12 August 2019
Tempo Dance Festival is one of our sector’s most treasured cornerstones that strengthens Aotearoa’s love for dance year after year. It is such an honour to be woven into the Tempo legacy as the festival’s new Artistic Director; I acknowledge the lineage of wāhine toa who have held this role in the past, and the spirited accomplishments they have achieved.
The most important job for me in this transitional year has been to find ways of activating new pathways for Tempo in response to our sector’s needs, whilst also retaining Tempo’s whakapapa and upholding the mana of what has been. Early in the year I was lucky to happen upon an insightful Māori whakatauki, which has kept me humble and guided me safely in this pursuit. That whakatauki is, “ko te pae tawhiti whāia kia tata, ko te pae tata whakamaua kia tina - seek out distant horizons and cherish those already attained.”
When I share in kōrero about Tempo, I am most inspired to speak of the cultural intersectionality it has achieved through its simple kaupapa of being a ‘pan-genre’ dance festival. Tempo tells a vivid and authentic story of who the people of Aotearoa are, and showcases the different ways our people use their bodies creatively to express their lived experiences. Dance means so many different things to so many people, and therein lies its shape-shifting magical powers.
As an attempt to programme dance diversity in a gentle and implicit way, as well as breathe life into Tempo’s current focus on wellness, I have drawn inspiration from the Māori health model of Te Whare Tapa Whā. Created by Professor Mason Durie, Te Whare Tapa Whā perceives holistic health as a 4-sided pursuit which we can achieve through equally nurturing and valuing our tinana (physicality), our hinengaro (intellect), our wairua (spirituality), and our whanaungatanga (social connections). Translating this model into a framework for the festival has resulted in a programme that gives equal priority to physically compelling dance, conceptual dance that ignites the intellect, dance that evokes realms of the spirit, and dance that creates openings for community connection and exchange.
Headlining the festival this year is a new wave of young homegrown choreographers who are advancing our artform in unexpected and exceptional ways. Spearheading the genres of street dance, indigenous dance, contemporary dance and Siva Samoa, our headliners are the aspirational pou that hold our festival up with strength. These artists are world-renowned choreographer Parris Goebel (GIRL), Bianca Hyslop and Rowan Pierce (Pōhutu), Zahra Killeen-Chance, Josie Archer and Kosta Bogoievski (Dances With Aldous) and Sau E Siva Creatives (FA’ASINOMAGA|IDENTITY). I mihi to you all for your innovation and creativity, your hard work, and for being the young visionaries our sector needs.
Those who know the festival well may notice changes made to some of the familiar Tempo- curated programmes, in particular, the absence of Y-Chromosome and The Honouring Ceremony. Both of these occasions are loved and celebrated by many; if you are one of those that take delight in these programmes please know that we are simply pressing pause while we work to ensure they each meet our sector’s high standards of cultural and gender equity. Fresh is still in there too! It’s hiding behind the new title BLOOM. We are also thrilled to present the shared programmes Secondary Colours for high school dancers, Tertiary Improvisation Showcase for students studying tertiary-level dance, and Boom Boom Room, our official festival closing party that features over 20 live performers and musicians!
It is a privilege to be activating our festival events this year in venues within the CBD’s treasured theatre precinct, including Q Theatre, Basement Theatre, and Aotea Square. I acknowledge that this is the domain of the ancestor Horotiu and the Waihorotiu stream of Ngāti Whātua ki Orākei, to whom we pay respect for the sacrifices that enable us to celebrate dance in this area. In the years to come we look forward to spreading our wings even further, in the pursuit of bringing life-changing dance experiences to more of our city’s people.
This year is the breakthrough year. Together we will break ground, break moulds, break bread and break space wide open for new voices in dance. There will be kai, there will be dance-floors, and very special moments of transformation for our beloved dance audiences and participants. I look forward to sharing in the cloak of darkness with you, as the house lights go down, and the alchemy begins.
- Cat Ruka