Tama Toa - Pacific Dance Festival 2017
22 June 2017, Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland
Reviewed by Lauren Sanderson
Week two of the Pacific Dance Festival saw the men of the programme leap into action as 'Tama Toa' took to the stage. Consisting of five original works, Mea Tau by Elijah Kennar, S.U.B by The New Zealand School of Dance, Muamua and Keeping the Faith by Joash Fahitua and Fa’aafa by Pati Tyrell.
Kicking off the evening was Mea Tau. Elijah Kennar’s powerful choreography brings a rich masculinity to the stage by using dance to personify weapons. The movement is cheeky yet sharp with elements of soft stillness. The five male dancers, Leighton Rangi, Taitanyk Toniu, Villa Lemanu, Sione Fataua and Elvin Wong remained strong throughout and constantly pushed their bodies to the limit. The composition combines fa'ataupati - a traditional Samoan slap dance, contemporary and hip-hop. Its fast-paced and playful movement highlights the dancer’s strength and endurance. Performing to beats of their own breath, the actions were perfectly synchronised and challenged dance as we know it. Although individually the dancers had impeccable technique it was the group routines that really brought the stage to life.
Just when I thought nothing could top Mea Tau, The New Zealand School of Dance continued to amaze with their performance of S.U.B. Choreographer Victoria Colombus collaborates with third year dancers Toa Paranihi and Connor Masseurs to form the contemporary piece that explores four contrasting genres of dance, which express what the human body is capable of. The dynamic duo bring a blast of energy to their routine, working together to make sure it is slick and precise. Their synchronised movements and haunting facial expressions grabbed the crowd’s attention and certainly left room for thought.
It isn’t a dance festival without a token contemporary piece. Kaya Campi and Leighton Rangi are the male and female duet bringing Joash Fahitua’s Muamua to life. ‘Muamua’ meaning first in Samoan explores the idea of new life and new beginning. The talented duo take us on a journey which merges the old and the new. Rangi demonstrates his strength with a variety of lifts that he performs with fluidity and ease, while Campi adds an element of grace to the piece.
Pati Tyrell uses elements of traditional Samoan dance, music, costume and language alongside a contemporary urban Pacific context in his solo performance Fa’aafa. The piece explores themes of identity, sexuality, culture heritage and family. The stunning work attempts to reject Western gender binaries by exploring gender fluidity and is essentially a response to the way the mainstream media portrays the ‘male brown body’.
Closing the show is Joash Fahitua’s Keeping the Faith, which transports us back to a time when attending church wasn’t an option. Ten dancers take to the stage to enact a church mass, each representing the different personalities, behaviours and backgrounds that you would encounter in that space. The choreography was filled with high-rise lifts, contemporary gestures and simultaneous group routines.
The choreography throughout the entire performance was flawless, highlighting once again the impeccable talent that the Pacific has to offer.