Light shines on dance festival

ANN HUNT
Last updated 05:00 11/11/2013

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Kowhiti Dance 2013: Atarau - A Beam of Light: Indigenous Contemporary Dance Festival

Opera House, Wellington, November 7

A delicate new moon and its companion star shone their light onto Wellington's Opera House. Kowhiti, which means "the rising of a heavenly body", could not have had a better omen.

Kowhiti's directors and curators, Merenia and Tanemahuta Gray, and Jenny Stevenson, have produced a diverse, entertaining evening of indigenous contemporary dance, part of the Kowhiti Festival and the inaugural Dance Wellington festival. It showcased artists from the United States, Australia's Torres Strait islands and New Zealand.

From Santa Fe we welcomed the striking Dancing Earth Company. whose Walking at the Edge of Water celebrated indigenous communities who are protecting the earth's waters. Choreographer and serenely beautiful dancer Rulan Tangen, with Jack Gray and company artists, choreographed a vigorous, heartfelt work that urges us all to protect this dwindling essential resource. It is gratifying to see a dance company take on such a contentious current issue. The final image of a fragile earth was memorable.

The strong company was beautifully costumed and accompanied by the magnificent voice of Sina Soul and a compilation score by various artists. Baiwa Dance Company's Warupaw Uu - Echo of Drums explored the Torres Strait people's connection to nature and celebrated the rituals and stories that surround the changing seasons.

Choreographed by Rita Pryce and dancers to an original score by Pryce and Dolly McGaughey, with cast input, it featured artwork by the late Billy Missi. Masepah Banu danced with gentleness and strength that made this unpretentious, grounded work a highlight of the evening.

Gray's Tiki Taane Mahuta was a narrative based aerial, audio-visual and contemporary dance work based on the lives of a New Zealand urban group of friends and families spanning two generations. At times strong and powerful, it suffered from a confusing scenario, possibly because it is part of an intended full-length work. The music was by Tiki Taane and others. It was strongly danced by all, particularly Jana Castillo and Luke Hannah.

Choreographer Louise Potiki Bryant performed an outstanding excerpt from her full-length work Kiri (skin). This conversation between a dancer and a sculptor of clay is totally compelling. Music was by the talented Paddy Free. Potiki Bryant and Free also designed the superb video graphics. But it was Potiki Bryant, smeared with clay like a Japanese butoh dancer, the essence of part of the earth, that we will remember.

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In Flodiac, Future Fame did what he usually does and the audience adored him.

Rangimarie - Peace, (choreography Merenia Gray,) is an elegant, accomplished three-part work and Gray's best to date. It featured Gray, Luke Hannah and dancers from FootnoteNZ, with Emily Adams, Gray and Hannah outstanding.

- The Dominion Post

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