Hamilton Gardens, The Beach, Hamilton

21/02/2015 - 23/02/2015

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2015

Production Details

Whenua – Land / Waikato Contemporary Dance Projects Trust –

Whenua-land is a new contemporary dance theatre work created by Karen Barbour, weaving stories of the places and peoples of Waikato together. Evocatively engaging with the inspirational voices of women of this land, this dance responds to current environmental and political concerns from the heart. With local artists Kartika Leng creating glorious costumes and Jeremy Mayall a sophisticated sound score, this dance work is suitable for all ages.

When  Sat 21 & Sun 22 Feb 2015

Time 11:00am & 6:00pm

When Mon 23 Feb 2015

Time 6:00pm

Where The Beach

Tickets: Free

– See more at: http://hgaf.co.nz/events/dance/whenua-land#sthash.wBFUbdZQ.dpuf

Performers:  Waikato Contemporary Dance Projects Trust

1 hour

Haunting, powerful, poignant

Review by Brenda Rae Kidd 24th Feb 2015

Whenua takes place in a beautiful setting under majestic beech trees on the banks of the Waikato River.  It is drizzling rain yet the mist adds to a haunting ambience. Four dancers appear from the trees wearing korowhai adorned with gorgeous plumage.  They are guests on papatūānuku, like birds landing, they shed their cloaks and feathers to return into to the earth from where they came.  As the dancers writhe, frolic and play, the soil and leaves cling to their bodies to become new cloaks. Choreographer Karen Barbour overlooks from afar, she is the protector (kaitiaki), both of her work and in the performance.

Whenua is a political work, about women and our roles as advocates for the environment.  Choreographer Karen Barbour uses her womb as a metaphor for Mother Earth; the dancers gasp for breath while treading lightly upon papatūānuku. The dance is interspersed with fragments of speeches made by strong women (wahine toa), activist Eva Rickard and politicians, Nanaia Mahuta, Helen Clark and Marilyn Waring. 

Rickard and Mahuta have  tirelessly campaigned for the settlement of land rights (raupatu) on behalf of Tainui, to protect the Waikato River from further denigration by agriculture and industry. In an increasingly profit driven world it is corporate lobbyists that hold power over individual and hereditary rights.

The soundtrack, composed by long time Barbour collaborator, Jeremy Mayall, beautifully echoes the dancers’ movements.  It is particularly delightful to hear the  purerehua, played by Alistair Fraser.  The  purerehua is a traditional Māori wind instrument, (Taonga pūoro) used in the score by Mayall and Barbour to represent the pulling in of or coming back to strength of self.  Much like a Tibetan meditation bowl.

A serendipitous moment, my date for the day, seven year old RB, decides to wander off to fossick.  Being the protective aunt, I leave my reviewer’s perch to take him across a pass in the river to a little island near the shore.  From there we have a whole new perspective of the dancers.  The poignancy of being on the river looking back on the performance is not lost.  “Looks cool from our beautiful awa eh whaea,” says he.

Haunting and powerful, Whenua is a work from a strong feminine perspective.  Barbour hopes to soon tour the performance through smaller Waikato towns like Raglan -Whaingaroa, Te Pahu and Huntly, birthplaces of those righteous women mentioned above.



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