Michael Parmenter's groundbreaking work leads the way in the Tempo Dance Festival

By Raewyn Whyte

Insolent River: A Tango, choreographed by Michael Parmenter.
Insolent River: A Tango, choreographed by Michael Parmenter.

Dance fans from throughout New Zealand are flocking to Auckland this week to see a long awaited revival of Michael Parmenter's Insolent River: A Tango which opens this year's Tempo Dance Festival.

A much-talked about, provocative and groundbreaking dance work, which draws on butoh (Japanese dance theatre), tango and dance-theatre, Insolent River was first presented in Wellington in 1985 and again in 1988.

With three cubic metres of soil and lashings of water, a domestic relationship and a couch, it was hailed as "subtle, funny and sad, shocking and important" and "devastating yet affirming". Parmenter has re-investigated the work with two alternate casts of leading new generation dancers - Josie Archer with Aloalii Tapu and Emily Adams with Kosta Bogoievski. He is excited to see what these new dancers have brought to the work and feels it is now richer than it was 30 years ago.

"I have chosen these dancers for their remarkable performance ability, physical energy and force of character.

Thanks to their much more comprehensive training, and a solid grounding in my partner improvisation techniques, they actually dance so much better than the original cast," he says.

"A large proportion of the work is improvised and requires highly sensitive partnering. Each couple will be dancing different choreography and they bring their own dance styles to the performance. Their dancing will be sensational."

For the 12 days of Tempo, Q Theatre will be all things dance, from performances to workshops, films, forums, and a dance party. Productions come from around the country and across the Pacific and range from award-winning street dance to classical Indian Bharatanatyam, hard-hitting contemporary works, effervescent jazz and commercial dance; there's even a touch of classical ballet.

Tempo's artistic director Carrie Rae Cunningham has sought out high-quality works that are, as she says, "a bit out of the ordinary, dances in which you can see a mind at work, presented by beautiful bodies in motion".

Insolent River is the oldest work on the programme but there's also Malia Johnston's 2004 work Miniatures, which has been re-investigated by students from the NZ School of Dance under her direction.

"They have responded to the original focus on the small precious things in life and the constraints and boundaries we have to deal with in our lives. The original set of boxes, cabinets and pedestals is still there, but they have created new movement and added nuances from their own lives," says Cunningham.

She adds that as always, there is much that's new, or nearly new, to intrigue and delight both the connoisseurs and those new to dance.

Speaking of the new, the Fresh showcase presents five new works by emerging choreographers including Joash Fahitua and Xin Ji, who, Cunningham says, we know only as remarkable dancers until now.

The Fabricate Collective brings a reworked version of its exciting debut show and SIVA Niu Sila presents recent Pacific contemporary dance works from Jahra Wasasala, Nikki Upoko, Tupua Tigafua and Katerina Fatupaito. Out of the Box pushes the boundaries of street dance and hip-hop choreography by members of world championship crews ID Co and The Bradas, and the closing weekend programme,

Taumata has four new works including Sisters of the Black Crow by Sarah Foster-Sproull. There's also the world premiere of Meremere, a media-rich performance that features some of the extraordinary events in the life and international dance career of award-winning integrated dancer Rodney Bell. Now 45, he has recently returned home to Te Kuiti and the work tells his stories through movement, spoken text, documentary film, music and AV projections. Developed under the direction of Malia Johnston and her team from Movement of the Human, both performances have sign language interpretation and audio description.

VOU Dance, from Fiji, returns to Tempo for the world premiere of their striking new production VU, inspired by the presence of ancestral gods (Kalou Vu), who offer native Fijians (i-Taukei) wisdom, guidance and protection in their daily lives. Like its well-received 2015 work Mataqali Time, this new work from VOU dance is intensely dynamic and shares personal stories.

Swaroopa Unni, from Dunedin, presents Sringaram - Dance of Love, a Bharatanatyam solo which explores love, longing, desire and eroticism in the lives of devadasis, the 19th and early 20th-century dancing women of India, who were courtesans and salon dancers.

Meanwhile, The Crows Feet Dance Collective, a mature women's community dance group from Wellington, led by choreographer Jan Bolwell, presents Hakari: The Dinner Party. Based on Judy Chicago's famous 1970s feminist art installation The Dinner Party, this new version celebrates iconic women from Asia and the Pacific.

• For full programme, see www.tempo.co.nz

What: Tempo Dance Festival 2016
Where & when: Q Theatre, Rangatira, Loft and Vault + workshops at Wellesley Studios; October 4 - 16

- NZ Herald

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