Tempo Dance Festival: Finale weekend packed with stunners

By Raewyn Whyte

Tempo Dance Festival: Pukepuke O Tonga. Photo / Supplied
Tempo Dance Festival: Pukepuke O Tonga. Photo / Supplied

The final weekend of this year's Tempo festival included Colours of India (Bollywood, Bharatnatyam, Kathak and Odissi), duets in many styles, integrated dance from Touch Compass and Tasmania's Second Echo, youth dance, up to the minute hip hop in Out of the Box and richly musical Tongan dance.

Each show had its standout moments, stunning performances, and crowd-pleasers - far too many to cover here.

Pukepuke'o Tonga was a world premiere in the truest sense, a suite of 10 historic Tongan dances dating from 1200 AD, recovered and arranged by choreographer Sesilia Pusiaki Tatuila to ensure they will not be lost. Each dance has its own songs and rhythms, beautifully delivered by the dancers, together comprising an intimate ceremonial event arrayed for a village setting, with the performers seated on the floor and the audience looking on.

Throughout the sequence the dancers change formation with men and women, girls and boys in alternating groups. Behind them sits their leader, playing log drum and wooden flute, introducing each song and marshalling the rhythms.

The 32 performers range from around 5 years old to 20-something, other than their leader and a group of eight elders who sit behind watching. The dancers are beautifully clothed in black lava lavas and shirts for the men, or black tube dresses for the women, with waist wraps of tapa cloth or woven fibres decorated by leaves, more leaves at wrist and ankle, necklaces resembling chilli peppers worn by the men, and red triangular-petalled woven collars worn by the women. The performance was impeccable, delivered with pride in reviving this ancient culture, joy, grace, charm and delight, and the very youngest performers were outstanding and alert to every nuance.

The hip hop dancers also showed considerable pride, charm and impeccable timing in a show of eight very polished free-form hip hop works, each around 5 or 6 minutes long. The standout was 16-year-old Riley Bourne's Back to Bach.


Tempo dance festival

*Pukepuke'o Tonga, Q Loft, Saturday October 20, 6pm

*Out of the Box hip hop showcase, Friday October 19, 6pm, Sunday October 21, 8pm Q Rangatira

- NZ Herald

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