Okareka Dance Company is a taonga. Its works are treasures to be savoured, thought about and remembered long after the production is over.
Mana Wahine resembles a collage made from the fabric of women's lives. It celebrates their strength, their stamina, their playfulness, their maternal instinct and their physical and spiritual beauty.
But what begins as a collage ends as a fiery, gorgeous tapestry, one that could adorn any theatre anywhere in the world.
The spirit of the production is immensely positive and celebratory.
New Zealand needs these messages right now. Mana Wahine should be shown in every secondary school and every prison in this country, such is its status. If only wishes were dollars.
The creative team is exemplary. Choreographers and co-authors Taiaroa Royal, Taane Mete and Malia Johnston have seamlessly combined their efforts to produce contemporary choreography that is strong, vivid and innovative.
From a gentle and mesmeric beginning, the work builds to a superb climax that moves with its power and emotional intensity.
They have been strongly aided by their cultural adviser, Tui Matira Ranapiri-Ransfield. Her voice features throughout the performance and her face is screened at the beginning and end of the work.
She also composed Waerea, Karanga, Paatere, Whakatauaakii and Karakia for the work.
Composer Victoria Kelly's varied soundtrack, with its insistent beats, bird calls, ocean waves and serene taonga puoro, is compelling and surprising.
The stunning talents of Elizabeth Whiting (costume), Tracey Collins (set) and Vanda Karolczak (lighting) fully complement each other and add to the overall design sophistication and high quality of the production. Rowan Pierce's A/V design is particularly outstanding. The projection of screen images on to the dancers is especially successful, as is his use of shadows and silhouettes.
The five extraordinary dancers - Maria Munkowits, Nancy Wijohn, Jana Castillo, Chrissy Kokiri and Bianca Hyslop - received a justly deserved standing ovation.
They are a superb ensemble who hurl themselves into the work with total commitment and identification.
It was an honour to be present at this performance.
- Mana Wahine - Okareka Dance Company Te Whaea Theatre, Wellington, until August 16
- The Dominion Post
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