The generative potential of Te Kore (the void), Te Po-roa (the long night), Te Po-uriuri (the deep night) is the starting point for Pango (Black) choreographed by Moss Paterson for Atamira Dance Company, which completed a North Island tour this weekend at Q Theatre.
The primordial night is conjured up with haze and dark lighting inside a blackly shrouded stage. Almost filling the space is a skeletal wharenui built from black rubber ropes and shining metal framing, created by spatial designer Robin Rawstorne.
Six bare-chested men in black pants bring life force into the space through deeply expressive and fully-committed performances. The dancers grip, shake and pass through the ropes at times as if testing the boundaries of the void. In the darkness, it is often difficult to distinguish one dancer from another, despite the differences in musculature and individual virtuosity.
Luke Hanna, Jeremy Beck, Emmanuel Reynaud, Toa Paranihi, Jared Hemopo and Matiu Hamuera perform convincingly in movements ranging from contemporary haka and roving group sequences to passionate solos, aggressive, tumbling duets and desperate, full-out running as if fleeing for one's life.
Tiny slivers and flashes of light alternate with rolling lines and streaks of light and occasional light beams. These combine with a series of dramatic projections by lighting and AV designer Rowan Pierce. Projections on to bodies bring bloody hands and mouths into focus, sequentially showing the layering of the human body from skeleton to the circulatory and neurological systems. Whether on to the body or across the space, the projections intensify the impact of encounters ranging from the evolutionary emergence of crawling, slithering creatures to the eating of a man by his captors.
Live music is also a distinct feature of this production. Karakia, chanting and haka frame the action of the whole work. Snarling, grungy electric guitar and some beautifully harmonic grooves played live by Shayne P Carter alternate and occasionally engage with evocative taonga puoro sequences by James Webster. Though strongly contrasting, both musicians pour emotion into the space through their performances, pulling a heightened intensity from the dancers.
What: Pango - Atamira Dance Company with Shayne P Carter and James Webster
Where: Q Theatre
Reviewed by Raewyn Whyte