Tuakana PURE

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

09/10/2013 - 09/10/2013

TEMPO Dance Festival 2013

Production Details

“From the darkness comes a cold wind to crush the body, prophetic shadows transform the discontinued, an unspoken community. Unearth the Tūāhu, ritual space of the unknown. Awaken body, alone, unknown and nameless, dance of anonymity. Tectonic memories petrify longing, dreams are whispered, my journey from compression to gravity’s embrace, a solemn ascension. Skeletal precipice, bone cemetery, ‘Pure’ rite, dance incantation, a cleansing utterance…………”

In the Maori language, pure is a ritual and action which consists of “loosening” from dangerous elements and “binding” to beneficent ones.

Pure unfolds in a penumbra of mystery, an intercultural performance drawn from the ritual activity of the Tohunga. The ritual body, enveloped by the mythic, images of alienation narrate ancestral tales of cultural upheaval and reluctant anonymity. The choreography of Charles Koroneho becomes a Tūāhu offering, in a theatre of transgression, in a perpetual cycle of transformation. Timeless.

A protean artist, Charles Koroneho is a founding member of Te Kanikani o te Rangatahi, graduate of the New Zealand School of Dance and Elam School of Fine Arts. He shares his vision of dance with IndependANCE, is an associate artist with Lemi Ponifasio MAU and has worked in collaboration with Min Tanaka and Guillermo Gomez-Pena.

Whether political, surrealist or invested with biting irony,Koroneho’s work, such as his satirical Cultistic Misfit, is an eloquent assertion of Maori culture. His performance practice has given rise to diverse projects over the past 25 years, including his current TŪĀHU Choreographic Research (2013-14), a platform for the creation of a new philosophical space for indigenous dance.



urupa – ataamira – tūāhu

Whakatinana – Manifestation

burial – awakening – breath

Ataata – Shadowland

alienation – the unknown – anonymity

Meremere Tu Ahiahi – The Venus

transit – discipline – transgression


utterance – cycle – remembrance

Te Waka o Tamarereti

lore – constellation – incantation


bind – loosen – cleanse

Dedicated to my parents, who gave my siblings and I the most loving and supportive journey through life.

PURE Post Show Forum

Proposing a new philosophical space for Dance

Charles Koroneho and guest speakers explore cultural collaboration, intercultural performance and the intersection between dance, theatre and performance art with reference to the collaborative processes behind PURE.


Patti Shaughnessy  – O’Kaadenigan Wiingashk Collective

Bill Kimball – Public Energy Artistic Producer

Marrie Mumford – Indigenous Performance Initiatives



Public Energy, Peterborough, ON Canada 

Tempo Dance Festival, Auckland New Zealand 

MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels), Montreal, QC Canada

Performer: Charles Koroneho

Lighting: Brad Gledhill

1 hour plus post-show forum

Tuakana PURE, Fresh and Fault Lines at TEMPO

Review by Raewyn Whyte 12th Oct 2013

The capacity of dance to offer insight into our lives was foregrounded in the first 48 hours of Tempo 2013, with works exploring love, grief, lynching, the transformation of traditional cultural forms, the satisfactions to be found in distraction, the delights of body percussion, and human resilience.

Opening night brought a richly immersive experience in Tuakana Pure, a spectacular performance installation collaboratively created by Charles Koroneho (performer, designer, producer) in partnership with Brad Gledhill (performance design, lighting, production) and Alejandro Ronceria (dramaturgy, choreography, direction).

At once mourning the recent passing of Koroneho’s father, re-committing to aspects of family, whanau, place and culture, and reflecting on the transformation wrought by relocation, this work offers a ritualised space in which those watching are also invited to reflection.

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Tuakana: Pure

Review by Dr Linda Ashley 10th Oct 2013

As the audience pre-show babble echoes around, has the show started? A figure is suspended, cradled in a dwelling, frozen in the gloom. Water flows in front transforming the proscenium frame into a liquid, liminal boundary. As a community we are invited in and yet strangely alienated by a loud, discordant ringing. We talk over it. The volume increases and eventually crushes conversations, the light lowers and Pure becomes the question on our minds, as Charles Koroneho prolongs the suspended animation before embarking on the first steps of the journey – the balancing act, the Tūāhu ritual trials, awakenings and tribulations.

Charles Koroneho’s one hour solo work, in his own words, occupies the theatre space. Sustained, contemplative and achingly slow, minimal ritual movement, a certain inertness of pedestrian walking with long pauses, strips back dance to its minimal bones – oddly 1970s and yet still very 21st century. His wanderings have gravitas taking us to dark places where we become who and where we are. Evocative of a larger community, hauntingly, almost intangibly, indigenously Maori, the breath, speech, chants, tilting torso are, however, also intensely personal. Koroneho dances his identity, stories and his dance history. His reflective narrative of grieving for lost loved ones and alienation in a strange land is literally bound around a walking stick.

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Ritual, remembrance, intersection and letting go

Review by Jack Gray 10th Oct 2013

The first activation of this year’s Tempo Dance Festival at Auckland’s Q Theatre is a homecoming for one of our most prodigal sons, the elusive, loved and somewhat undecorated master of the avante garde genre – Mr Charles Koroneho. 

“Am I a Maori? Am I a man?” He muses at the post show forum poses questions of our own sense of human tangibility. It is also deep sense of profound New Zealandness that brings drive and comfort (to himself and yet also to each other) in this, an embedded desperation to just be “citizens of the world, tangata whenua”. 
He recounts a story of trudging through a Canadian blizzard in his other offshore reality/home as an experiment, or ‘rehearsal’ rather, to go on an adventurous grocery shopping expedition. The frozenness of mind, body, spirit and grocery bags took him 4 hours. “I’ve never done that before. It was something new for me, for my dance”. 
The other day I had overheard Charles doing a radio interview and smiled at his response to some of the questions like what is your research about? He replies “my research is about research”. The next question “do you have a theme?” I don’t remember exactly the answer but hear Charles and his eloquent open minded talk story style circling in and out and satisfying us and himself before we are all simultaneously surprised by the candidness of a discovery in the moment. “We need to talk. Not drink. Not have sex. But talk”. There is an acute awareness and a noticing of perceptions that encounter failure, success and livingness. You have to nod your head in agreement because these things are of the material and immaterial. We know them. And they are tricky.
Charles has always been an on the edge type of guy. He is assertive. He has mana. He has a generous humility. He speaks of cutting yourself in the space. He makes his work and thereby makes himself. He is 50. He is a son. These multiple plays form the trajectories that stabilise and destabilise the body within his research practice, Tuahu – his place of ritual, remembrance, and intersection of his  many strands – dancer, choreographer, visual artist, teacher, mentor, vanguard. 
The gathered community who show up on Opening Night are all family. People have travelled from afar to be here. It’s a Marae. It is also my/our homecoming too. We reform our links, make new connections, energise our clusters and revive our hopes and dreams. We are here for Charles as much ourselves and welcome the Mihi Whakatau that is offered. We walk into the performance space with expectations of something. “I try not to have expectations” says Charles later. My recent experience at a powhiri enlivens a sense of collective shuffling of traversing and entering. I make comment on the transition between the intermediary space at Q Theatre – the small dark cramped feeling space between the doorway and being ticket collected, ushered and seated – and of crossing the threshold to meet the body lying in a state of installation onstage. 
So maybe a few words about Pure (it’s a Maori word but if you read it as English it would still work). It is an inter cultural investigation and a sharing of some vision and korero in collaboration with Colombian born dramaturg Alejandro Ronceria and lighting designer Brad Gledhill. It was created while in residence in Canada. “For the first three months I just rolled around in a room” says Charles (which makes you imagine if you can do that yourself). There is a multi media aspect that incorporates a platform/ladder/bed type of configuration, a floor that looks like some type of wood chip/bark garden proposition and a wall, “that bloody wall” he says. It is metallic maybe and has space to roll underneath. It is a reflector and allows for a video projection of some type of doorway/portal consciousness that also brings in gradations of colour change that messes with your mind. I love being hypnotised. Sometimes I can almost fall asleep after eating too much chocolate. Or if I get a type of spiritual fix – listening to our reo in ceremony has much the same effect. When I kind of want to lie down and close my eyes yet still be in an immersion is when I know it’s transmission is from above and below, in front and behind. 
I sat next to a smiling man who said “Hi” when I sat down. Then “Are you a dancer?”, “yes – how did you know?”, “I can tell”. Then “Charles is my relation, this is his sister and niece etc”. My heart warmed and I felt privileged to sit with them. How do we understand our families, our errant sons and daughters who go off to do something as far fetched as this? 
Charles is the type of being that if he just lay still for an hour I would find it utterly acceptable. So the rest of it was a treat and just what we know. That he lives himself and shares it. Finds it. Discards it. Is it. Kia ora e hoa. These are some good things you show us. He traverses through the big night. Te Po Nui. Reappears in the long night. Te Po Roa. Dances his shadow self. I notice the lady in front of me and the moments that cause her earrings to jangle. It is a nerve reflex. He transposes himself in and around the wall/doorway. I’m happy to see him come and go. This is Charles doing his thing. Then later, maybe in a shifting part of the night – he brings us to another quiet place. And tells us a story of his fathers passing. Usually I cry myself at these memories but in this place, this time, this truth – I let myself sit, drift, tune in to the tears falling and noses dribbling in the seats next to me. Ka aroha taku whanau. He is winding an illuminated piece of string around a branch. He is a black figure lit only by a white neck adornment. 
The other day my taonga (necklace) tried to escape me. I caught it that time. The next day it ran away for good. I think it went back to the ocean but I made my peace. Someone kindly said “Maybe it was the end of your time together” to which I said “yes maybe, but I still wasn’t ready to let go”. And so perhaps this is the perfect way to end this moment of reflection about Pure. Charles says “When I leave New Zealand I take my reo, I take the birds, I take my family with me”. Our tuakana is the eldest son and he didn’t feel right to speak at his father tangi. “Where are the elders and those who can speak for us?” More questions to be posed and we are here listening, absorbing and wondering these things too. 


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