A joyous celebration of Samoan cultural traditions featured in week two of this year's Tempo Dance Festival when Fa'asinomaga/Identity took over Q Theatre's main auditorium with an effervescent, energising showcase received by wildly appreciative, largely Samoan audiences, for two sold out nights.
Some 50 performers, directed by Sau E Siva Creatives, were backed by a polished eight-piece band featuring log and metal drums, drum kit, guitars and vocalists. Incidental music ranged from schmaltzy slide guitar instrumental to a country and western lament, Pacific blues and gentle jazz. During the show, the band kept events rolling smoothly and heightened climactic moments.
Each new segment was marked by music, lighting and costume changes. With performers of many different shapes and sizes, the sheer number of different matching costumes was impressive. For the women, White Sunday dress-ups with hats and bags and Bibles were easily the crowd favourite, with matching printed puletasi adorned by sharks tooth necklaces a close second. For the men, formal woven mulberry wraparounds with red feather adornments were the most striking, and some of the smaller lava lavas revealed impressive tattoos.
The dancers were arranged in ever-shifting formations; all the traditional dance forms were presented, other than siva afi (due to fire restrictions). Several of these dances were excerpts from previous productions which Sau E Siva fans would recognise. Sasa and siva were spirited and danced with alacrity by men and women alike. The mens' fa'ataupati and siva tau were greeted enthusiastically by the crowd, inciting the performers to slap and stamp and gesture ever more vigorously. The light-hearted everyday scenes depicted in the mauluulu and the formalities of the taualuga were much appreciated.
Fa'asinomaga's voiceover carried some important messages for the audience. Key among these was that your culture forms and defines you, your language carries your identity and above all, you need to hold on to your culture.
In contrast to Fa'asinomaga, Atamira's TOMO explored the esoteric realm of wairua (spirit and soul) and "the womb of the world in which we become people". This elliptical new work, choreographed by Gabrielle Thomas, appeared to tell the story of a wandering man (Sean MacDonald), who has lost his connection to the world of light. He finds himself in a dark place, which echoes and vibrates and rumbles somewhat alarmingly (ambient score by Peter Hobbs), and contains a series of tall rolling boxes covered by reflective surfaces (designed by Vanda Karolczak).
The boxes reflect his own images back to him, but also offer glimpses of the fleeting forms of three women, who he comes to obsessively observe. Falling ill and in a confused state, he eventually interacts with one of the women (Bianca Hyslop). Her intervention helps him to return to the world of light and to begin to restore his sense of identity.
What: Tempo Dance Festival 2019 – week two highlights Fa'asinomaga| Identity a Sau E Siva Creatives showcase; TOMO by Atamira Dance Company.
Where & when: Q Theatre – Tempo continues this weekend
Reviewed by: Raewyn Whyte