre.  At 21 it is also time for Atamira to be thinking about a detailed company history while memories are still fresh and key participants are still around to be interviewed.  Such a history, like Te Wheke itself, will form a sound platform for the next 21 years.


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Precious bones riding currents of aroha.

Review by Megan Seawright 22nd Jun 2021

Anticipating how a performance will convey twenty-one years of comprehensive contemporary Maori dance is an exciting wonder and for this, the auditorium of Te Whaea in Wellington is unsurprisingly full.  A darkened stage with a singular line of misty light and the sound of waves upon a shore is enough to guide us into this journey.

Kaitiaki, tūpuna, waiora all resonate, for as much as Atamira’s whakapapa resides in a complete mastery of physical technique, viewers are also consciously lifted to these living invisibilities. Giggles and cackles are heard with stone tapping, time slips into the past to assert the future through the present rōpū of dancers, and wero is issued to places we dare to go or resist, so to complete oneself.

It’s a complex arrangement of integral negotiations, manaakitanga. Liquid rippling limbs enfold, gather, and retreat soundlessly. Dancers are committed to each other as the embodiment of whanaungatanga, belonging to and from each other’s movement. Importantly, mātauranga practice is forefront. Artistic director Jack Gray and executive producer Marama Lloydd collaborate further with those who also contribute to Atamira’s choreographic whakapapa – Kelly Nash, Taane Mete and Dolina Wehipeihana.  Additionally, the hauora wellbeing model visioned by the late Dr Rangimarie Turuki (Rose) Pere and significant performance development through tuakana/tenia relationship resolve this performance.

Te Wheke is sublimely fluid and unwaveringly beautiful.

In this watery terrain dancers morph like te wheke, camouflaged patterns project into silk drops and kaitiaki face forward for the real navigations to start. Dancers propel themselves into alignment and arrive condensed through Rose Pere’s eight Hauora values; (Named dancer + practitioner name) Whanaungatanga – Sean MacDonald + Dolina Wehipeihana. Mauri – Eddie Elliott + Kelly Nash. Wairua Emma Cosgrave + Gabrielle Thomas. Whatumanawa Cory-Toalei Roycroft + Bianca Hyslop. Hinengaro Dana Moore-Mudgway + Louise Potiki Bryant.  Mana Ake – Oli Mathiesen + Jack Gray.  Tūpuna – Abbie Rogers + Kura Te Ua. Tinana Caleb Heke + Taane Mete.

Memory and affection are given away through a waltz and concise transformative shifts that lean us into care. Sean MacDonald’s airy gestural movements cradle childhood, revive old age and a recalling of pepeha. Eddie Elliott spins his cords wider until unrestrained from the central light space the mooring is broken free “I will, be fine, it’s a want, a need, I will, I have cried from what I see, I think I like my bones, they feel heavy.” The backdrop lights with falling stars as if the whole universe is split open; as star dust we arrive, yes our bones are heavy and “I think I like my bones…” Emma Cosgrave’s concise technique releases astute fluid grace while Cory-Toalei Roycroft’s astonishing malleability embodies te wheke in quick swirls across the floor, truly open expressiveness.

Dispersed between this all are moments of previous works that project inter-dimensionality such as Kelly Nash’s tube Duet (Atamira 2017), and a long gauzy red shimmer of fabric is accentuated by Dana Moore-Mudgways’ generous extensions which linger intuitive tensions. We are deluged with lightening pulses and electric noise from Alien Weaponry smashing it though the whole theatre whist Oli Mathiesen flits with often delicate movement.

Silk cadence and intonation with tūpuna projections surround us – we swim the tides with them. This is a decoding from the constraints of imported and colonial forms and processes. We are ready to meet the wero of Abbie Rogers whose empowered stance is a centred pou for us to remember tūpuna are alongside her through breath and balance. A large silk drapes over the dancers and is rolled back and forth in a continuous wave momentum, and as if to emphasis the relief of this long journey Caleb Heke releases the painful gut of it all through an intimate, yielding sequence of motions.

It cannot be overstated the relevance of the design aesthetic to this work. It is stunning. Set designer John Verryt, sound designer Paddy Free, AV Designer Louise Potiki Bryant, Kākahu designer Marama Lloydd, and lighting designer Vanda Karolczak all bridge our focus and offer expansive sensory resonances. Energetic spaces are opened with intensifying mandala rotations. Within the stages’ boundaries the universe multiplies infinitely with shards of falling light, a poutama pattern projected onto shifting fabric and moments of shear amplified friction. Soundscapes hark us to bygone eras, then hunt us with relentless loudness in attempts to reconcile. These are creative declarations to the world, and this is Kaupapa Maori Contemporary Dance in all guises of existence.

The final hold is of the Atamira company standing facing us all, there is a swelling of gratitude for all we have witnesses, this connectivity across all platforms – these are precious bones riding currents of aroha.


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Creative pairings celebrate Atamira's extraordinary pioneers

Review by Lyne Pringle Alesha Adhar 21st Jun 2021


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Captures the essence of Atamira

Review by Anton Carter 18th Jun 2021

Te Wheke by Atamira Dance Company is a multi-layered feast of juicy hangi seasoned with their own brand of hot sauce. Eight choreographers are aligned with eight dancers, each pair creating a solo, reflecting the eight tentacles of the graceful octopus as seen in Whaea Rose Pere’s Maori health model.

The works reflect the fullness and richness of contemporary Māori life in Aotearoa. This is best showcased through the musical selection that underpins each solo work. From a 1940s waltz to kapa haka through to heavy metal.   

Multilayered in terms of the many hands that have gone into the creation of the show but also the layers of meaning behind each work which are grounded in Māori concepts such as Mauri, Wairua, Whatumanawa, Whanaungatanga, Tūpuna and Tinana.

Each solo piece had its own moments of magic, with the individual dancers having their own spotlight to shine. Bringing their personality but also effortlessly carrying the story and kaupapa of the work. There were moments of reflection, sadness, laughter, and joy. 

Another strength of the show is the ensemble transitions between each work, done seamlessly and with great care not to dominate but provide intriguing entrances and exits without knowing it was happening.  

The lighting and projections beautifully complement the dancing while also making bold statements either with haunting silhouetted figures on hanging drapes or bold swirling colour illuminating the backdrop. The kākahu design is stylish and thematic with dark tones which fit perfectly.      

It is a well very balanced show that captures the essence of Atamira as a company and their 21-year history. The eight individual choreographers’ journeys come though clearly on the bodies of the dancers. Overall, it is an awesome experience that people need to see, as it asks honest questions of the human spirit and our current society.    

 Te Wheke leaves you with an uplifted spirit knowing you have seen something special while also looking forward with hope to the next 21 years and the continuing Atamira kaupapa.   



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‘Ka mua ka muri’

Review by Dr Tia Reihana-Morunga 14th Jun 2021

It takes a village.

This statement is perhaps most prevalent when thinking about community members and whānau working together to realise the aspirations of the collective. Many hands and hearts to flourish. Diversity held together in aroha despite the challenges.

Atamira Dance Company and their performance of Te Wheke  materialised as a reflection of the whakatauki ‘ka mua ka muri’  (moving backwards towards future). It celebrated 21 years of their dancing as a collective in the embodiment of Māori contemporary art forms. The challenges of the 21 years to maintain a platform for Te Ao Māori in the New Zealand arts sector has certainly taken the villlage. This performance in all its abundance was where village members held by ‘tangaroa tohu’ co-created a multi-layered pūrākau.

Kotahitanga is another value of this production interfaced with the idea of village prosperity.  The richness of unity where identity is most thoughtful when acknowledging the distinct differences that occur in the individual, whānau, hapū and iwi. Relationships are everything and the village when flourishing presents a wonderful network of moments between, people, environment, all its inhabitants and the cosmos.

And of course there is the Ocean – As part of this consciousness oceans are considered as dwellings of history, knowledge and community. The ocean is not merely a physical resource: in every cultural context it is densely encoded with social, spiritual, political and environmental meanings. For iwi Māori our land and seascapes are enriched through whakapapa. Relationships are determined through the sharing of our knowledge of mountains, rivers, oceans, and the locations of our family houses. Our ancestors who travelled from Hawaiiki, and the names of their waka are also shared within our pepeha as means to identify ourselves and connect with others. In the performance Te Wheke, these experiences of being deep in sea/landscapes and therefore whakapapa, are offered to audience as familiar genealogies that akin the migration of ancestors, to dancing sequences.

In our oceans reside Te Wheke (the octopus) whom are, as rangatira Dr. Rangimarie Turuki Rose Pere so wonderfully communicated, “a symbol from Ancient Hawaiiki, that illustrates the interdependence of all things across the universe”. The work of Atamira  leans into the rich ako of Dr. Rose Pere, and her development of the hauora framework, Te Wheke Kamaatu. This health model encompasses the physical composition of the octopus to embody the holistic characteristics of a Māori World view to foster wellbeing.  The head and the body represent the ‘whanau’ or unique family collectives. The eyes are the ‘Waiora’ that are symbolic of holistic wellbeing… and each of the tentacles, as explored within the programme of Atamira embody hinengaro, wairua, mana ake, mauri, taonga I tuku iho (tūpuna), tinana, whanaungatanga, and whatumanawa. 

Atamira Dance Company inspired by the teachings of Dr. Rose Pere bestowed in response a choreographic score in which to share their story. The meeting place between this vast mātauranga and the work of Atamira is navigated through relationships that rāranga Atamira rangatira, tuākana and teina. We have a moment to sit with the dualities of Dolina Wehipeihana and Sean MacDonald, Eddie Elliot and Kelly Nash, Jack Gray and Oli Mathiesen, Taane Mete and Caleb Heke to name a few. The interplay is soft yet rigorous… in a background of moving silk, sound, voice, projection, breath and more. 

Solo, to duo, to group where rope and black tube undo romanticised ideologies of the indigenous contemporary dancer occur. Kowhaiwhai as pathway, personal memories, and archival recollections shown in body and projection resonate throughout. Emerging artists hold space with more established whom are in turn sharing praxis with Toi Māori experts and tuākana. As mentioned,  Jack Gray, Dolina Wehipeihana, Louise Potiki Bryant, Sean MacDonald, Kelly Nash, Taane Mete, Gabrielle Thomas, Kura Te Ua, Bianca Hyslop and featured work from Moss Patterson create the pou of this production grounding what may be considered a brave re-conceptualisation. Especially as we negotiate pandemic landscapes that have taken its toll on the arts and audience communities of Aotearoa, moments of courage are important… and more so when they are undertaken by the village

I hope that you might have had the chance to see an octopus underwater (YouTube doesn’t count). They move in such a majestic manner appearing in wonderous unison with the sea current. There were moments that the dancers were moving with similar fluidity. Excerpts of past Atamira repertoire added to complex collaborations as means to enrich or as company artistic director Jack Gray states “reimagine the very fabric of our work and to understand the soul of our collective embodiment: our being in the world’. 

The ‘being’ and the ‘embodiment’ of Te Wheke was the meeting place for movement, art, and design. Louise Potiki Bryant (video design), Paddy Free (sound design), John Verryt (set design), Vanda Karolczak (lighting design) and Marama Lloydd (kākahu design) provided pivotal creative augmentation to bring to fruition a whāriki of indigenous artistic consciousness. Material backdrops with projection of tūpuna, shapeshifting designs as means to whakamana the body intersected moments of karanga, waiata, pepeha, mihi recorded and live. Ideas of Te Ao Māori were not advanced to the audience as absolute … but appear as intimate encounters and recollections unique to time, space, context and culture. Sections of dance flow into other, from the head of the octopus through each tentacle into the body as we digest pūrākau that are distinct to Māori in corporeal, recognisable and un-recognisable ways.

Within Māori dance forms, the embodied and holistic relationships of body and the environment also involve the recognition of metaphysical dimensions. Dancing knowledge extends beyond what are classed as the human senses, to encompass the felt, feeling, intangible, and at times unidentified experience. Te Wheke by Atamira involved a strong wairua medium, where physical and spiritual were united. The work demonstrated an inter-relationship where expression and the aesthetic were reflective of environment and our mauri.

The accountability to perform and authentically activate such tikanga within the vastness of formalised theatre, also presents a necessity to ensure a reconciliation between performing and being. The different challenges that we encounter not just as artists, but as members of our whānau, hapū and iwi always demand a truth and integrity to the stories we tell. This responsibility is paramount and was evident in the work throughout. 

For Atamira and their performance of Te Wheke, it is these intrinsic values that have been cultivated and strengthen their community (our community) in and beyond the New Zealand arts sector, to reveal understandings, rich indigenous interactions and interpretations of the world.  Atamira reached into their vast artistic genealogy to interweave through the tohu of te wheke and its vast mātauranga a vision that as Company Executive Director Marama Lloydd states will offer opportunities for us all to “reconnect and grow” 

Mauri Ora


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Intergenerational commitment to expression of Māori

Review by Dr Mark James Hamilton 13th Jun 2021

Te Wheke has a remarkable genesis. Amid pandemic limitations, the twenty-one-year-old company has created work underpinned by a holistic health model. Covid 19 social distancing measures shifted Atamira into bubbles of two – one to direct, one to dance (Dolina Wehipeihana and Sean MacDonald; Kelly Nash and Eddie Elliott; Kura Te Ua and Abbie Rogers; Bianca Hyslop and Cory-Toalei Roycroft; Gabrielle Thomas and Emma Cosgrave; Taane Mete and Caleb Heke; Jack Gray and Oli Mathiesen; Louise Potiki Bryant and Dana Moore-Mudgway). They persevered with their anniversary production via this mode of operation. Each duo drew from Rose Pere’s octopus- emblem for total wellbeing: each tentacle of te wheke drawing forth a vital strand of Māori vision.

The integration of generations — of choreography, dancers and ancestors — makes a work that bends time: eras fold into one another. Amongst the music (Paddy Free) are bygone recordings, wherein te reo merges with trilling vibratos and choral harmonies that recall a time when car travel was modern. Apparitions of figures in the projection (Louise Potiki Bryant) and gestures in a tender duet further evoke past times. Shimmying silk hangs swirl when the company whisk through bursts of liquid unison. The ensemble slumber under a huge sheet while a golden orb is paraded; the dancer carrying it is doubled by a giant projected behind. Yet Te Wheke is not tranquil. A dancer spins ever faster until his huge knotted scarf of rope lifts horizontal — like a helicopter blade. And thrash metal, jagged and thrusting, propels a dancer to every stage corner through an ever-extending range of feats. Contrasting phases of movement layered with projection conjure varied sites: a submarine descent into a floating realm; ceaseless snowfall on high peaks; a centripetal tunnel, glowing and red.

The performances progression forward is moved by the distinct solos and duets, often bounded by recordings of whakapapa recitations, shifts of music and lighting (Vanda Karolczak). But the return of en masse motifs render the whole into a singular world, where ‘before’, ‘now’ and ‘next’ are conjoined. There is a radical collapse of perspective; everything seen from all sides at once.

The cast sustain this tumbling through time with their wiry resilience that is strong and supple. Their vigor is neither pure athletics nor empty gestures and they embody a balance that dissolves older gender types. Indeed, they all wear matching knee-length shifts (Marama Lloydd). Sex determines some pairings and configurations but it’s not a dominant theme. When two don knitted tiki masks, or another pair see-saw through counterbalances, the movement is the main matter.

Foreground throughout is Atamira’s flourishing intergenerational commitment to expression of Māori experience through new dance. Midground dwell strands of stories; people gambol through a gamut of encounters. Then, background — behind and beyond, before and above — there are traces of ancestral lineages, surges of natural forces, and (most poignantly) the precious decades of dancers dancing the company to this anniversary. The production poster collages dancers’ images to shape a figure of eight. Turned on its side, it’s the infinity symbol. Twenty-one years is not forever, but to reach that date signals Atamira’s remarkable momentum. It will require great clarity and discipline to funnel such force forward in an arena so different from that into which the company first emerged.


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