At her home in Piha, dancer and choreographer Louise Potiki Bryant is surrounded by nature: lush bush, the sounds of the ocean, wind in the trees and pukeko whose antics she often observes.

But in New York at the Harriet Friedlander Fellow of the Arts Foundation, Potiki Bryant was surrounded by the sights, sounds and energy of a cosmopolitan world centre. While she says living there was amazing, she had to find ways to cope the level of hustle and bustle.

This was especially true in light of an epiphany Potiki Bryant had several years ago when she realised many of the quirks and rituals of her thought processes, patterns and habits of daily life could be signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Rather than allowing this to compound her anxiety, she's found ways to make use of her compulsions, such as to quickly capture images and recurring thoughts and make them a feature of her dance work.

Advertisement

"Instead of nature, I found myself observing the human scenery of the streets and subways and the collective consciousness which emerged after President Trump's election," she says of New York. "I also immersed myself in the extraordinary array of galleries and performances available to me.

"The intensity of New York can be overwhelming with millions of people concentrated into a relatively small area. Watching people on the subway, it was immediately obvious that texting on phones and plugging into headphones has become the way to shut out other people and the worries of the world. It's an easy way to temporarily shut down your anxieties."

This year's Tempo Dance Festival opens with Potiki Bryant's solo performance installation Ngaro (hidden, out of sight, lost). It examines the realities of living with OCD, particularly while in New York City. Created with sound artist Paddy Free (Pitch Black) and textile artist Rona Ngahuia Osborne (Native Agent), Potiki Bryant devised the choreography, design and videography.

"Many of the animated images you'll see in Ngaro are developed from drawings I made in New York," she says.

She's one of a number of choreographers, including Sarah Foster-Sproull, and Jahra Rager Wasasala, with a stellar record for creating multidisciplinary dance works which transform issues from their own lives into art with impact. Like Potiki Bryant, they have work in Tempo 2017 - New Zealand's only professional dance festival, now in its 14th year.

Wasasala is also recently returned from New York, after obtaining the 2016 Prime Minister's Pacific Youth Award for the Arts. The dancer and poet premieres her cross-disciplinary solo "a world, with your wound in it" which embodies the complex relationship between the Earth and indigenous women.

It explores a number of associated political issues linked with language, possession, tradition and the Pacific diaspora. She says developing the solo dance for just over three years - and presenting it in different formats in Auckland, Guam, Hawaii, Australia and New York - she's found the issues raised through it strike a chord with others.

This final version, which draws on contemporary dance-based movement, spoken poetry, costuming and film by Pacific artist and FAFSWAG co-founder Pati Solomona Tyrell, has shifted from being fully autobiographical to taking a global standpoint that addresses some of the politics shared by indigenous people around the world.

"Dance, for me, is a way to open understanding, to engage people viscerally and pass ideas through into their minds."

It now includes contemporary dance-based movement, spoken poetry and costuming and film by Pacific artist Solomona Tyrell, co-founder of FAFSWAG, the visual arts incubator for queer indigenous creatives.

While preparing to premiere her solo work, Wasasala is also one of eight performers in Sarah Foster-Sproull's eagerly anticipated Orchids, which has been in development since 2015.

Orchids are a favourite flower of Foster-Sproull's, not just because of their exotic beauty and rich diversity but also because they're a potent representation of the femininity. The recipient of the 2017 Creative NZ Choreographic Fellowship, Foster-Sproull is working with an all-female cast ranging from 8 to 60 years old and bringing a wide array of life experiences which spotlight ordinary as well as profound feminine experiences, roles and relationships, female deities and archetypes, comfort, conflict and catharsis.

We're also looking forward to at the year's Tempo:

•The 40th anniversary of Limbs, NZ's first contemporary dance company. The DANZ season of Limbs@40 features choreography by original Limbs dancers MaryJane O'Reilly, Mark Baldwin and Douglas Wright performed by dancers from In Flagrante, the UNITEC dance degree programme and New Zealand School of Dance.

•World-renowned hip-hop crew Identity Dance Company join the Cesan Brothers for CUDO, an acrobatic and robotic hip-hop piece against a backdrop of real time graphic visuals, manipulated by the dancers.

whY Chromozone showcases masculinity in all its many forms. Featuring new works by the Royal New Zealand Ballet's Loughlan Prior, gold medal hip-hop champs Identity Company and South Auckland performance collective COVEN.

•Dance for the social media generation? You bet. Snap Dance, 10 dance works by ten choreographers - a different one for each day of Tempo - will be performed exclusively on Snapchat and feature all a manner of themes and styles in 30 seconds. Follow snapdancenz channel on Snapchat to be part of this all-new experience.

Pedal Power, a ballet of bikes, a waltz of wheels and a pirouette of pedals. Choreographer Susan Jordan and bike enthusiasts from across Auckland fuse dance with a fun visual spectacle to get your gears moving in this free community event in Aotea Square.

•New and collaborative works from emerging choreographers Amelia Chong, Elijah Kennar, Ben Mitchell, Zoe Nicholson and Emma Cosgrove in Fresh; and bright young things from local secondary schools and dance studios in Ignite.

Lowdown
What: Tempo Dance Festival 2017
Where & when: Q Theatre, October 4-15; performances daily