A young dance company that, despite its vast distance from most international dance meccas, managed to gain world fame in no time. That is the New Zealand Dance Company. Founded in 2012, the group has performed twice before at the Holland Dance Festival with blazing success. In the 2020/2021 season, we were going to bring them here again for a tour of the Dutch theaters, but corona thwarted that plan. We are delighted that now, more than three years later, the group is returning to the Netherlands.
By now, there is a new artistic director, Moss Patterson, but the company's unique identity remains unchanged: it shows contemporary dance by both established and up-and-coming New Zealand creators, but at the same time, the culture of their ancestors, the Maoris, is palpable in every fiber. The program with which the group visits our country, WHENUA, promises to be a surprising diptych, consisting of a new creation by Malia Johnston and Rodney Bell and the critically acclaimed 2022-piece Uku - Behind the Canvas by Eddie Elliott.
The deep connection to our environment, our bodies and our ancestors
Choreographer Malia Johnston and indigenous dancer and performer Rodney Bell are two of New Zealand's most highly regarded dance artists. Bell, deeply rooted in Maori culture in his artistic expression, still constantly seeks innovative ways to infuse freshness into the creative process. Johnston has created numerous works for both New Zealand and international dance companies over the past 20 years and was honored in 2013 with a Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellowship. She is known for her innovative, investigative approach, resulting in choreographies that ignite the imagination, stimulate the senses, and create powerful experiences you won't soon forget. In Imprint she and Bell explore the deep connection we have with our environment, our bodies, and our ancestors, making use of movement, music, projection, and digital design.
The first woman, crafted of clay
Eddie Elliott's Uku - Behind the Canvas deals with the power of vulnerability on the one hand and struggle on the other. For this poignant ‘power piece’, created in collaboration with visual artist Andy Denzler, the Maori choreographer drew on his own experiences, highlighting the complexity of his personal - but also universal - view of the condition humaine. In his choreographies, Elliott mixes contemporary dance and hip-hop with elements of Maori pūrākau (storytelling) and kapa haka (traditional Maori dance). For Uku - Behind the Canvas, he was inspired by the mythological Maori story of Hineahuone, the first woman, who was crafted of clay by Tāne-Mahuta. According to Maori culture, clay has a cleansing effect and symbolizes where we came from and to which we will return: the earth. Therefore, during the performance, the dancers smear themselves with wet clay, which not only gives extra meaning and friction to their movements but also creates a unique ‘painted canvas’ with each new performance.