Dance Review: Kaha
Atamira Dance Company
Q Theatre – Rangatira
October 18th, 2013
Opening with a call bringing people to action, haka Wairanga (Moss Patterson) is successful in animating an hour in which Atamira’s seven dancers blur their own dancing spirits through space and time at a meteoric pace. Artistic Director, Moss Patterson adds an ease and personable intellect in his short introductions to each dance. He talks about embodying identity, the legacy of Maori contemporary dance, strength, empowerment, Stephen Bradshaw and other enlightening information. It adds to the impact of the choreography. OK, he also gives time to change costumes and take some breath, but these dancers have to be some of the most hardworking athletes in today’s terpsichore and they deserve a breather.
Patterson’s two characteristically flowing works Te Paki and Moko fill the space with mellifluously flowing torsos, arms, turns and legs, counterpointed with edgy sharpness, cutting skin deep. He pushes the dancers to the point of exhaustion, seemingly knowing just how far to push them so that they give everything in both the speed of light sections in Moko, and in the quieter, rippling tidal rhythms of Te Paki. A few clunky transitions between sections are forgiven.
Gaby Thomas’s Pou Rakau offers dexterous execution of Maori stick games embellished with extra rolls, turns and shifts of weight. A solo dancer (Jack Gray) drifts through the group, an ancestral presence supporting the pathway to the future. The dancers, in constant flux, shadow play the rakau, interactively collapsing and reforming like iron filings around a magnet.
Indigenarchy (Kelly Nash) investigates issues surrounding indigenous identity, a hot topic. Nash interrogates it with a cleverly conceived procession of stereotypes often revolving around the endlessly inventive use of a colonial icon – a blanket.
The crowd pleaser for the night is Nancy Wijohn’s Paarua. It provides a sharp and playful satire about sport. Sport, as Wijohn conceives of its warlike, strategic and win-at-all costs character, is definitely the winner at the end of the day. Crazy Horses! Crazy whistle blowing referees in full combat! Crazy as… Jack Gray! It should be said, however, that all Atamira’s dancers are thrilling, and especially so in the charming rendition of Poi E Thriller that closes the show. I don’t think that Michael Jackson was Maori but he may have enjoyed this cheeky, te reo rendition.
Kaha is easy on the eye, providing a sense of how, when dancers work with deep cultural understanding, mana, ihi and genuine integrity it can be entirely appealing and accessible to audiences.