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TE WHEKE review by Anton Carter (Theatreview)

Te Wheke by Atamira Dance Company is a multi-layered feast of juicy hangi seasoned with their own brand of hot sauce. Eight choreographers are aligned with eight dancers, each pair creating a solo, reflecting the eight tentacles of the graceful octopus as seen in Whaea Rose Pere’s Maori health model.

The works reflect the fullness and richness of contemporary Māori life in Aotearoa. This is best showcased through the musical selection that underpins each solo work. From a 1940s waltz to kapa haka through to heavy metal.

Multilayered in terms of the many hands that have gone into the creation of the show but also the layers of meaning behind each work which are grounded in Māori concepts such as Mauri, Wairua, Whatumanawa, Whanaungatanga, Tūpuna and Tinana.

Each solo piece had its own moments of magic, with the individual dancers having their own spotlight to shine. Bringing their personality but also effortlessly carrying the story and kaupapa of the work. There were moments of reflection, sadness, laughter, and joy.

Another strength of the show is the ensemble transitions between each work, done seamlessly and with great care not to dominate but provide intriguing entrances and exits without knowing it was happening.

The lighting and projections beautifully complement the dancing while also making bold statements either with haunting silhouetted figures on hanging drapes or bold swirling colour illuminating the backdrop. The kākahu design is stylish and thematic with dark tones which fit perfectly.

It is a well very balanced show that captures the essence of Atamira as a company and their 21-year history. The eight individual choreographers' journeys come though clearly on the bodies of the dancers. Overall, it is an awesome experience that people need to see, as it asks honest questions of the human spirit and our current society.

Te Wheke leaves you with an uplifted spirit knowing you have seen something special while also looking forward with hope to the next 21 years and the continuing Atamira kaupapa.

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