Wahine Toa (2017)

Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland

15/06/2017 - 16/06/2017

Pacific Dance Festival 2017

Production Details

Pacific Dance Festival 2017 15-24 June at Mangere Arts Centre

Pacific Dance Festival 2017 runs 15–24 June at Mangere Arts Centre in Auckland, and has expanded over two weeks, presenting a programme that embraces contemporary Pacific dance in the most populous Polynesian city in the world.

The first week of the festival will present Wahine Toa over two nights, a collection of four works by female choreographers in a celebration of the strength and diversity of Pasifika women: Tai Akaki by Tepaeru–Ariki Lulu French, Ave by Ufitia Sagapolute, West Meet South by Losalia Milika Pusiaki, and Found Words by Julia Mage’au Gray.

The week will conclude with the debut performance of the highly anticipated Nu’u by Freshmans Crew on Saturday 17th June, fusing together Pacific, Maori, Urban and Contemporary dance styles in a story exploring three characters and their experiences growing up in New Zealand. Nu’u will debut at the Pacific Dance Festival before travelling overseas, with interest from as far abroad as Hawaii, Los Angeles, and Utah already being expressed.

Week two will feature the men of the programme in action, presenting Tamatoa and consisting of five original works: Muamua and Keeping the Faith by Joash Fahitua, Fa’aafa by Pati Tyrell, Mea Tau by Elijah Kennar, and Tu Move by the New Zealand School of Dance.

Closing the festival is a huge double bill performance of Aumaga by Le Moana and Le Mau by Jasmine Leota, showing on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th June. Aumaga explores the spaces inhabited by the ‘untitled’ men of Samoan villages, their day to day activities, and their service to family and culture.  Inspired by the ‘Mau Movement’ of  the  1920’s, Le  Mau fuses  traditional  Samoan  song  and  dance  with  movement  from Tonga,   Tokelau,   and   other   dance   genres, fused together by a core of live music played on traditional  instruments and sharing universal tones of the strength and resiliency of Pacific people.

In addition to the evening performances, the Festival is inviting schools in South Auckland to attend free matinees of four of the works, TiaKeeping the FaithLe Mau and Aumaga as part of their commitment to nurture and support the stories of young Pasifika people.

Tickets are now on sale at https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2017/pacific-dance-festival-2017/auckland/mangere

Performance installation , Pacific traditional dance forms , Pasifika contemporary dance , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

1 hour 15 mins

Pressing Pacific issues

Review by Raewyn Whyte 18th Jun 2017

Pressing issues of the day become the richly absorbing material for five intense dance works in Wahine Toa, the first of four programmes of contemporary Pacific dance in the two-week 2017 Pacific Dance Festival.

The effects of climate change on the land and lives of people in the Cook Islands are lamented in Tai Akaki by Tepaeru-Ariki Lulu French. The dance brings traditional patterns and gestures into new configurations, with movement and gestures providing a call to action, and is set against film by Tom Webb and short bursts of traditional drums, songs and chants.

Six staunch, grim young women come together in Ave by Tia Sagapolutele, sharing angry, bitter words about being abused. They prowl and manoeuvre in different groupings, keeping tight control over who can enter their territory. They share emphatic moves drawn from street dance and voguing as well as from Samoan traditions and a determination that things must change.

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Feeling the warm energy of Wahine Toa

Review by Vivian Arthur Aue 18th Jun 2017

A night full of vibrant colours and warm Pacific choreography, Wahine Toa is a showcase delivering  three emerging dance choreographies (Tepaeru-Ariki Lulu French, Tia Sagapolutele and Losalio Milika Pusiaki), 1 established and professional dance work by Julia Mage’au Gray, and a short dance film by Guam/Guahan dancer and anthropologist, Ojeya Cruz Banks.

Te aue nei te enua, aue! Ko’ai ra ka tu?

A moving testament to the Cook Islands and the climate change issue occurring, Tai Akaki brings to the stage a fusion of traditional Cook Islands and Tahitian choreography to life. Through the graceful twisting of the wrist and the fast shaking of the hips, tamure is integrated with various contemporary  dance techniques to support the concept and the true essence of the Cook Islands enua (land),  tangata (people), how the issue of climate change can be thought in depth and what actions can take place. Being of Cook Islands descent, I appreciate the effort to showcase my culture, however the choreography did not resonate throughout the dancers’ bodies. I find it difficult to watch and absorb.

Afio mai! Afio mai!

Ave explores the views of womanhood in the Samoan culture. Male dominated Samoan movements are being performed by the six Samoan female dancers who have integrated strong street dance vocabulary throughout. The authentic Pacific energy and vigorous performance quality is successfully present from the six women but the choreography lacks genuine flavour. However, with further research and exploration on the concept, Sagapolutele will be extensively aware of her choreographic practice for future performances of Ave.

The land is my altar. My birthright.

The short film by Ojeya Cruz Banks, Tano (land) depicts the rejection of the Chamorro culture by the US occupying government. Banks, dwells throughout the trees on the sacred land, performing natural grounded movement, worshipping the indigenous past and focusing on deriving the present Guahan.

Husk of a coconut…Get to the sweet meat…maybe you want to do it again?

Entering the stage, Julia Mage’au Gray draped in a white netted cloth around her body with minimal light, is a spectacle to watch. A bare-chested woman projects on the cyclorama, wise words of knowledge by the late Teresia Teaiwa are heard, a film created by Gray is played and subtle and powerful Melanesian movements performed in representation of Teaiwa’s text. Gray’s performance is professional, powerful and positively shifts the vibe of the show. Research and study are evident throughout Gray’s performance installation.

Malie! Mafana!

West Meets South is a love story between a Tongan chief and a beautiful princess from the west of Tonga. Traditional Tongan dance forms of a me’etupaki, faha’iula, tau’olunga and takafalu. Also Queen Salote’s lakalaka is performed to depict the story. Losalio Milika Pusiaki directs the dancers to express Tongan dance in a traditional theatrical venue. Exuberant movements are performed apporpriately and colourful traditional Tongan attire is worn to portray the celebration.

The warm, family-orientated and lively performance atmosphere at the Pacific Dance Festival tolerates the somewhat disorganised production of Wahine Toa.  Minor details such as confusing lighting cues, the hicupping flow of the show and confusion about the final curtain call are somewhat disruptive. 


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