Atamira Dance Company are leading international creators of contemporary dance and performance. They are based in Aotearoa New Zealand, a remote and wild landscape where indigenous Māori stories are a powerful voice in the arts locally and, increasingly, internationally. The company’s research-based practice keeps them at the forefront of cultural and technical innovation, a process of deep collaboration, and genuine openness to risk-taking and experimentation. Single choreographic dance works are the heartbeat of the company, which have been performed at international arts festivals across the globe. Atamira is here to celebrate and share its Māori culture through the arts, and to grow the arts through cultural innovation. As well as single dance works, the company has created several important large-scale performances in collaboration with other arts organizations.
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Te Wheke brings together Aotearoa’s leading names in contemporary dance including arts Laureate Louise Potiki Bryant, Dolina Wehipeihana, Taane Mete, Kelly Nash, Gabrielle Thomas, Kura Te Ua and Bianca Hyslop. “Atamira wanted to represent the legacy of the many artists who have contributed over the years, and instead of a retrospective collection we are producing something that holds all the hallmarks of what has made our mahi so integral to the dance landscape of Aotearoa over the last 21 years" says founding member and Artistic Director, Jack Gray. These eight choreographic practitioners, with a cast of eight dancers including the renowned Sean MacDonald, explore the dimensions of human experience symbolized by the eight tentacles of the Te Wheke— the Octopus, a powerful guardian on this journey from past into future. Solo and ensemble expressions of darkness and light occur within a sleek shape shifting world of floating black silk designed by one of Aoteroa’s leading performance designers John Verryt. Layers of symbolism emanate through the patterns of Louise Potiki Bryant’s accomplished video design, mesmeric soundscapes from Paddy Free of Pitch Black fame and the subtle shimmering garments from the MARAMA label. Reflective lighting by the skilled Vanda Karolczak enhances all - both revealing and hiding. “Twenty one years ago, when Atamira Dance Collective was founded there was no Māori TV or radio,” says Gray. “As young urban Māori we wanted to see ourselves. Dance has always been the platform by which we can transpose timeframes and look at things from our tīpuna. Young Māori in 2021 feel empowered and global. So with this work we embody the symbolic bones of the past as we gesture towards future potential.” Te Wheke is a powerful tohu for many Oceanic peoples, appearing in different mythologies. This guardian of the seas has many strengths and abilities. “When the name ‘Te Wheke came to us we discovered the late Rangimarie Rose Pere’s model of hauora which aligned a Mātauranga Maori dimension of health and wellbeing to each of the eight tentacles. We chose to honor her model in our choreographic structure”, says Executive Director Marama Lloydd Te Whānau Atamira have come out in force to mark this momentous occasion and to honour the legacy of this incredible company’s colossal contribution to Māori contemporary dance. Titiro ki muri, haere whakamua Look back, move forward.