Important dance work The Armed Man is being performed in Napier this month at the Tabard Theatre in two performances on May 9.

The show is visiting Napier as part of a tour of central New Zealand theatres.

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I, the Crows Feet Dance Collective is presenting a full-length 70 minute dance work, performed to the choral work The Armed Man, a stirring and poignant "mass for peace" by Welsh composer, Karl Jenkins.

The Crows Feet Dance Collective is made up of 30-plus female dancers from the Kapiti Coast and Wellington.


Also included in the cast is a group of seven young male Maori students from Whitireia Polytechnic's performing arts programme who dance in the sections of The Armed Man that depict men at war.

In preparation for this project the Crows Feet dancers researched their own family stories about World War I, and some of these form a narrative thread throughout The Armed Man.

It is a very personal work for the dancers and for the director and choreographer, Jan Bolwell.

"Because we are a female dance company we focussed on the impact of war on families, on women and children who coped with separation and a huge sense of loss that impacted on subsequent generations," she said.

"Many of us in Crows Feet had grandfathers and great-uncles who fought in World War I."

First performed in 2000 in England, The Armed Man choral work has had hundreds of performances all over the world. Using the structure of the Catholic Mass, it explores the agonies of war, the sacrifices made and the different viewpoints of other religions.

In a recent review, Ralph McAllister writes: "Musically this is sublime material which pierces the heart whenever it is heard and it takes some guts, bravery or whatever to present the whole work in dance form."

"Bolwell knows that as so often in theatre, less is more, and her dancers respond to each of the tasks she has designed for them. That the age of these dancers ranges from 35 to early 70s is of no consequence in our appreciation of this, surely the collective's best work to date."


While she is in Hawke's Bay, Ms Bolwell will conduct an adult dance workshop on the Sunday morning at 10.30 at the Clive Community Hall.

•The Armed Man - a Crow's Feet dance collective performance
May 9 at the Tabard Theatre, Napier

•Tickets from Ticket Direct or the Tabard Theatre, Napier for performances at 3pm and 7pm on Saturday May 9.