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SIVA Niu Sila - Katerina Fatupaito, Jahra Rager, Tupua Tigafua & Nikki Upoko
13 October 2016, Q Theatre, Auckland
TEMPO Dance Festival

Reviewed by Jenny Stevenson



In order to present a snapshot of current practice in Pacific contemporary dance, Tempo Dance Festival has curated four works from the recent Pacific Dance Festival at Mangere Arts Centre to create the programme of SIVA Niu Sila. The programme pulls no punches and veers between the polarities of dark and brooding content through to a lighter, less political expression of cultural identity.

Samoan choreographer, Katerina Fatupaito, assembles a strong cast to investigate a family legend of cannibalism that was passed down to her from her mother, in her work Burnt Skin. Performed to a live soundscape and the drumming accompaniment of Pene Junior Ueta, Siaosi Prince Tele’a and Fatupaito herself, the work is mostly danced by a trio: including a stand-out performance by Riki Nofo’akifolau and powerful dancing from Antonio Malachi and Metusela Toso.

The sprinkling of flour to demarcate the stage area and the use of lanterns to search through the gloom of the low level lighting-design, immediately sets the scene for Fatupaito’s reading of the legend which entails intensely physical altercations between the three dancers. Although no resolution is apparent, with the performers returning to their starting position by the conclusion of the work, the choreography is captivating and intense, with risk-taking moves that fully test the mettle of the dancers - who are not found wanting.

Jahra Rager Wasasala’s solo work bloo/d/runk, is a complex ritual which examines “the relationship between the earth and the female form”, through poetic text and a jerking, spasmodic movement vocabulary. Although Wasasala herself is Fijian, the choreography seems to be addressing pan-Pacific issues. Encircled by a group of onlooker/witnesses comprising the dancers of VOU Dance Company, Wasasala dressed in a dishevelled evening gown manipulates a kava bowl, dripping the kava to the ground as though shedding tears for the dispossessed and the “murdered indigenous women” that are referred to in the programme. Her anger at the “androcentrism in the Pacific/NZ” is palpable and unrelenting, with no amelioration possible, as the scenario is enacted. Wasasala’s stage presence is utterly compelling but the work could benefit from some judicious editing.

Tupua Tigafua who is Samoan, brings a lightness of being to his work for four dancers entitled Plan B. Featuring excerpts from three of his choreographies: Shel We, Simisimi and The Sky Burnt Black, Tigafua creates a delightful and meandering pastiche, utilising his own unique blend of mime and contemporary dance that never fails to appeal.  Danced by Eddie Elliot, Adam Naughton, Zildjian Robinson and Tigafua himself, the four perform in perfect sync, loose-limbed and weightless, while entering whole-heartedly into the fun inherent in the work.

Cook-Island choreographer Nikki Upoko creates a gentle movement design in her work The Call, which she performs in a duet with Natalie Toevai. Wearing spectacular feather hip hei skirts, which accentuate the undulation of the hips the two perform with elegance, taking turns to dance solo, while showcasing their unique abilities. Described in the programme as a journey of self-discovery, there is some hint of growth as the dance progresses, but it does not appear to be a major transformative experience.

SIVA Niu Sila Review

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