‘Meremere’ to tell of ‘turmoil’

New Zealand dancer and performer Rodney Bell will perform his show Meremere  as part of the...
New Zealand dancer and performer Rodney Bell will perform his show Meremere as part of the Dunedin Arts Festival 2021. PHOTO: TOM HOYLE
A story of magical and not so magical moments.

Meremere, an autobiographical performance by critically acclaimed dancer and performer Rodney Bell (Ngati Maniapoto), will tell of the sacrifices he made to pursue dance and the "turmoil" of homelessness.

The show will be performed in Invercargill tomorrow as a part of the Dunedin Arts Festival 2021.

Bell said he began developing Meremere after returning from the United States in 2015, where he had joined AXIS Dance Company as principal dancer in 2007.

But after finishing with AXIS in 2012, he faced many challenges, including three years of homelessness on the streets of San Francisco.

It was that life-changing experience that inspired Meremere, Bell said.

"On my return from USA ... after all the turmoil of homelessness and dance in USA, I needed to find new ways of being home again."

When he returned to New Zealand, he was given a block of black maire (a New Zealand native hardwood) by his brother, and began carving a meremere from it for his cousin’s 40th birthday, Bell said.

"After witnessing the sacrifice the wood was going through it started bringing up the great sacrifices I had gone through to pursue dance."

Bell collaborated with Movement of the Human artistic director Malia Johnston and Meremere began to evolve "organically", he said.

"Meremere is about my life, with a strong focus on my dance journey and the magical moments and the not so magical moments."

There was great responsibility in performing a personal story, he said.

"I do feel it is not only my own story, but also representing the team of Movement of the Human ... and also my genealogy, as this is a strong reason to who I am."

Outside of dance, Bell is an advocate of stronger integration and voice for people with diverse requirements and backgrounds through the Enabling Good Lives Leadership Group and Mahi Tika — Equity in Employment.

He hoped documenting his journey would be thought-provoking for his audience, he said.

"I hope that in their silence on return to their abode that they maybe realise how the impact of performance can make the world a better place to live in."

Meremere garnered a string of awards at the 2018 Wellington Theatre Awards, and the production won Bell the 2017 Arts Access Artistic Achievement Award and the 2016 Attitude Artistic Achievement Award.

Bell has performed the work across New Zealand, as well as in Singapore and on the Gold Coast, and last year was acknowledged with the inaugural Te Waka Toi Te Tohu Iho Pumanawa award for contribution by a Maori artist with the lived experience of disability.


 - Meremere is showing at the Invercargill Repertory House at 7pm tomorrow.

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