Pango/Black - Atamira Dance Company
10 December, The Opera House, Wellington
Reviewed by Leah Maclean
Having not performed in Wellington for over a decade, the opportunity to see Atamira Dance Company in the Opera House was a rare treat. In conjunction with the Toi Māori Arts Market, the one night only New Zealand premiere of Pango/Black was one to remember.
Driven by a desire to explore the idea of pre-existence, Artistic Director Moss Patterson used themes of creation and nothingness (Te Kore) for the basis of his new work. Performed by six stripped to the waist men, Pango/Black certainly lives up to its dark title.
The stage was alight with dancers, Andrew Miller, Arahi Easton, Eddie Elliot, Emmanuel Reynaud, Luke Hanna and Roymata Holmes, with absorbing live music by Shayne Carter on electric guitar and taonga puoro by master player James Webster. Also on the stage is a thick white mist, curling around the dancers lithe bodies in the most atmospheric way and creating striking, almost surreal silhouettes. Though achieving that idea of ‘nothingness’ well, at times the mist is so thick it is near impossible to see, particularly with certain phases of the lighting.
The lighting, though harsh and confronting, is something to be applauded. Jonny Cross’ design gives the performance an extra layer and platform for telling the story. The ‘searchlight’ motif reminds the audience that they are present and witness to some of the dark things happening – cannibalism, madness – it is a spooky and somewhat disturbing reality. However, the highlight comes in the form of Cross’ design partnered with Rowan Pierce’s AV. The audience watches, enamoured, as the dancers stand stock still in perfect position with a series of projections enveloping their forms in a stunning sequence of the building of a human body – bone, blood, muscle and eventually flesh.
Miller, Easton, Elliot, Reynaud, Hanna and Holmes seem to be made for each other in this performance. Their spatial awareness, the way their bodies sculpt, pulsate and move together is almost supernatural. They are a single, concise unit. The dancers launch themselves across the space, slither across the floor and at one point, two of them are thrust and spun around the stage by their hair, reminiscent of shrunken heads. This is a prime example of their control and technique. Te Kore is told through the lens of contemporary and Māori dance. It is amplified by the lighting design, AV, the set and the live music.
Pango/Black can be interpreted in so many ways. An exploration of the ‘void’ and a commentary on the humanity that has grown out of that void, and its future thereafter. Pango/Black is a primal adventure that one must take a moment to think about.