Lawson Field Theatre, Gisborne

16/10/2019 - 16/10/2019

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival 2019

Production Details

A student-led original work celebrating dancers and musicians of all abilities, under the leadership of an inclusive team from Jolt Dance Company and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. 

Students with and without disabilities from Gisborne Girls’ High School collaborate to create a programme of original works that meld live music and dance.

Tukutuku is a celebration of the beauty of diversity in Tairāwhiti, showcasing the strengths and individuality of dancers and musicians of all abilities.

Lawson Field Theatre 
Wednesday 16th October 2019
General Admission – Koha

Dance ,

Seeing relationships on stage

Review by Jo Thorpe 18th Oct 2019

A year ago, members of Christchurch’s Jolt Dance Company and Christchurch Symphony Orchestra musicians Mark la Roche and Cathy Irons, ran an innovative programme at Gisborne Girls High School under the auspices of the Gisborne International Music Competition’s annual community engagement programme.  Working together with special needs students, students with disabilities and student volunteers from the music and drama departments, they created a number of dances to music performed by the students.  Last month, this programme was awarded a Highly Commended Certificate at Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards.

Such was the response to the concert given after that three-day dance and music residency, that Festival Director, Tama Waipara, invited them to create a new work for this year’s inaugural Tairawhiti Arts Festival – one celebrating student dancers and musicians of all abilities. 

They started on Monday morning (Oct 14th) – four members of Jolt Dance Company, Christchurch Symphony Orchestra’s Mark La Roche and Scott Taitoko, and students from Gisborne Girls High School, Sonrise Christian School and Lytton High School.  By Wednesday lunchtime the show was ready. 

Introducing Tukutuku to a packed house in the Lawson Fields Theatre, Jolt’s Artistic Director, Lyn Cotton, describes it as ‘not only the weaving together of dance and music, but also the weaving together of people with different voices. Its kaupapa is to advocate for those voices, to show who these people are, to give everyone in it a voice.’  She suggests we will not only see performances on stage, but relationships.

And see them we do.  Whether moving slowly on the spot to the recited words of a poem, being gently led in a wheelchair duet, or simply standing on a stool supported by willing arms, hands and smiles, each performer reveals their own personality, voice, wairua.  We experience their wonder as they take to the stage under the expert care of trained performers, and smile at their joy as they register – and relish! – the applauding audience.   

Poignant themes of flight (‘I love birds’), and freedom (‘Unbind me from the rope’) recur in poems and lyrics, and at one point the whole audience joins in a rousing chorus of ‘Let me be free’.  There is a beautiful solo of hula-inspired hands and hips, a boy’s gleefully infectious leaping round the stage full of instruments and musicians, and eruptions of mass energy as everyone joins in a group boogie. 

In the quieter ‘A Song for Sydney’ (original music and lyrics by Keira Batten-Coogan), three student guitarists strum a slow waltz as a girl in a wheelchair is moved around the stage by one of the Jolt dancers.  Mid-point through the piece, the girl’s face opens into a radiant smile.  She proffers her hand to the dancer and then, very slowly, hugs her.  When the house lights come up and she registers the applause, I see I am not the only one moved.

Another particularly affecting moment occurs as Mark la Roche is expertly tattooing a student’s wheelchair with his sticks.  After some time, she looks up at him, then reaches out to draw his head down to her chest in one long embrace.  

The more choreographed finale ‘Land, Sea and Sky’ sees dancers form two lines swaying in opposite directions, heads moving from side to side. As the lights dim, an illuminated globe floats across the stage followed by a young student half-carried, half-guided by a Jolt dancer.  Drawn to the light, the girl leans forward, reaching as if for the moon. 

Responding to such moments – and to the whole process of collaborating with these supported learning students – Mark la Roche tells them at the end of the show: ‘We have been honoured, energised and inspired by you guys’.   On our part, we in the audience know we have experienced something unique. As for us, we in the audience know we have experienced something unique. Tama Waipara put it perfectly when he rose to thank everyone involved: ‘It is humbling to sit amongst your generosity.’  


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