In its new work Crying Men, Black Grace presents a dark and shadowy world in which a grandfather comes to terms with the repeating patterns of toxic masculinity shared by three generations of men in his family while spirits bring redemption.

Collaboratively developed by choreographer Neil Ieremia and writer Victor Rodger, the story is told through movement accompanied by repeated fragments of recorded text about the softness of a mother's love and the hardness of a father's anger, the hardening of sons against softness through use of a father's fists and the realisation that such hardening breaks men's lives.

Crying Men features ten dancers in rhythmically-driven abstract movement sequences which are Black Grace's signature style and display the dancers' polish, panache and technical strengths. Fierce and angular, with escalating speed and intensity, breaking out at times into fighting, these sequences are faultlessly performed.

The exemplary dancing throughout sits in a rich sonic environment contributed by contemporary sound artists Anonymouz (aka Faiumu Matthew Salapu) and Submariner (aka Andy Morton). Driving percussive sequences are interspersed with sections of often multi-layered sampled sounds and stretches of silence into which ever-watching spirits bring chants, songs and rituals.

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Unusually for Black Grace, the movement palette has also been extended into lengthy sections of slow or minimal movement and stillness. These make the intense bursts more potent and allow time for the audience to come to terms with the underlying story.

Black Grace's latest dance work looks at masculinity through the eyes of Pacific men.
Black Grace's latest dance work looks at masculinity through the eyes of Pacific men.

The central story is that of the grandfather (Ieremia), the regret he feels for what has been lost in his own life and guilt at having wreaked damaging experiences on his son Fatu (Rodney Tyrell) and, indirectly, his grandson Manu (Shane Tofaeono). We also see the unthinkingly casual denigration which grandson Manu repeatedly inflicts on his partner Rosa (Demi-Jo Manolo), despite her persistent rejection of his behaviour and her attempts to walk away from it. Ironically, of course, her strength and rejection is shown as the trigger for Manu's attempts to dominate her.

What: Crying Men by Black Grace
Where: ASB Waterfront Theatre
Reviewed by: Raewyn Whyte