Waka, choreographed by Neil Ieremia, performed by Black Grace

This work explores "the idea of a raft as a metaphor for hope". It started from The raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault, which inspired The Arrival of the Maoris in New Zealand by Louis J. Steele and Charles F. Goldie. Ieremia says he thought about 'history being written by the victor, never by the people who were slaughtered' and how sometimes that history (as in the Steele and Goldie painting) is misrepresented. Then his mind turned to musing on what would happen if he was one of ten people left on the raft, all the food and water had been lost – would he turn to his companions and start thinking that one of them looked pretty good?

Overall, this piece confirmed that I like watching Ieremia's work when it is interpreted by professional dancers. They are usually more experienced. There is something about the way the work is held and expressed by their bodies that is stronger than that for amateur dancers. It's not necessarily that they are more precise, or more drilled. To my eyes they seem heavier, more connected to the ground. I really liked the way choreographic elements were picked up and repeated throughout the whole piece. In fact, the first two movements seemed to me to be visual representations of the sound of a symphony. Not the music that they were dancing to, but a completely different piece. If musical notation didn't exist, then I think the first couple of movements could be scores for music. (It put me in mind of The RSVP cycles which explores scoring (like music) human endeavour.) The third movement has made it onto my favourite dance pieces list. As well drilled as a marching team, it was repetitive, sharp, with flashes of humour.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the athleticism of the dancers. They work hard for 65 minutes. They are stripped back and strong. Nga mihinui.

Waka, choreographed by Neil Ieremia, performed by Black Grace


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