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Taiaroa Royal, Okareka's co-artistic director, draws inspiration directly from his ancestral heritage for the company's new production, Mana Wahine - Journey of Strength.
This new work is not a re-telling of Royal's ancestor, Te Aokapurangi; instead it is a study of the might and power of the female spirit and psyche, with her as a source of that strength.
Mana Wahine is a collaborative work, choreographed by its two artistic directors, Royal and Taane Mete, and the woman behind the World of Wearable Art, Malia Johnson. An all-female cast and a team that is almost exclusively female are yet more ways this production imparts the presence and significance of female ''mana''.
The five dynamic and remarkable dancers - Nancy Wijohn, Maria Munkowits, Bianca Hyslop, Jane Castillo and Chrissy Kokiri - create a work that from start to finish mesmerises and haunts the audience.
They display physical and emotional strength, while retaining vulnerability and femininity. The dancing is without doubt phenomenal, but the beauty and physicality of the work is amplified by the faultless and innovative integration of the lighting and sound.
The use of shadow and its subtleness is shiver-inducing, and combines with the nude costuming and neutral stage design. The use of props is inspired. Ketes, crinolines coupled with backwards suit-tails and harakeke mats reference both Maori and Pakeha cultures.
Wijohn is an absolute powerhouse, both rhythmically and physically. She leads the work, but never overshadows the other dancers. Munkowits' fluidity is what retained the femininity and delicacy of Mana Wahine.
This new work from the company is rich and vibrant. It does not rely on one individual dancer, it really is a piece that unites all in its celebration of feminine power. It is truly memorable and inspired.
Mana Wahine - A Journey of Strength Okareka Dance Company
Friday, July 11
- Penny Nelson