Chore­og­ra­pher Moss Pat­ter­son brings the cul­tural his­tory of Manukau alive in a mul­ti­me­dia work.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - By SARAH CATHERALL

Chore­og­ra­pher Moss

Pat­ter­son brings the cul­tural his­tory of Manukau alive.

When Moss Pat­ter­son left his role as artis­tic direc­tor of Atamira Dance Com­pany last year, he wanted to head in a new di­rec­tion – cre­at­ing per­for­mances that were about more than just dance.

To do that, he founded his own com­pany, Tohu. This year’s Tempo Dance Fes­ti­val will de­but Tohu’s One: The Earth Rises, a mul­ti­cul­tural piece, fus­ing tai chi, Poly­ne­sian dance and Māori kapa haka, as a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the whaka­papa of Auck­land’s Manukau re­gion.

Pat­ter­son (Ngāti Tūwhare­toa) has in­cor­po­rated live mu­sic and art into the piece.

“I love chore­og­ra­phy, but I’m not in­ter­ested in straight-out dance pieces. I’ve been a chore­og­ra­pher for more than 15 years, so I’m look­ing to cre­at­ing holis­tic art spa­ces where we have art ex­pe­ri­ences. That’s ex­cit­ing and where art is go­ing.’’

One tells of a sa­cred taonga un­earthed in a Chi­nese mar­ket gar­den. In­stilled with mag­i­cal pow­ers, the man­aia trav­els across time and the Manukau re­gion, where Pat­ter­son lived and worked while head of per­form­ing arts at Te Wā­nanga o Aotearoa. “Manukau is the best place to de­velop a dance piece that de­scribes not only the whaka­papa of Manukau but the di­ver­sity of Aotearoa.”

In One, works by Māori sand artist Mar­cus Win­ter and a Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­pher will be pro­jected on stage as they are cre­ated. The elec­tronic sound­track, by Pitch Black’s Paddy Free, will play along­side tra­di­tional Māori mu­sic and the voices of 12 mem­bers of the Auck­land Chi­nese Phil­har­monic Choir.

While other New Zea­land dance com­pa­nies of­ten tour the United States and Europe, Pat­ter­son has long looked to Asia, where his works have toured three times in the past four years and he has forged strong artis­tic re­la­tion­ships. Not long back from per­form­ing a piece in Seoul, he is de­vel­op­ing a new work, which will pre­miere in Taipei in No­vem­ber with Tai­wanese chore­og­ra­pher Bu­lareyaung Pa­garlava.

China has fig­ured in Pat­ter­son’s life in an­other way. He grew up in Tu­rangi, where his en­gi­neer fa­ther, Dale, worked on the Tokaanu power sta­tion, then Cen­tral Otago when he trans­ferred to the Clyde Dam. Pat­ter­son’s fa­ther died of a heart at­tack while work­ing in China on the Yel­low River dam pro­ject. Pat­ter­son’s Atamira work of last year, Awa: When Two Rivers Col­lide, was in­spired by his fa­ther’s death, about a lost spirit try­ing to re­turn to Aotearoa from China.

On his lat­est Asian ex­cur­sion, dancers per­formed his Mārama/Moon, in­spired by the Māori lu­nar cal­en­dar. His dancer daugh­ters, Ana­hera, 14, and Maia, 12 opened the show in Seoul. “We try to make it a whā­nau ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ he says.

There are young­sters in One, too. Pro­fes­sional dancers will per­form along­side emerg­ing dancers from lo­cal high schools and ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions. The tu­akana and teina kau­papa phi­los­o­phy – older learn­ers and younger learn­ers to­gether – is part of Pat­ter­son’s life: he spends about half of his time work­ing with pro­fes­sion­als and the rest men­tor­ing young dancers work­ing on com­mu­nity dance projects. “Peo­ple from the com­mu­nity who have had lit­tle to no ex­pe­ri­ence on stage can have the most pro­found ef­fect on au­di­ences. It’s very up­lift­ing work­ing with un­trained but cre­ative peo­ple. It’s like soul food.’’

Pat­ter­son was re­cently com­mis­sioned to pro­duce a work – an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of te reo Māori – for the Royal New Zea­land Bal­let. “That’s what re­ally fires me up, be­ing able to work on some­thing that has an­cient roots but at the same time is fresh and new.”

One: The Earth Rises, Voda­fone Events Cen­tre, Manukau, Oc­to­ber 3. Atamira is tour­ing Pat­ter­son’s Pango/Black, Napier Mu­nic­i­pal The­atre, Oc­to­ber 20; War Me­mo­rial The­atre, Gis­borne, Oc­to­ber 24; Bay­court, Tau­ranga,

Oc­to­ber 26; Gal­lagher Academy, Hamil­ton, Oc­to­ber 30; TSB The­atre, New Ply­mouth, No­vem­ber 1; Fo­rum North, Whangarei, No­vem­ber 7; Q The­atre, Auck­land, No­vem­ber 16 & 17.

Ex­pe­ri­enced dancers men­tor young­stersin works by Moss Pat­ter­son (be­low).

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