The audience at the Pacific Dance Festival 2019 opening night were impressed by the debut work of Aloalii Tapu & Friends, a new Pacific performance collective who symbolically grapple with the ills of our world.

The new collective brings together established powerhouse performers - some of whom have danced for leading New Zealand companies such as the NZ Dance Company, Foster Group, Black Grace and ID Co - and several recent graduates, under the direction of Tapu.

For its first performance, the ASB Waterfront Theatre was full to the rafters. An extended standing ovation was given at the end of the work and there were many expressions of excitement about the radically new approach to contemporary dance.

There was a heady mix of contemporary styles including street, house, hip hop and martial arts, among the movement sources but also gestures from classical dance, sequences of everyday domesticity and expressions of intense frustration. There was a deep somatic understanding of release and functional alignment drawn from contemporary dance, and a series of stunning duets which featured intense interpersonal communication at a sustained micro-distance without touching.

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Running sight gags, punctured water balloons and a dissolving white paper suit, heartfelt laments about the loss of language and the worlds we have destroyed, and the last remnants of the forests saved to be replanted all featured.

Outstanding performances were the order of the night, most notably a sustained duet by Jahra Rager Wasasala and Connor Oooshcon Masseurs, deconstructed siva sequences by Faith Schuster, Elijah Kennar's richly comedic sequences and the gravitas which anchored his dissolving suit solo. Subtly danceable music by Eden Mulholland and sensitive lighting by Jo Kilgour added richness to proceedings.

The Pacific Dance Festival 2019 continues until Sunday, June 23 with daily performances Mangere Arts Centre. www.pacificdance.co.nz/upcoming-events/

What: Pacific Dance Festival 2019, Aloalii Tapu & Friends, Leeches
Where: ASB Waterfront Theatre