Review :: Copper Promises: Hinemihi Haka

May 7th 2012


Dimension Crossing, the current season at Performance Space, is a series of performances and installations considering transition and things-in-between. Victoria Hunt’s Copper Promises: Hinemihi Haka delves into Diaspora and the pillaging of culture under colonisation alongside Hunt’s own reconnection with her Maori family (whanau) and a “dancing back” of Hinemihi, who is both a female ancestor and the meetinghouse (marae) which embodies her.

Hinemihi is in pieces. Parts of her are missing. They intermittently turn up at auction houses and in rumours from the black market, and a large part of her lives in an English country garden where Lord Onslow took her as a souvenir of his tenure as the British Governor to New Zealand. This Victoria Hunt discovered when she reconnected with her Maori family after growing up in Australia largely unaware of her heritage. This solo dance work comes out of a decade-long journey of a kind of repatriation for Hunt, as well as continued research into the Hinemihi meetinghouse and familiarisation with traditional mythology and artistic forms. Hunt relates to the plight of Hinemihi, dispersed to others’ countries, disconnected from her homeland. Yet, as told by her Uncle, Hunt is bringing Hinemihi back, in a contemporary context through this project.

Cultural plurality is the richness in Copper Promises. Hunt draws heavily on her training with founder of contemporary Japanese dance style ‘Body Weather’ Min Tanaka, and ongoing practice as a Body Weather dancer. Don’t expect conventional choreography. In this style of movement, the dancer embodies landscape, images or instruction. The result is absolute specificity and focus from the performer, but nevertheless an openness for viewers to create their own stories, within the context of the work. The artist statement gives some clues to the score: “Hinemihi Bird […] sprouting feathers from underside of feet; inside the body us forming quills which grow to the surface, playful, mysterious, curious”. I remember thinking, is she animal, ancestor, both?

Ash falls from above, and in her little box of light, it feels like Hunt is being buried. She plays with her own weight and weight bearing, reluctantly collaborating with gravity. Despite the dire image, Hunt becomes a centre of power, enacting protective/ defensive spells. Throughout the piece she accesses more recognisably Maori movement and motifs.

I feel like Hunt’s performance was itself buried by some of the technical elements of the show, overloadeding what is a very personal and sensitive choreography. Field recordings and traditional music deepened the connection to the material, but the relentless bass-heavy soundscape, strobe-lights, and lightning bolt video projections pushed it into a realm of tech-spectacle it didn’t need to go. There is also the spinning hologram-effect coin. Which my friend thought was daggy but I was quite fond of, so I’ll let you make your mind up about that one.

If you don’t get all that prancing around and spinning etc, in dance, this one gives more than that to contemplate. If you go to dance, you will no doubt appreciate the skill and intention in Hunt’s performance. If nothing else, Victoria Hunt is an incredibly compelling performer presenting a generous and honest work.

What: Dance, Copper Promises: Hinemihi Haka
Who: Victoria Hunt presented by Performance Space
Where: Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh
: 5, 4 and 8-12 May, 2012. 8pm. 12 May, 2pm
How much: $20-$30, $15 student rush Fri 11th.



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