Choreographed by Louise Potiki Bryant
Presented by: Atamira Dance Company
Te Papa Soundings Theatre, 19th July 2019
Reviewed by: Leah Maclean
Atamira Dance Company are an Auckland based dance company whose foundations are built on creating and presenting unique Māori dance theatre experiences. Their latest work, Onepū, is an homage to the six atua wāhine (female deities) who control and release the winds of the world. The all-female work is choreographed by cross-discipline artist Louise Potiki Bryant and performed by Jessica Johns, Imogen Tapara, Rosie Tapsell, Ariana Tikao, Presley Ziogas, and Bryant herself.
Onepū is set in an otherworldly plain which is enhanced by Bryant's innovative video design and an ethereal music composition by Paddy Free and Ariana Tikao. The work is steeped in ritual symbolism, with each dancer representing different powers of the wind, and a circle of black sand signifying the bank in which the atua wāhine stand to impart their forces across the world.
Onepū is a slow burn with unadorned choreographic sequences, executed passionately by the dancers. Johns, Tapara, Tapsell, and Ziogas perform dynamic solos as their respective deities under the watch of the matriarchal figures portrayed by Bryant and Tikao. It is largely the audio-visual component that bolsters the show, which is somewhat disappointing for a dance work. The dappled video projection effectively caresses the dancers' bodies as they shift and contract across the stage, and the haunting soundscape enriches the mythology and fluid movements of the atua wāhine.
The costumes, neutral coloured dresses swathed in strips of fabric, are designed by Rona Ngahuia Osborne and create beautiful, hypnotic silhouettes as the dancers leap and twirl fervently. The lighting is shadowy and dark, which works with the dreamlike ambiance but does make it challenging for audiences to really catch every moment on stage.
The work concludes with each wāhine picking up the sand and letting it fall through her fingers like the sands of time; a poignant moment that seems grounded on a powerful connection to the earth and to the spirit. Onepū is culturally and artistically rich, but it fails to affect choreographic awe.