17/09/2008 - 20/09/2008
Tuawhenua is a dance of love, nature, turmoil, separation, loss, transformation and new life.
Meaning ‘hinterland’ or ‘interior’, Tuawhenua also implies something beyond the earth, beyond the flesh.
Evoking imagery of ice bound lovers, an enchanted grove of butterflies, a sleepless night entangled in their lover’s spirit, sensual hearts beating within a dark forest of pine, listening to the shifting sands in a turquoise ocean…
Jack Gray Dance is an Auckland based dance theatre company that collaborates with both contemporary and traditional performing artists.
Tuawhenua weaves contemporary dance with original music combining sounds of nature, Taonga Puoro, waiata and electronica.
Season: Wednesday 17 – Saturday 20 September
Tickets: $18 full / $13 concession
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Jack Gray (Ngati Porou, Ngapuhi)
Direction/Choreography/Production/Text/Set Design/Poster Design
Charlotte90 (NZ ,Irish)
Electronic and Natural soundscape composition
Shannon Mutu (Whakatohea, Te Whanau a Apanui)
Nancy Wijohn (Te Rarawa, Tuwharetoa, Tuhoe)
Ngapaki (Marama) Emery (Ngati Maniapoto, Ngati Ruanui)
Alistair Fraser: (Kotimana, Ngati Pakeha, NZ)
Hineitimoana Greensil (Tainui, Ngati Porou)
Waiata Lyric Composition
Crying out for a more rigorous approach
Review by Lyne Pringle 22nd Sep 2008
I find myself somewhat at a loss for words about this work.
This is what Jack Gray the choreographer, director, producer, writer and designer says about Tuawhenua: "Evoking imagery of ice bound lovers, an enchanted grove of butterflies, a sleepless night entangled in their lover’s spirit, sensual hearts beating within a dark forest of pine, listening to the shifting sands in a turquoise ocean…"
Well here goes.
There is dry ice, blue light and an opening waiata beautifully delivered from Ngapake Emery. Two striking young Māori dancers enter, Nancy Wijohn and Shannon Mutu. Traditional chants and waiata composed by Hineitimoana Greensil are interspersed throughout and I wish I had a better grasp of the reo.
There is a musician live onstage, Alistair Fraser playing a range of traditional instruments, the singer joins him and sits behind a microphone in atmospheric lighting where she stays for the duration. Image and text butt against each other.
I have been told by the programme to "Allow the impressions of the work to wash over, to move and still the mind." I try.
As a series of scenes take me through the evening I keep searching for the bones of the work, for a dynamic that will catch me. I don’t have a problem with gentle work but much teeters on the edge of being wishy-washy.
Am I missing something?
There are many ideas begun that don’t delve any deeper that the first flicker of interest. I like it when the dancer rubs her skin with a block of ice – a sniff of something visceral here. Interesting lights on the wall reveal a dark figure who needs to move in an interesting way.
This seems to be a work with not much choreography. Are the dancers, who are very focussed and committed, improvising much of it? If so, they need more direction, more provocations to tease out their expressiveness and to find movement patterns that go beyond the habitual colonized body.
The piece progresses with more slow movement, more soft-spoken words read from a book and more wonderful lights by Sefton Bates that call out to the choreographer.
I try again to let it wash over me but don’t feel immersed.
This is all controlled and beautiful but somehow a yin and yang of something formless.
I ask again am I missing something?
Is the star of this show the singer and the lights I wonder?
Where is the soul of the dancers in this work? Are they just posing?
At last a shift of dynamic as they enter through the middle door and do some choreography together, like nightclub dancers.
A snippet, just a smidgeon, of humour as the singer seems to make up a poem on the spot; yet I am in a soft formless undemanding world with lots and lots of swirling ideas crying out for a more rigorous approach.
There is an interesting soundtrack from Charlotte 90. The last waiata is absolutely gorgeous but as it resonates around the theatre I am still looking for something.
Jack Gray writes about his company "It is our hope that through dance, we can inspire indigenous peoples to recall ancient times; where visions of the unseen were once cultural foundations, lying intuitively at the core of our mind, body and spirit." Fantastic aspirations!
And "We honour and reinforce our ideals as artist’s rather than prescribing to commercialised objectives." And his mission: "Jack Gray Dance takes a personal approach to our business, with the need to explore our stories and dance processes taking precedence over financial or entertainment outcomes."
So …if it is placed in a theatre, what is the relationship with the audience? Theatre is theatre after all. No?
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