Physical portrait of journey
A high-octane display of contemporary New Zealand dance is coming to Nelson next week. Anna Pearson reports.
Inspiring; fulfilling; an adrenaline rush; endorphins; physicality.
The words keep coming as Black Grace performer Sean MacDonald describes what it's like to perform Waka by New Zealand choreographer Neil Ieremia.
"Neil's work is very, very physical. He's always had that and it has been a trademark of the company as well," says MacDonald on a lunchtime break between rehearsals last week.
"I definitely think dance from this part of the world has a certain flavour - the physicality of it," he says.
Waka opens at the Theatre Royal on Tuesday, in the first stop of a five-week tour of the country.
The 60-minute piece, presented by long-standing Black Grace performer MacDonald and six others, has been brewing for a while.
The dancers took a 35-minute "draft" version of it to Germany and South Korea in May and it has now evolved into a major finished work.
"Germany was great," says MacDonald. "We went to about 11 towns and had lots of full houses. It affected them emotionally as well as intellectually."
The soundtrack to Waka features the track Problems by Salmonella Dub and one by Fat Freddy's Drop called The Raft - adding to its Pacific flavour, but MacDonald says the storyline goes beyond our shores.
"It's a universal sort of story. It's about a journey and that whole idea of leaving your land to go to a whole new land. You don't know what's there; it's not always rosy; it's not always going to work out and be perfect. There's definitely that edge to it," he says.
MacDonald says the waka idea in the performance came from an old French painting called The Raft of the Medusa as well as The Arrival of the Maoris in New Zealand by Charles Goldie, which focuses on Maori migration.
"It's not necessarily a straight narrative. It's more of a poetic narrative, trying to convey the idea of what a raft is literally and metaphorically," he says.
MacDonald says contemporary dance is like painting a picture with movement. It's an abstract way of communicating without words.
"It's visual, it's drama, it's aural, it's poetic."
It's more than "rolling around on the floor".
- Waka, Black Grace, Theatre Royal, 7.30pm Tuesday and Wednesday.
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