Presented by: Atamira Dance Company
Te Whaea: National Dance & Drama Centre, 17th Jun 2021
Reviewed by: Leah Maclean
Sometimes, as a reviewer, you will attend a performance and wonder how on earth you are going to condense what you just saw into 350 words. Atamira Dance Company’s Te Wheke is one such performance.
Celebrating 21 years of creating significant Māori contemporary dance, Te Wheke is both a tasteful homage to Atamira artists gone by and a look into the company’s journey ahead; the fact that this piece was three years in the making does not go unnoticed.
The title of the work refers to the octopus and the eight extraordinary dancers and eight choreographers symbolise the eight tentacles of the sea-dwelling creature. Over the course of the evening each dancer is given the opportunity to perform a representation of each tentacle and no two pieces are the same.
The show opens with a dreamy waltz between Sean McDonald and Emma Cosgrave, where the chemistry is simply breathtaking. It then quickly slips into an evocative frenzy of demonic proportions. Accompanied by a backdrop of archival footage and artistic projection, and a cleverly layered soundscape, Te Wheke proves to be a total sensory trip.
The work weaves together elements of traditional Māori movement and contemporary dance in a way that challenges the dancers and highlights their individual dexterities. Cory-Toalei Roycroft moves as though her body is liquid and her being is on another plane, while Oli Mathiesen shows off his remarkable precision in a solo accompanied by the music of Alien Weaponry. The dancers hold their own in their respective pieces, but their power really comes through in the group sequences where they beautifully synchronise and meld into one essence.
Te Wheke is an excellent exploration of mātauranga Māori and our relationship with the physical and the metaphysical. It delves deeply into the human experience and draws up feelings of unity and identity. There are moments that make you shudder and moments that have you on the edge of your seat. I would see this work again in a heartbeat.