Seen: Mitimiti


Choreographer: Jack Gray


“This work dances the genealogy of universal mana…embedded within the choreography are deep medicines of indigenous knowledge…”


Mitimiti is Atamira Dance Company’s latest full-length work, generated through workshopping processes over a five-year period. The work feels collaborative and inclusive in nature – often the result of the impact of the dancers and other artists giving their ideas to a piece. Mitimiti’s programme acknowledges: six dancers, seven guest performers, three guest collaborators and sixteen assorted designers, not to mention photographers, videographers, stylists, managers and artistic staff. Choreographer and Artistic Director Jack Gray has wrangled all of these many facets of the work into one, cohesive performance.


The work is presented in the round, ensuring that performer/audience boundaries are challenged from the moment you enter the theatre. The work begins with the dancers and student ‘ushers’ talking quietly and drawing/writing with chalk on the floor. What appears to be an introductory monologue by one of the performers is essentially inaudible, and goes unnoticed by many of the patrons, who are mostly concerned with finding a place to sit or stand, while balancing their handbag, drink and programme.


After around twenty minutes of this opening section, atmospheric lighting changes and loud abstract sound indicate the next part of the work. Suspended fabric, visual projection and well-considered lighting created an effective sense of drama.


Choreographically, Mitimiti relies on a combination of improvisation and fluid solo moments. The dancers look strong, connected and dynamic. Nancy Wijohn is an athletic marvel onstage, buzzy with muscular tension and power. Te Arahi Easton performs a well-sustained haka solo, and has a clear physical stage presence. The highlights of the work are the segments of unison, especially the quartet of women dancing in the centre of a stage centimetres deep in water. The percussive nature of water beautifully compliments the sweeping and grounded choreography of this section of the performance.


Tairoa Royal appears as a guest perfomer in Mitimiti, and is always a treat to watch. I particularly enjoyed the proximity of the dancers to the audience here, where his technique, clarity and connection with the floor were so evident. Appearing in the skimpiest hi-vis possible, Royal introduced a lightened mood as he mopped the stage with an industrial-looking floor mop. This introduced a fabulous and rousing haka; taiaha replaced with mops and bath towels aplenty. Mitimiti carried a strong indigenous flavour, yet at the same time was distictly Kiwi.


Note: The performance ran to just under two hours with a finale dance sequence and opening night speeches. Potential audience members should be aware that there are no seats or cushions for this show, and it’s a long time to sit on a wooden floor.


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