Wednesday, October 3, 2012

[pima.nius] A Preview of Pukepuke o Tonga

4:01 PM |

Pukepuke o Tonga

A Preview of Pukepuke 'o Tonga
By Aaron Taouma on behalf of Pacific Dance New Zealand

Reprint from DANZ Quarterly Issue 29

Pukepuke 'o Tonga is the new work by Tongan choreographer Sesilia Pusiaki Tatuila and will show for one night only during this year's Tempo Dance Festival (Loft, Qtheatre, Saturday 20th October, 6pm).

Inspired by an ancient suite of dances from Tonga, Pukepuke 'o Tonga (To Uphold Tonga) seeks to preserve these dances within a contemporary context. Harking back to the time of Momo, the 10th Tu'i Tonga (King of Tonga) circa 1200AD, the dances – Otuhaka, Faha'ilua and the Me'etupaki – have been practiced and kept within one village in Tonga for generations, Lapaha. In particular these dances have been preserved by Sesilia's family and their performing group - the Lomipeau.

Through Pukepuke 'o Tonga, Sesilia and the Lomipeau hope to present these dances as they've never been seen before – both in a theatrical stage setting and with contemporary dance elements.

For the uninitiated it may be difficult to spot what is traditional and what is contemporary though, as the dance work is presented within a Tongan heritage dance framework and it is mostly in the positioning, formation and transitioning between movements and the dances that the piece is contemporised. But it's not only the dance which will be on display.

Tongan and Pacific dances in general are not distinct from the music, poetry and song they accompany. Pacific dance is entwined with the aural means by which they tell their meaning. Pukepuke 'o Tonga, with 20 dancers accompanied by 12 singers and musicians, is not only a spectacle of dance but of the intertwining of dance with music and song of times long ago.

Sesilia says of the work, "I want to mix it up with traditional and a bit of contemporary. But, it's more about the journey of young Tongan youth living in Auckland today and their journey trying to hold on to their Tonganhood through music and dance."

What she means here is that it's not purely just about entertainment or the preservation of these forms. It is the sharing of a process, a process in which the youth members of her group, some of whom have never been to Tonga, have keyed into this ancient heritage and have found something of themselves. Sesilia explains quoting a line from the novel come play by award winning Samoan writer Sia Figiel - 'Where We Once Belonged',

"I as we always," she says with a smile. "Even though we're individuals living our modern lifestyles, we still belong to a wider group whether it's family, school groups or community. The process we've gone through is to let these kids find that, as well as preserving the music and song it's also about letting them understand these dances and how they fit in with life today."

Sesilia hopes too that the audience will not be distinct from the performance. She goes further, "I want the audience to feel like they are a part of a village where everyone comes together feeling the spirit of the songs and just enjoying the atmosphere."

This was seen in the development of this dance work during Sesilia's presentation of a work (Hau 'o Momo) made during her stint at the Pacific Dance Artist in Residence (run by Pacific Dance New Zealand) in Auckland this year. The singers and musicians sat as part of the audience and during the performance members of the audience spontaneously joined in. That atmosphere is what Sesilia hopes will again be reflected and felt in Pukepuke 'o Tonga.

Pukepuke'o Tonga is the first work of its type to be included in the Tempo Dance Festival and as such will be a first not to be missed. As Sesilia says, "It's more about finding and sharing the spirit of Tonga, empowerment and sharing of knowledge."

In this Sesilia believes the Tongan community, like many small distinct communities in New Zealand have a lot to offer in the arts and here Pukepuke 'o Tonga becomes more than just the re-performing of handed down lineages, it becomes the shared experience of a part of a modern Auckland community and what she hopes will be the creation and spawning of something entirely new.

You can see Pukepuke o Tonga during the Tempo Dance Festival on October 20th, 6pm at Q-Theatre, the Loft. Book at Ticketek or Q Theatre. The show duration is 60 minutes and tickets are $15 - $25.

For media inquiries email - or call 09 376 00 60. You can also call Sesilia directly on 021 0253 9544.

pacific islands media association
aotearoa, new zealand
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