The Pacific Dance Festival programmed two similar shows, Moana Showcase and Triple Bill, that allowed Pacific Island artists, choreographers, and performers to showcase their works at the Mangere Arts Centre. Moana Showcase presented six separate works, while Triple Bill (the title suggesting three performances) consisted of four separate works and three different video performances. It was a shame that one of the works and the videos performed in Triple Bill weren’t acknowledged in the programme. I wanted to know more about them, who the dancers were, who created them, and any possible themes and ideas behind them. Although they were given a platform to present works, they were not recognised by the festival and trying to find information was difficult. It’s a shame to those who spent time on their craft and presented works that did not get recognition. A festival that showcases cultural works is important, but wouldn’t it be nice to have the same platforms as everyone else?
The video with crafted masked dancer intrigued me. Filmed at night around small cliff rocks, dry white sand, with effective lighting of the surrounding environment. I did not know its reference yet I enjoyed it for what it was.
Some performances shone brightly for their initiative, engagement and artistic beauty, while others fell short of their own written expectations. Stolen Stories performed in Moana Showcase had engaging projections and a beautifully detailed write-up, but the physical follow-through feeling like an afterthought. Distant and un-ironed.
Two different self-discovery pieces, Our Shadows and Resurrect Me, from students in their third year at the New Zealand School of Dance created beautiful shapes with solid technique. While neither’s choreography showed huge variety, the use of motifs connected us to their journeys in a caring way. Our Shadows’ light design was effective with its yellow wash and dark blue downwards lights, though I missed some dialogue at the beginning due to the under music being too loud. Trip performed in Triple Bill felt like watching a video clip. A mostly polished performance, with strong female presence and cleverly edited video projection. However, I didn’t quite grasp what the four dancers were portraying. “Me Vs the World? Or me vs me?” as displayed in their write up suggest ideas of exploration and discovery, but seemed to lack the follow through in finer details.
Fonua from Moana Showcase jumped us into life as the music and lights blared, making me want to join the dancers on stage. Sometimes it's nice to remember that dance can just be fun and vibrant. I enjoyed being in ‘their world’ and watching their energy take over the stage. The dancers from Charged also had immense energy, although, performed in a calmer way, the group of third-year students also from the New Zealand School of Dance displayed their athleticism and grace in an intricately choreographed piece by Cheyanne Teka. Fresh dancers that are definitely going to make a mark on the New Zealand dance scene very soon.
A creative concept delivered from Melville Place performed in Triple Bill, I couldn’t understand the dialogue that was performed towards the end of the piece, so it was handy that I could find the spoken words written in the programme. An air of feral creatures highlighted by an exuberant soundtrack of animal sounds and roars. For me, the dances didn’t seem connected the whole way through and prolonged thoughts didn’t feel explored completely. At times I felt uncomfortable, but I wasn’t aware of why. The first unmentioned piece from Triple Bill reminded me of Queen’s famous Bohemian Rhapsody album cover, with the four dancers creating the powerful iconic image at the beginning and end. I like the musicality of the choreography and movement, great music and lighting choices that enhanced the strength of the work.
The stand out performance over the two nights was definitely Lalo from Moana Showcase. Watching eight beautiful, technical, strong male dancers express the themes of forgiveness from a Samoan perspective was magnificent. Where have these dancers been hiding? Ankaramy Fepuleai created symbolic, dynamic choreography performed with such presence that it commanded the whole theatre. The male dancer with two black straps around his wrists had another level of X-factor. I enjoyed watching him move in and out of the floor and was drawn to his movements no matter where he was on the stage. From start to finish, I was mesmerised by this piece.
A special mention to A’fekfek by Rako. Emily Marie, Iane Tavo, and Samuela Taukave, who were the artists in residence from Fiji, participating in workshops and a part of the Festival showcasing their work. I hope their time here allowed the company to grow, learn, share, and connect with other Pacific cultures and companies. And that this platform within and outside of this festival continues to grow for artists, choreographers, and performers to showcase, create, and explore their works.