A contemporary performance that stretches across multiple genres, Awa was created through a collaboration between Atamira Dance Company, the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra, the Auckland Chinese Philharmonic choir, guests dance artists from China, as well as Te Kura Kaupapa o te Kotuku’s children’s choir.
At its core is a personal story. The memories of Moss Paterson, choreographer and artistic director of Atamira, take us to a world where Te Uru Rangi travels from Tongariro to northern China.
It is a story of venture, loss, honouring our kaitiaki and coming home. In 75 minutes, the production weaves together a range of stunning visuals, vocals, instrumental music and contemporary dance, to create a multi-disciplinary narrative that lingers long after the show is over.
An enormous large-scale project, the sheer scope only allowed for a single performance but it was a memorable one. The Auckland Chinese Philharmonic choir and the APO’s 15 strong string ensemble captivated in their own right, but added to this the music from Min Gao’s traditional Chinese Pipa, Riki Bennet’s Taonga Puoro and the youthful voices of the children’s choir – and we were witnesses to an extraordinary bilingual aural landscape.
However, the choreography by Patterson and guests, Su Ka And Yu Fen Wang, often felt like it accompanies the music instead of the other way around. In addition, the juxtaposition between two different cultural styles was held in a tenuous balance and the narrative, although compelling, lost some of its impact as the presentation occasionally became loose and unfocused.
The result was that while dancers were strong, more development was needed to create a rich cohesive narrative.
The highlight of the work was Jeremy Fern’s fabulous lighting; his vision created an intimate world within a deeply cavernous space and took us on a journey both wondrous and awe-inspiring.
AWA is a collection of talent and skill showcasing an ambitious, inclusive and inspiring start to cross-disciplinary collaboration – and one that, ultimately, should be applauded for its ability to epitomise manaakitanga and whanaungatanga for its collaborators and its audience.