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Read: Meremere and the power of the human spirit

Meremere is a performance piece by dancer and choreographer Rodney Bell that is a pastiche memories and stories from his life. A mix of live performance, spoken narrative, visual imagery, and live music interplay to create a remarkable sense of this man’s life.  

If you don’t know who he is, Bell is Māori (Ngāti Maniapoto), and at a young age was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him paralysed below the chest. What is remarkable is that this disability enabled him to flourish as an artist and he became famous for creating physically integrated dance which combines people with and without physical disabilities. 

Using just a microphone, Bell narrates bit of his life – we learn that over a decade ago he moved to America and joined the AXIS Dance company. He shares stories and even footage of those days. The most compelling aspects though came after he left AXIS and spent some time homeless in San Francisco. 

His simple narrative about the challenges in his own life and in many of the people he has encountered are not over dramatised. They are spoken of in a simple, understated manner that makes them devastatingly powerful. 

While his achievements, his story and his tenacity shine clearly in Meremere, what makes this show so touching is Bell’s charm and personality. He is a beguiling showman and performer but there is also a deep humbleness and possibly shyness that underpins his performance. He has a sense of humour which at times is self-deprecating.

Part way through the show, Bell was joined on stage by a fellow dancer and the two of them re-enacted one of his pieces.The two of them, one fully able, the other in a wheelchair, moved in harmony. It was electrifying and remarkably touching.

Meremere is a series of curious snapshots from Rodney Bell’s remarkable life, but I wanted to know more. There were many questions unanswered by the show, and I hope, one day, perhaps in a future iteration of this work, he will provide the answers.  

MEREMERE

10 April  | AUCKLAND | Q Theatre

Book now from Q Theatre 

14 April | BANNOCKBURN | Bannockburn Hall 

Book now from Festival of Colour

18 April | FESTIVAL OF COLOUR | Lake Wanaka Centre 

Book now from Festival of Colour 

20 April | INVERCARGILL | Repertory House 

Book now from Eventfinda 

8 May | NEW PLYMOUTH | TSB Showplace

Book now from Ticketek

11 May | TAURANGA | Baycourt Community and Arts Centre 

On sale from Ticketek 

13 May | HAMILTON | Meteor Theatre 

Book now from Meteor Theatre 

15 May | WHANGĀREI | Forum North 

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