AK09 review: Black Grace at the Civic Theatre

By Bernadette Rae

Neil Ieremia's new work, a response to Dr Greg Clydesdale's discussion paper and its negative and subsequently discredited conclusions on the impact of Pacific Island migration, is a mixed bag.

The new company are extraordinary and breathtaking in full flight. Full of grace at speed, they hurl and bounce and leap and roll and collide and evade and soar and earth and soar again. When a gentler pace is required they control and balance and hold and defy gravity in a more subtle but just as impressive way.

Each of the work's three sections has something of great beauty. In the first it is the two initial pieces where first the six men, then the three women, evoke the old, traditional ways, with a homely sound track of family and church choir, and rhythmic drumming.

In the middle section, portraying life in New Zealand before and during the Dawn Raids, it is the series of staccato cameo poses, while Elvis Presley croons, that catch the heart.

In the third section, which is Ieremia's emotional sumation, he successfully marries Samoan slapdance to the Goldberg Variations and choreographs his dancers to every intricate beat and phrase.

But there are also times when attempts at humour drag and sequences go longer than their message. Ieremia's appearances on stage, wearing a sinister looking eye mask, black leather gloves and suit that suggests the military police, is a puzzlement as he also appears in this garb as one of the good guys?

Costumes, designed by Zambesi, come in a sophisticated colour palette but at times distract the eye from the best action – too loose dresses on the girls look frumpy and stumpy. Tunics over the blokes' ballet tights in the final sequence are a great idea, but are too long on some, too short on another.

The history lessons, given in the initial voice overs and delivered in plummy English, are another distraction, and that information, along with Ieremia's recorded statement of love and loyalty to both his nations, should have been confined to notes in the extensive programme.

When it comes to declaring one's heart from the heart, less and subtle and sticking with your art, is always more.

- NZ Herald

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