Review: Nga Hau e Wha

Nga Hau e Wha
Kings and Queens Performing Arts Centre
October 9, 2012

Occasionally there are dance performances so captivating, you forget to breathe.

Last night's well-attended Nga Hau e Wha was one.

From its powerful dark opening of struggle and beginnings to its quietly spectacular end, it was spellbinding contemporary dance.

Okareka dance founders Taane Mete and Taiaroa Royal can be proud of their company for achieving their aim to tell bold, spiritual New Zealand stories in style.

The two veteran dancers have lost none of their control and expression, while their younger companions provide explosive extensions and athleticism.

Evocative soundscapes from composer Eden Mulholland lead us through the four acts, featuring wind, water, earth, and fire.

They draw on Maori legends for inspiration, but are strong enough to stand alone.

The use of light and shadow is artful, especially in the water sequences, and costuming fits the flow of the works.

Despite the seriousness of the subjects, there are touches of humour, although the reference to Rotorua on a bad day was schoolboy stuff.

The associated fart dance probably outdid its impact before it segued to more conventional and impressive action.

The third act gave us moments of great beauty and peace, although with an underlying tension, and some memorable tableaux.

Ensemble work was exquisite, and the brief duets exciting and innovative.

Much of Nga Hau e Wha is floor work, intimate and complex, at times literally wrestling with the ideas being expressed.

From its twitching, jerking to life in the first act to its unifying and satisfying end, there was no doubt that choreographers Mete, Royal, and Ross McCormack and their dancers have created something special.

Two questions remain: what took you so long to get down to Dunedin, and when are you coming back?

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