20 October, Napier Muni, HBAF18
By Megan Seawright

Back in 2016 twelve people met, discussed and improvised. This was an exploration of traditional Maori and contemporary dance finding complement expressive structures, and it led to moments of movement devised thoroughly in resonance with the whakapapa of Te Kore. It is powerful terrain to navigate. Te Ao (world) movement ‘prototypes’ evolved through additional qualities of creation such as live music, light, and spatial design. The work was refreshed with four of the six dancers new this year. Pango/Black came back into being.

This is a phenomenal work by choreographer Moss Te Ururangi Patterson, with renowned musicians, Shayne Carter and James Webster profound live responses to the dancers a harmony of contemporary soundscape guitar and traditional Maori instruments. The AV and lighting bringing in the elemental magic. By the end the audience thundered their applause.

Opening in quiet karakia we were enveloped from the start, our location shifted. The most intangible and unseen was brought forth as a physical language emerged to gesture the whakapapa of before form, before time, before light. We travelled through long nights of all – where nothing is everything nor possessed, all is potential and remains unidentified without space nor boundary. “Ko Te Kore, Te Kore-tē -whiwhia, Te Kore-tē-rawea, Te Kore-i-ai, Te Kore-tē-wiwia.”

On the stage the whare stands build by many. Seven-line Pou of black rubber rope. She is beautiful. The call of Taonga Puoro is a drifting mesmerized by a gentle chant and singular circular gestures. We hold the world in our hands and travel quickly.

Sprightly isolated movements flick in the gut from a solitary dancer, the others are pulling at the whare to a straining atmospheric guitar. The dancers reach through emergent: the full infinite and yet none at all. “Nā Te Kore Te Pō, Te Pō-nui, Te Pō-roa, Te Pō-uriuri, Te Pō-kerekere. From the void the night, the long night, the deep night the intense night”. Segmented for now in shafts of descending shadow, with breath an unbound wind.

The dancers continue to mutate movement as many supernatural creatures arise, like those who cock their heads to the left and right forged of many limbs and curvatures. We recognise these creatures’ gestures. They are power, uncomfortably ‘other’ and ancient, long before we had blood and solid bones.

There is no mistaking the writhing physicality of Atamira’s dancers. They are fit, perfected in muscular flexibility and strength. Each turn, fall and rise a grounded and pumped allowance into the mastery of what it means to know ones’ body. The presence of informed masculinity cannot be under-stated and occasionally I tear or cuss under my breath in astonishment when the dancers address each other in a manner I know women cannot. There is no real gender here though. Te Kore requires none and frequently the lush androgyny is solidified, reminding us we are individually whole. I loved this.

There are other narratives that keep the ritual evolving; contemporary haka is primed forth on breath and feet that pound the earth in establishment. The way dancers do it.

“Te Pō- tiwhatiwha, te Pō-tē-kitea, Te Pō-tangotango, Te Pō-whāwhā, Te Pō-namunamu-ki-taiao. The dark night, the night in which nothing is seen, the intensely dark night, the night of feeling.”

The dancer’s skins ricochet and filter across long limbs; let me feel you, your face emanating in tonal blushes of volcanic red, your mouth and tongue superimposed. I know of no other grace – She is projected upon them as folded land. Little patters of separation and stretch. How unknowing are your actions.

The mood turns, and in the air, flute song like high bone bracings heave at our kaitiaki. Pango continues in the desire to separate ‘the two’. It is violent.

The broken parent.

We watch above you,

too late.

Mourn, mourn the dead;

“You promised me.”

Ki te tangi

is for the saddest moment,

the most gentle moment.

The broken brother is carried upon a chant.

The audience was silent.

Io. The ultimate restoration through the potentiality to be. With life force arrives the first physicality, In the breach of Ranginui and Papatuanuku though, nothing is given so easily.  “Te Pō-tahuri-atu, te Pō-tahuri-mai-ki-taiao, Ke te whai ao, Ke te ao mārama. The night of restless turning, the night of turning towards the revealed world, to the glimmer of dawn, to the bright of day.”

So, the dancers move fast through a garrotted wheeze to finish the betrayal and the winds turn to vibration, light and sound as game, and procreation rolls upon the floor in a man’s gesture. The house is pivoted. Te Ao. Frantic, naked and born.

With projected skeletal images over each separated dancer, a heart, nerves, blood and skin grow. An astonishing view. To our core we have felt the earth quake. For we recognise well the story of all of us.  The wholeness disintegrates with white noise guitar, water lighting. We feel the growth of in between – warmth, birds and life. But this is an undoing. The audience is left to watch a kind of warring with oneself, the dancers feeding upon each other until all is broken and vulnerable. The horrid sensation of consequence. “Who am I and what could I be will not be for much longer.”  Then the ambivalent enquiry; “you alright? Ya want some food, something to eat, I am hungry, I want to eat, I want food, feed me I am hungry, feed me!”

The choreography is entirely resolved, there is no doubt to the message.  When the child pushes from their parents they begin the journey of finding their way.

What more is there to say. This mighty performance will linger with us. Pango/Black has awoken us, loved us, separated and torn us, and made us independent. We have coupled in the pairings good and clean, then anguished in the frightening violation of union and arrived into the world of light.

To this we owe our being.

Tihei mauri ora.

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