Choreographed by Neil Ieremia
Presented by: Black Grace
Te Rauparaha Arena, 20th May 2019
Reviewed by: Deirdre Tarrant
20 years. 20 centres. $20 tickets. Black Grace is touring with a programme firmly sustaining their high-octane trademark style. This is a series of works danced with passion and projection by the five company dancers: Sarah Baron, Shane Tofaeono, Demi-Jo Manalo, Rodney Tyrell, and Keana Ngaata.
Opening and closing the evening are sections of Method – an earlier work that I recall seeing some years ago – set to the flow and flying music of Bach. Reminiscent of early Douglas Wright and Michael Parmenter, this exhilarating movement vocabulary never fails to excite. There was a real sense of community and Ieremia spoke to open and outline the programme, also leading a Q&A; session at the end. The dance is a series of solos, duets, trios, and full company works. There is an overall sense of searching and looking for personal ‘self’. Some of these sequences are more successful than others and the structure becomes rather repetitive and predictable. For me, the use of songs with emotive lyrics overrides the power of the movement and of the performers to communicate. Mimetic gesture and lip-syncing seem superfluous. That said, there are some memorable moments in the lyrics “please don’t let me be misunderstood” and “dance with my father again”, and the dancers give their all and more.
The choreographic choices incorporate Pasifika, Māori, contemporary, and street vocabulary and put an emphasis on upper body and arm movements, with a strong earthed quality and with phrases weighted into the legs. At the end of the day, it is predictability that embodies much of our time and informs our lives. When this is shattered it can be scary and challenging. I wanted more challenges. It was intriguing that Ieremia, himself a product of his country and especially of Porirua where he grew up, acknowledged only extant European influences for his own creative pathway. It is time to look at our own backyard and stand proud of the influences making today’s wonderful and challenging art.
Bravo Black Grace for all you have done and best wishes as the journey dances onward. Be brave. Kia kaha.