Stories through a te ao Ma¯ ori lens
Dance company brings unique show to Taranaki
Afull-length dance work, collectively created by some of the leading navigators of Ma¯ori contemporary dance, is coming to New Plymouth next week for one night only.
Atamira, an Auckland based Ma¯ori contemporary dance company, is bringing Te Wheke, which first premiered in 2021, to the TSB Showplace Theatre on Friday, August 26.
Eight dancers and eight choreographic practitioners have worked together to create this dance work, which will take the audience on a journey of self-discovery, viewed through a te ao Ma¯ori lens.
Using the symbolism of te wheke, the octopus, as kaitiaki, the work draws on the whakapapa of the company, says Sean MacDonald, one of the choreographic practitioners involved in the piece.
“There are eight solos, each corresponding to one of the eight tentacles of te wheke, each piece bringing something different to the stage, but combining to tell the story together.”
The solos represent the eight tentacles of Te Wheke — Mauri, Wha¯nau, Wairua,
Whatumanawa, Hinengaro, Mana Ake, Tupuna, Tinana, says Sean, representing different aspects of the human condition.
Marama Lloydd, executive director of Atamira, says the performance stems from the concept of te wheke as it is used to define family health.
“Te Wheke came to us when we discovered the late Rangimarie Rose Pere’s model of hauora which aligned a Ma¯tauranga Ma¯ori dimension of health and wellbeing to each of the eight tentacles. We chose to honour her model in our choreographic structure.”
Sean says New Zealand dance is unique, and brings a different energy and style to choreography than seen elsewhere in the world.
“We are really physical growing up, we have such space, so we aren’t crammed into a studio in New York with 30 of us in a small space. As children, we run and play in big open spaces, and that translates to a really physical style of movement and a sense of freedom perhaps.”
New Zealanders grow up surrounded by water, he says, and te wheke is a powerful tohu for many Oceanic peoples.
“The beauty of dance is that while we are telling our local stories, looking through our own lens, stories themselves are universal, dance is a universal language so whether you know the meaning behind a piece or not, you’ll find something in it to connect with.”