Arts Village, Rotorua

19/06/2010 - 20/06/2010

Telecom Playhouse Theatre, WEL Energy Trust Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton

16/06/2010 - 17/06/2010

Te Papa: Soundings, Wellington

24/06/2010 - 27/06/2010

Hawkins Theatre, Papakura, Auckland

29/06/2010 - 29/06/2010

Production Details

Renowned Maori dance collective Atamira return after the intrigue and success of Hou with a second exciting showcase of familiar, beloved works as Whetu (Star) tours across the North Island this June.
As the Maori New Year dawns upon Aotearoa, it is a time for whanau to come together and reflect on the past and the future. Matariki is celebrated through a variety of different arts in its many forms also – including performances unique to the Maori culture.
Atamira celebrate Maori culture through their contemporary works and much like the defining spirituality of Matariki, Whetu promotes the future of the company with it’s rising stars and emerging choreographers while bringing some of the collectives previous works to the forefront.
Shooting onto the stage are works by established Atamira choreographer’s Maaka PepeneJack Gray and Moss Patterson which are performed alongside celebrated pieces by pioneering Maori dance choreographers Charles Koroneho (He Taura Whakapapa) and Stephen Bradshaw (Mauri)
A founding member of Te Kanikani O Te Rangatahi and lecturer of Dance Theory at UNITEC, Koroneho has danced with many of this country’s top choreographers; Koroneho’s work involves cultural collaboration, the development of interculturalism, performance art and cultural consultancy, exploring the collision between Maori cosmology, New Zealand society and global cultures.
Bradshaw’s work, Mauri, has been cited as one of the first examples of Maori contemporary dance with it modern interpretation of traditional Maori themes dealing with life force. One of the previous stand out works of Atamira, mixing elements of dance with kapa haka, the work has gone on to be part of the curriculum in NZ dance schools.
Atamira will sing, dance and perform to the ancient chants of their ancestors, celebrate the achievements of the Maori battalion and reinvent rock ‘n’ roll with a return to the Happy Days era.
Whetu will celebrate Matariki – the coming of the New Year of Maori cosmology.
Whetu tours:
Hamilton – Telecom Playhouse – June 16th and 17th
Ph:  07 8585100
Rotorua – Arts Village – June 19th and 20th
Ph: 07 348 9008  www.ticketek.co.nz
Wellington – Te Papa (Kowhiti Festival) – June 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th
 Ph: 04 384 2294 www.ticketek.co.nz
Auckland – Hawkins Theatre (Papakura) – June 29th
Ph:  09 2977712 www.ticketek.co.nz
Ticket Prices
$12 -15 Concession (Student, DANZ Member, Child, Senior citizen, Unwaged, Group 6+)
 $18 -30 Adult.
For more information and ticketing, visit http://www.atamiradance.co.nz  

Style, wit and slapstick presented with function, expression and deeply embedded historical narrative

Review by Terri Ripeka Crawford 20th Jun 2010

Tirohia atu e ko nga whetu, e ko Matariki, e arau ana.  

A still and crisp eve in Kirikiriroa; the energy of Te Whare Tapere o Waikato is subdued, but a willing audience gathers for the second night and variation programme of Atamira Dance Company’s Matariki short works tour.

Six sections of work by established and emergent choreographers present a diverse selection of style, wit, slapstick with function, expression and deeply embedded historical narrative.


Mauri (2003) by veteran choreographer Stephen Bradshaw is a work exploring the concept life force, of the void, the earth and the interconnectvity of people to the land. Motifs include functional and elemental life force ideas. They are mostly enjoyable, simple, repetitious and layered. Cathy Livermore leads the ensemble out with assertive presence to form a single centre line and canon delivery of outstretched movements. The choreography in this section seems ineffective and lack-lustre. 

The final part is high energy; a centrifugal force is created with dancers like orbiting molecules using immaculate footwork such as gruelling tipatapata and twirls that work towards a heightened sense of mauri.

It is good to see this re-crafted shorter length work of only 12 minutes. Although not portraying a total sense of mauri, its solid original soundtrack by DLT with committed physicality by the dancers provides a commendable performance.

Moonlight Sonata & Helping Hands 

Two pieces from Maaka Pepene’s Memoirs of Active Service (2006) are a good choice for the short works tour. Jarod Rawiri’s voice over is full of ihi, as he articulates a passage from the memoirs of Maaka’s koroua who was also a 28th Battalion member. Glen Miller’s ‘Moonlight Serenade’ soars into the hearts of all who enjoy the era of that great big band sound. 

It is a suspense filled moment as we wait for the lovers duet, danced by Paora Taurima and Gaby Thomas. Their articulation of one of my favourite Atamira Duets is technically and emotionally a paler shade to that of the 2006 debut performance and 2009 tour of this piece. However it is good to see new dancers take on these difficult works. The anticipatory style of Pepene’s movement technique within this duet is always a sight to behold.  

The men in Helping Hands are strong and athletic.   These principal male dancers deliver a unified and polished performance with a vibrant presence from Jack Gray and Maaka Pepene.


Jack Gray’s lovely duet Solace (2003) is the memory of the known and the unknown; the physical void where love once was; the aroha of son and father; the bluey gray divide of spirit felt and unseen. Bianca Hyslop plays spirit past and present and delivers an enigmatic performance as she embodies a sense of timelessness. 

Behind her careful articulation of Jack’s liquid style motifs are exquisite and expressive eyes that deliver the dramatic edge required. Although Paora does not quite embody the imagery and sensuous nature of this work it is good to see him back on stage and his performance potential renewed.

Tuhoe Whakapapa

Tûhoe moumou kai, moumou taonga, moumou tangata ki te Pô.

Te Tini o Toi! Welcome to the stage emergent choreographer Nancy Wijohn and her Tuhoe Whakapapa (2010). The embryonic stages of Toi manifest from the earth – Toi the original being, the original people. Imagine the nurturing natural density of the Urewera forest so clean, dark, fresh and raw… Embryonic roots branches and leaves form the ancient ones, of sky and earth. 

In section one, Tai Royal and Gaby Hislop perform a beautifully grounded and sculptured duet as the quintessence of Tawhaki, he that strives for higher knowledge. In this version of the quest. Tawhaki is perished and bleeds from the 3rd heavenly state onto this earth. 

Section two is inspired by whakapapa charts of 30 generations in floor patterns with complex linear movement for the female dancers. This exploration is representational of the dearth of matriarchal lineages included in early ethnographies by Elsdon Best. 

The final section explores deliberate movement, the survival of a people, connection to ancient lore, tipuna, tipua and the struggle to retain tribal knowledge. 

The Starlight Ballroom

Dolina Wehipeihana choreographs humour with collaborator/ actor Waimihi Hotere in a fun, hot little number that synergises tunes, moves and teenage crush antics from the 1950s and the Cambridge Starlight Ballroom (2008).

Paora and Jack are great fun in this piece. It’s quite a joy, and the tamariki in the house just thought it was the ‘bees knees’ as they laughed hysterically upon Johnny Too Cool’s, too cool Elvis impression! Watch out ladies, Johnny’s on his way to your town.

He Taura Whakapapa

He Taura Whakapapa (1990) by veteran choreographer Charles Koroneho is a timeless work of art from a larger body of work Waimirirangi. Taiaroa Royal performs a riveting solo with strength and maturity and a sense of tipua and amphibian like extremities.

He Taura Whakapapa has an edge over all the works of this programme and is enhanced by the exquisitely printed costumes designed by Marama Lloydd. A stone to punga transformation completes this uplifting ceremony. The sense of another world is created and restored, our voyaging ancestors and our connections to the universe are anchored, and our mind body and spirit realm reconnected.

Look to the stars and the gathering of Matariki and enjoy a successful year ahead, Atamira!
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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Journeys from birth through life to the future

Review by Sue Cheesman 19th Jun 2010

WHETU embraces Matariki (Maori New Year) in the shape of a short works dance programme which journeys from birth through life to the future. In so doing it cleverly charts the lineages of Atamira dance company.

A collection of six different choreographers’ works are represented, including four excerpts from longer pieces. The protocol set up means that the choreographer or a member of the company introduces each work. This gives the opening night Hamilton audience further insight into the ideas and theme of the pieces.

Te Whenua, choreographed by Moss Patterson, begins with a birth intensified by cries of the dancers huddled in a circle. This transforms into dancers grouping and re grouping, using a motif where one dancer turns another dancer’s head with the resolution always being a turning roll into the floor, reminiscent of the spirals in kowhaiwhai patterns. One moment that stands out is dancers repeatedly climbing and tumbling slowly over one very grounded stationary figure, showing a cascading tangle of shapes. This figure seems to be the anchorage to the earth.

Moonlight Sonata and Helping Hands by Maake Pepene are two selected vignettes which serve to snapshot very different parts of the longer work, Memoirs of Active Service. A playful duet between husband and wife is sharply contrasted with a trio of service men in Italy going through their paces. Personally I would have preferred one longer excerpt to more fully embody the ideas.

The programme states that Don’t Feed the Fish Man, choreographed by Cathy Livermore, is a contemporary Polynesian dance theatre work around climate change, an important issue for Pacific nations. The last section is performed, and its focus is on future generations. The movement content is different and more abstract than the above works, and makes an interesting contrast. 

The music by Imogen Heap underpins the theme and reinforces the messages through the text. Sharp contrasts in movement dynamics clearly signal the turmoil future generations face with the loss of home islands. The final clawing of layers from their bodies, ending with an out stretched hand, makes a powerful poignant statement.

Tuhoe Whakapapa, by emergent choreographer Nancy Wijohn, is billed as a work in progress. This piece begins with dancers entering along the ground from the side, sliding, turning, oozing as body parts rise and fall across stage. This seems primeval and from this clump two dancers (male and female) in tight embrace evolve. They are transported across the line up of bodies to front stage, signalling that these two are important figures. 

Several striking tableaux are witnessed, one where these two central figures are intertwined around one another framed by five dancers in a strong-grounded stance. The dance builds to a separation of the two figures; one being carried upside down bent kneed and flexed feet while the female dancer is up on the shoulder of another dancer in a defiant pose.

In sharp contrast, the second part begins with a solemn processional entrance with dancers wearing Victorian clothing. When all seven dancers have entered there is a moment of stillness and reverence, giving a sense of collective power.

In sharp contrast the Starlight Ballroom is light hearted, entertaining and celebrates an era of going to dance halls for romance. This piece gives all performers a chance to be playful and enjoy the exuberance of youth. The ‘boys’ – Maaka Pepene, Jack Gray and Paora Taurima – are especially cheeky and impish.

Gorgeous puffy aquamarine skirts made by Ila Wehipeihana steal the ‘girls’ limelight. The audience chuckles at fact that the Starlight Ballroom and associated pie cart is in Hamilton. Costuming throughout the show is of a particularly high standard, successfully varying and enhancing the individual dance works.

Charles Koroneho’s work, He Taura Whakapapa, created in 1990, certainly stands the test of time. Including this work at the end also points to a wider lineage of Maori contemporary dance, traced through Stephen Bradshaw (although not represented in this show) and Charles, being founding members of Te Kanikani O Te Rangatahi and Taiao Dance theatre.

The piece opens with a sparse, sculptural solo strongly performed by Tai Royal. A giant 80kg rock appears centre stage and the dancers’ fingers are drawn towards this. We witness these giant phalanges – almost lizard-like – caress, cradle and balance on the rock. A moment is captured in a single image when Tai is in a deep squat, cradling the rock in his arms as if humans and nature can be as one.

A large rope with four strands is tied to the rock using a traditional lashing technique. The rock is shifted down stage and is masked by two dancers sitting.

Four dancers up stage, each with a strand of rope, physically weave the rope under and over, building the intensity as they get faster and the rope gets shorter. Calling out to one another, the dancers spur this on as the growing four-strand plait slowly evolves and grows up stage. The physicality of the weaving is stunning to watch, and resultant image of the woven rope is beautiful. The music fades in and out for me, with the sounds of nature, water and birds capturing my attention.

Concluding this journey and piece is a striking elemental image of a suspended plaited rope anchored on the ground by the solid, smooth, heavy rock, symbolic of a woven whakapapa. This last image is beautiful as the light fades on the rope: earth and sky connected.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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