A rich sampling mix of eight short works collectively titled KAHA earned a standing ovation for Atamira Dance Company on opening night at Q, marking the first day of Matariki 2012 in fine style, and also celebrating the company's 11th year. The programme offers an array of works, from the purely cultural to the seriously contemporary, and in between a mix of excerpts from repertoire and new commissions.
Three works by artistic director Moss Paterson are derived from Maori cultural traditions, but each has its own innovative twist. The opening Haka for six dancers is based on the Tuwharetoa haka Wairangi, performed very close to the ground - at times conjuring up piles of huge boulders or rolling clouds of steam.
In Koru, three dancers etch the shape of the koru design onto the air, carving its curving forms over 360 degrees to leave a mesh of invisible loops and fronds in their wake. And in Moko, intricate spiralling patterns slowly build, reverse and break off for a new layer to be laid down on the skins of six dancers. The pace steadily increases, but the patterning holds true, until the work ends with the resting bodies of the newly tattooed.
Three new commissions are included on the programme.
Taane Mete's primal solo Piata for dancer Bianca Hyslop presents her as a member of the patupaiarehe (fairy people), trapped between night and day. She slinks through the underbrush of the forest and slides in the scree of the mountains, shelters in waterfalls and trsvls downrapids, always searching for a place to escape.
Kelly Nash's Indigenarchy quartet presents a constantly changing montage of movements taken from indigenous dances of the world. Advertising images flicker through the mix, but are not sustained, implying that conscious resistance is the only way to challenge commercialisation of indigenous forms.
A new section of Jack Gray's steadily evolving Mitimiti is a highlight of the programme, and a longer segment would have been welcomed. His acutely observed portrait of various kinds of out-of-it disconnection in an array of urban settings is at once dark and full of critique, ironic and hilarious, and deeply personal. It makes the connection to cultural disconnection, colonisation and dispossession as sources of the six fractured identities sampled here.
Two repertory excerpts round off the selection.
A powerfully danced section from Louise Potiki Bryant's Ngai Tahu 32 presents Jack Gray as the conflicted but resistant Wiremu Potiki who refuses to comply with the government's census demands. The crowd-pleasing, light and frothy closing number Poi E Thriller is a fitting finale/encore. Originally choreographed for the movie Boy by Dolina Wehipeihana, this salute to Michael Jackson comes replete with a sequined glove and break dancing moves from Moss Patterson.
Atamira are in fine form, with international performances planned for 2013 following development of their touring programme which will be presented here late in November.
What: Kaha - Short Works 2012 by Atamira Dance Company
Where: Q Theatre