TOMO - 2023

TAPAC - The Auckland Performing Arts Centre, Auckland

02/08/2023 - 04/08/2023

Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton

18/08/2023 - 19/08/2023

Production Details

Choreographed by Gabrielle Thomas

Atamira Dance Company

Hot on the heels of a successful USA tour of legacy work Te Wheke, Atamira brings TOMO back to the stage with a stunning cast of Maori contemporary dance artists.

Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland
3rd – 5th August 2023
7:30pm & 2pm

Forum North
10th August 2023

Kirikiriroa / Hamilton
The Meteor Theatre
18th – 19th August 2023
7:30pm & 4pm

Performed by Sean MacDonald, Nancy Wijohn, Abbie Rogers,
Cory-Toalei Roycroft, Madi Tumataroa, Caleb Heke

Music Composition by Peter Hobbs

Production Design by Vanda Karolczak

Contemporary dance , Maori contemporary dance , Dance ,

80 minutes

Cosmic space where death and life have no edges nor beginning and end. 

Review by Komako Silver 19th Aug 2023

Tomo, an invitation into the veil between light & dark, Te kore, te po. The entering and embracing notion of the waahi/space of the in-between world reflected through movement, sound & set design performed by Atamira dance company is a work that ignites more questions than answers.

Tomo, choreographed and directed by Gabrielle Thomas offers us the viewer textual fragmentation through four black reflected Pou/props that act like moving plates through cosmic space where death and life have no edges nor beginning and end. 

Throughout the work we are witness to the multidimensional Arai/veil of Te whare Tangata, the womb of wahine in which houses humanity. We see this in a more obvious expression held through one of the dancers/performers in a scene where they start to give birth, the black Pou-like props are then moved across the floor giving us a layered perspective of the rites of passage taking place. 

This work expresses many opportunities through silhouetted imagery and symbolism where the world of Te Kore, te Po Ki te Ao Marama (From nothingness comes new life) and the emotional journey where pain meets love is consistently in conversation with itself. At essence you could feel the offering here is more of a witnessing into an entire paradigm that is unique to the pūrakau/story of the writer and choreographer. It’s a personal piece where we get the honour of removing the veil for a moment in time. I felt that for an audience with no context to the work which was given pre-show, where you experienced it objectively, the reading of the work was revealing an insight rather than an overview of the themes of Te Kore, te po, te Ao Marama. 

At the end of Tomo I felt a sense of loss and confusion. I wanted to feel the relationship of mother, womb and child where the wholeness of life stretches beyond the grief of death. Being left with such feelings where we naturally seek to feel whole and embraced was a reminder that life and death do have edges and veils in the world of humanity and the house of Te Whare Tangata. A pain where life is taken and the density of the physical form is once again in reverence to the continual wananga we are here to humble ourselves too as teina in this Ao. 

A bold work that is vulnerably given by Gabrielle Thomas into a wananga sparking korero/conversation that we often avoid but is necessary if we are to acknowledge the honest truth that to live or invite life, we also must sit and be with death. 


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Movement magicians at the heart of things

Review by Lyne Pringle 05th Aug 2023

The world of Tomo is presented by Atamira Dance Company to sustain and manifest their kaupapa and artistic integrity onstage.
Stylishly, smoothly exploring a doorway of existence, the company steps into Te Ao Mārama, to worship, with expressive movement, artistry, sound, and visual effects, at the altar of light. Striking performers calmly and quietly offer meticulously elegant and strong dancing.

To begin: male and female energy is intertwined. Twins explore, shift, turn; living beings in the womb awaiting birth: Sean MacDonald and Nancy Wijohn an artistic dream team. They are vitally alive, one moving towards light, one moving towards darkness. 

In the space, in between, three spirits, winnow sinuous and inventive movement phrases. Gecko, moon, wave creatures, fierce-some yet soft, emerging, evolving, weaving, moulding, to shapeshift the wairua of liminal spaces, the inbetween-ness of the known and the dream state. They are gorgeous and distinctive: Abbie Rogers, Cory-Toalei Roycroft, Madi Tumataroa.

“In between light and dark is colour’ says the choreographer/creative director Gabrielle Thomas (Kāi Tahu, Te Atiawa te Tau Ihu),  in her pre-show soft korero. Colour when it arrives is vivid, striking, aqua blue and bright red and the colour of clay;a fleeting splash in the monochromatic, ever-shifting mirrored world of the dance.

Scenes blossom, alter the shape of perception, rotate, morph, warp, dissolve then make space for another breath, another poetic rendering of bodies in new configurations expressing a fresh thought. There is a shadowy character, Caleb Heke, who remains in the realms of the unformed, mysterious – he alluringly prowls the edges and plays counterpoint.
There are strange things: spoons for eye, spoons for feeding and scooping, spoons for clattering against the thigh, a playful rat a tat in the aural space.

The mirrored screens on wheels add tremendous shape and power to the performance space. Are the infinite possibilities for their configurations too seductive, causing tension with the bodies in the space?

Back to the twins, the expert movement magicians at the heart of things.
Nancy Wijohn: utterly embodied presence, her movement tinged with sorrow, flowing from her centre unrestricted, to imbue the space with beautiful integrity and compassion.
Sean McDonald: tentative, quirky, comically inventive with his light on wheels side kick, until he explodes, as if possessed, in a forceful solo that tosses him sideways to lurch floor-wards. These twins, now wrangling their respective fates, meet in a tender duet before their final separation.

Light beams, light shafts, light as a potent force: Darkness, inky black voidness, te kore, as a balancing power: the work of Vanda Karolczak. Textured sound emanates spatially, to sculpt the aural field: composition by Peter Hobbs. Set, Graham Collins and costumes, Vicki Slow add imperative components of the whole.

Are sound, light and scene too tethered? Could they slide away from each other more?
Could the dynamics of everything including light and sound, have more peaks and troughs, the movement, at times, less earthbound?
Or, is this steady weighted quality like the earth slowly turning, the point and exactly what is needed?

Battered but not broken, MacDonald rises again and again, until the dawn and a chorus of birds find him  – Ko te reo o ngā manu tērā, Ka tangi nei it te ao.

How do you ‘choreograph’ wairua? Like this, with wisdom, clever craft and deep talent for knowing, how the shape of such things should be.

It’s all here in this whare of expressivity. The vision of the choreographer is the kete giving it shape.  She invites her collaborators to contribute in their own way. They bring their manawa, mahi, commitment and skill to forge this mystical piece that dances in the transitive realm of things known and things unknown.


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