Cuba Street, Wellington

26/03/2023 - 26/03/2023

Refinery ArtSpace, 114 Hardy St, Nelson

27/10/2023 - 28/10/2023

Cuba Dupa

Production Details

Movement of the Human company
Director: Malia Johnston
Sound: Rowan Pierce
Composesrs: Anna Edgington of Wellington and Eden Mulholland (Ngāti Porou) of Brisbane.

Cubadupa Festival


As part of the Nelson Festival.

Fri 27 Oct | During Mask Carnivale + Sat 28 Oct | 10am + 12pm | 50 min


More information

Movement of the Human will perform Tōrua 4 times over the festival weekend. Tōrua brings together 8 incredible independent Dance artists from Across Aotearoa and Australia.
Follow these inspirational dancers through the Streets and Alleyways of the Cuba Precinct where they will present their movement responses to the city’s terrain.
Music Specifically designed for Tōrua has been composed by Anna Edgington of Wellington and Eden Mulholland (Ngāti Porou) of Brisbane.
Please head to the Te Auaha Foyer 15 minutes prior to the performance to register for and pick up your headset for this immersive performance.
The performance will begin at the Te Auaha Foyer and finish in the Hannah Courtyard. Sefa Tunupopo, Isabel Estrella, Jag Popham, Kia Jewell, Jemima Smith, Kiki Miwa, Andre Busby-Quinlan and Deija Vukona You will be able to listen to their work via headsets provided to you at the beginning of the performance. Bring your walking shoes – the performance is roughly 50 minutes in length.

Funded by Creative New Zealand

More information

Movement of the Human company

Dancers: Sefa Tunupopo, Isabel Estrella, Jag Popham, Kia Jewell, Jemima Smith, Kiki Miwa, Andre Busby-Quinlan and Deija Vukona

Contemporary dance , Dance ,

50 mins

Each has a solo, virtuosic, dynamic, detailed, delicate, surprising.

Review by Lyne Pringle 27th Mar 2023

Tōrua is magic conjured on the streets of Wellington by Malia Johnston and her collaborators – Movement of the Human. An intricate gift for all who choose to engage. A jewel that showcases the precise and refined use of the body that contemporary dance practice offers. 

It is part of the bustling street festival Cubadupa which is held in the heart of Wellington. Johnston has scoped the various sites well. The audience is treated to an immersive experience with the use of headsets that augment the sound manipulated by Rowan Pierce whilst travelling in the cavalcade with a portable sound system and laptop. Channels can be switched on the headsets to subtly shift the aural and emotive landscape of the work. The exceptional composition of long-time collaborator and consummate word/sound artist Eden Mulholland on one channel and the equally compelling work of Anna Edgington on the other.

The elegant, vibrant and skilled dancers are: Sefa Tunupopo, stunning wizard of invention; Isabel Estrella, focussed free spirit of bodily exuberance; Jemima Smith, coiled comet of arcing elation; Kiki Miwa winsome billow of fluidity; Jag Popham maestro of space, flight and articulation; Andre Busby-Quinlan trickster of twisting expansive gesture;  Deija Vukona, beautiful like an emerging kahukowhai; Kia Jewell lustrous, refined goddess of serenity and the back bend. They are fierce and largely serious in their delivery. 
Hip Hop influences prevail, interspersed with the intricacies of partnering and exploration of phrases that course from limb to limb via the grand central of the torso. Impulses translated into movement that captivate the kinaesthetic response of the viewer yielding optimal dance in the intimate spaces of the street: grounded on tarmac, joints softened into hard surfaces, searching the city air for signs and symbols that seep into their bodies. Duets are razor sharp and martial like, yet melting moments of tenderness appear momentarily then seep away. 
They walk in unison, slowly from the distance and seem massively majestically tall. They dance a playful jig down Dixon urging the audience to follow. Each has a solo, virtuosic, dynamic, detailed, tender, surprising. Johnston classifies herself as a ‘director’ these days and dancers are tasked with forging their own material from the fire, water, nerve, muscle, bone and air of their particular somatic reality. The results are personal and sensational. Directed, yes, but Johnston’s genius as a choreographer is on display with her ability to collate and shape these exhilarating offerings from young dance artists at the top of their game. 
The choreography of the crowd, the use of the chorus to augment the soloists and the way sequences are placed in various spaces also displays Johnston’s exceptional talent. 

The experience is filmic, but not viewing passively from the outside, rather being one of the players in, or creators of, the action: moving with, panning, making a close up, expanding into a long shot. The audience becomes all at once, part of the cast, players in real time, the camera and the editing suite, collapsing space and separation. One organic creative community. Johnston has been masticating on these elements for a long time now, she has honed her craft in large and small scale productions with multiple moving parts. Her work in Pukeahu Park for the inaugural What if the City was a Theatre Festival in 2021 was a prototype for Tōrua. 

In the final scene, holding lights which are carried from place to place, the dancers walk backwards and up a staircase suspended on the side of a building – it is a breath-taking end.

The company had two weeks to create Tōrua. Johnston understands the art of creating quickly and the dancers deserve congratulations for embracing the challenge. Contemporary dance is very particular and, at the moment, fragile, vulnerable, sometimes disconnected from an audience, but not this offering. The Movement of the Human company led by Johnston and this current cohort of collaborators are dancing the form into relevance, visibility and life.


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The work feels instinctual, spiritual, a poignant moment in a backdrop of urban business and carnival atmosphere.

Review by Leila Lois 27th Mar 2023

Tōrua is an immersive piece that traversed the streets for Wellington’s Annual Cubadupa Festival, drawing a crowd into its aura of mesmeric contemporary dance and experimental sound. Pedestrians are invited to wear headsets, playing an echoey soundtrack by sound artists Anna Edgington of Wellington and Eden Mulholland (Ngāti Porou) of Brisbane. 

Upon arrival, Kiki Miwa is performing a slow motion solo between the traffic lights, a pensive look on her face as she nimbly weaves in and around the objects in the street. The seven other dancers then swoop in to carry her on their shoulders. The dancing in much of it seems to emulate the winnowing movement of woven flax, tōrua, in the title of the work. The dancers are wonderfully in tune with each other and eerily with the music in the headsets, which they cannot not hear. The work feels instinctual, spiritual, a poignant moment in a backdrop of urban business and carnival atmosphere. Like the Eliot line ‘at the still point… that is where the dance is’, the dancers melt into slow motion and seamlessly roll over each other, working towards a feeling of thoughtful stillness. Jag Popham does some athletic jumps and rolls over the tarmac, adding energy and steering the work away from dullness.

The piece travels over several sections of Cuba Street and Courtney Place, towards the Hannah’s Courtyard and formation is used cleverly, playing with the audience’s expectations of whether they are observing or participating. 

Seasoned collaborators Malia Johnston and Eden Mullholland created an engaging work, showing off the lustrous talents of young dance luminaries for this immersive piece, doing what they do best, and responding to the audience and environment on the day. 


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