Mitimiti, The Indescribable
By Leah Maclean
When choreographer, Jack Gray, is asked to describe his latest project, Mitimiti, he confesses that is a challenge within itself. “It’s so many things,” he says, “I think for lack of a better word, it is at the end of the day, a meditation about whakapapa – genealogy of people, ideas, spirit, voyages, past, present and future.”
Premiering at the Auckland Tempo Dance Festival at the end of September, Atamira Dance Company’s avant-garde production is the result of five years of research and development. Research which has been conducted both nationally and internationally. Mitimiti is a small coastal community in the Hokianga Harbour; Mitimiti the performance rests somewhere in the dunes, and on the edges of bloodied dreams, calling us to enter a new realm. The bones of yourself, of an ancestor, a whale, a house become fleshed out by multiple design and movement innovations. Mitimiti is the departure point to disrupt, reconfigure, and invoke.
Audiences will view the show in a way which defies the conventions of traditional dance practice. Being performed in the Rangatira theatre with projections designed by Lisa Reihana, audience members are invited to watch from the galleries and, unlike most performances, are given the opportunity to move about during the show.
Other than the unconventional viewing design, when asked what audiences should expect from Mitimiti Jack maintains the better response is, what not to expect. Following his recent and abundant travels to places like Hawaii, Sydney, San Francisco, New York, Toronto and New Mexico, Jack determined that the world is a place filled with people of different conditionings, thus we shouldn’t cast too many judgements or have any preconceived notions about what’s right and what’s wrong. Jack says if he can “make a superb visual experience that moves shocks and uplifts people” that will make him happy. “I can’t guess or assume what they will make of it however.”
A large part of Mitimiti’s creation was inspired by story-telling, honesty, authenticity and giving a voice to those in the community who are not often recognised. Mitimiti aims to encourage people to be real, to feel comfortable with who they are and where they come from. “We are who we are!” Jack remarks. The multi-dimensional work is being performed by the talents of Jasmin Canuel, Te Arahi Easton, Matiu Hamuera, Bianca Hyslop, Gabrielle Thomas and Nancy Wijohn. The Mitimiti endeavour also has a pool of international and national guest collaborators including Frances Ring who is notably one of Australia’s most famous dancers and choreographers. And Francois Richomme from Montpellier, France has specifically come to New Zealand to work with Jack and Atamira to compose an original score for the piece. Interweaving with these talents Jack has expressed his gratitude, “I have loved every single contribution and wouldn’t be here as a result,” he says. “I feel humbled to have these opportunities…. I am very fortunate and count my blessings every day.”
On the note of collaborations and opportunities, Auckland’s Tempo Dance Festival is in its 12th year running with newly appointed Artistic Director Carrie Rae Cunningham at the wheel. The festival has tirelessly and successfully supported New Zealand dance over the years and the decision to line up Mitimiti as the festival opener appears to be the right one. Atamira Dance Company are in their 15th year and are a valuable, proud company unique to New Zealand. More specifically they’re proudly Auckland, it seems only right to have a noteworthy local company opening the reputable festival. Jack recalls, at the recent Tempo Launch event, Carrie Rae’s emotional speech, “for me, that’s the main reason I want to do anything and gift anything of myself, my intellectual property and creative abilities to – people who care.”
You can join Jack Gray and DANZ Auckland Advisor, Dr Marianne Schultz, in a pre-performance talk on 17 September, 6pm at the Auckland City Gallery.
Mitimiti opens TEMPO 30th September-3rd October. You can book your tickets now at Q Theatre.