Filling the Bruce Mason Centre with joy, laughter, and intrigue, Matariki for Tamariki presents the stories and celebrations behind our Matariki Stars. Presented by The New Zealand Dance Company, consisting of some of the top contemporary dancers in the country, whose grace on stage is always stunning and whose technique, flow, and lines admirable, choreographer Sean MacDonald has created a beautiful piece aimed at both educating and entertaining our tamariki. A sophisticated approach, amidst plenty of laughter (from both children and adults) as dancers pop in and out of their comedic roles, at times, the content does feel a little over one’s head.
Entertaining us all before the show, in a series of rhythm, coordination and comedy bits, the entire audience are particularly responsive to the charm and wit of Carl Tolentino. A smart move to get the kids engaged and invested with the performer before jumping into the show. The showcase of the NZDC youth workshop at the beginning was a treat, engrossing us with a piece they had workshopped that week along with the company and faculty. An amazing opportunity for youth to be able to perform alongside such professionals.
Designer Rona Ngahuia Osborne equips the performance in a fun and playful way, with set and props mostly made out of cardboard and coloured with paints, and props given larger than life details. Simple, yet effective. Sound design by Alistair Deverick mixes sounds with dialogued text to help convey the images and story of Matariki, at times the soundtrack fading into the background, allowing the driving force of the dance to take focus.
While the section on Tāwhirimātea (god of the winds), with exaggerated eyes turning into confetti, executed by dancer Eddie Elliott, was clear, the following are less so, feeling under-explored with less depth and clarity. Still engaged by beautiful choreography and dancers, I found myself and the tamariki becoming restless. Perhaps a one-hour show with no interval is a bit much for some. Fortunately, the comedic sections scattered throughout did bring them back, though perhaps some of the teachings of Matariki lost, and while I was had a beautifully designed program, outlining the ides and story in greater detail, the children did not.
An interactive butterfly screen in the foyer had many engaged and joining in, and the tamariki that still had energy could be found dancing around after the show. With plenty of smiles all round, I’d say that makes the show a success. Most contemporary dance is seen as an abstract art form that only a few get, which has a handful of truth, but how often do we get to see professional dancers and dance companies creating works for our young? Take your kids, nieces, nephews, cousins and join in the world of dance and all it can offer. Matariki for Tamariki is a chance for them to get involved in the arts, and there are still three shows left for them to do at the Mangere Arts Centre this weekend.