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Dance Review: Tolu

One of the many wonderful things about Auckland Tamaki Makaurau is the incredible diversity of its people which creates one the one hand strong and distinct cultural identities and yet on the other an exciting fusion of ideas and culture. 

If you are skeptical of my claim, then I’d suggest seeing Pacific Dance NZ’s production Tolu which I think proves my point.

Directed by Iosefa Enari, this beautifully constructed piece of music and dance theatre brings together traditional Pacific dance with live instrumental music and gorgeous singing, and even a touch of cirque. 

Having seen many contemporary dance companies over the years such as Black Grace, Okaraka, and Atamira I was expecting something esoteric, boisterous, and certainly avante garde.

With Tolu however, the dance was more traditional and gentle. Three graceful dancers created a series of pieces that were evocative, playful, and at times ethereal. 

Yet rather than be on stage all the time, their set pieces were interspersed between musical numbers by the NZTrio and guest musicians and singers Niulala Helu, Helen Pahulu and Alan Mofufoua. 

The instruments were a piano, violin, cello, guitar, and percussion, so the sound was orchestral but the musical styles ranged from classical through to jazz. It was perfectly orchestrated and when combined with the intermittent dance elements, the effect was extraordinary. 

In many ways I found this a curious piece with its mixture of styles but its intention was to show how outside influences are impacting on Pacific peoples in this modern age. In a city as cosmopolitan as Auckland, I believe they succeeded. 

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