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Rotorua to be final stop for touring aerial dance performance of Te Arawa legend

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The large-scale aerial dance theatre work Hatupatu Kurungaituku: a forbidden love will tour across the motu in February and March 2024.

Large-scale aerial dance and kapa haka will bring a treasured Te Arawa legend to life on stages across New Zealand from February and March 2024.

Kaupapa Māori theatre company Taki Rua Productions will debut its theatre work, Hatupatu | Kurungaituku: a forbidden love at the 2024 Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts in Wellington.

The production, based on the Te Arawa iwi kōrero (legend) of Hatupatu and Kurungaituku, or Hatupatu and the Bird Woman will then travel to Auckland and Christchurch before coming home for a closing performance in Rotorua.

The production, set against forests and geothermal forces of Rotorua tells of survival and forbidden love between young Te Arawa warrior Hatupatu and the other-worldly bird woman, Kurungaituku.

The story will be told through contemporary dance featuring aerial work by award-winning artistic director and aerialist Tānemahuta Gray (Ngāi Tahu, Rangitāne, Waikato (whāngai) and kapa haka developed in collaboration with Wētini Mītai-Ngātai (Te Arawa, Ngāti Pikiao), leader of two-time Te Mataini-winning kapa haka rōpū Te Mararae i o Rehu.

Wētini Mītai-Ngātai told the Rotorua Daily Post he was “honoured” to play a part in retelling a story of the Te Arawa people.

“In my view it is a beautiful story,” Mītai-Ngātai said.

“It is a story of love. It is historically relevant [and it is] about the environment, about culture and everything that pertains to a couple working together for the success of the family unit.”

Mītai-Ngātai said the movements in the performance needed to have “an air of authenticity and also a magical sense”.

“It’s nice to be able to expand on reality and make it more fantastical.”

Hatupatu production for Taki Rua, 28 July 2023. Photo / Stephen A’Court
Hatupatu production for Taki Rua, 28 July 2023. Photo / Stephen A’Court

This production is Mītai-Ngātai’s second choreographic experience for a theatre production, having worked with the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2001.

“This [performance] is going to be of that calibre in terms of its potential to reach out and touch the hearts of all people.”

Mītai-Ngātai said the story of Kurungaituku in particular was “shrouded in myth”.

“Yet when you decode that mythology you get to the core truth of that story and that reveals to you more realism than fantasy. Both characters are historical ancestors and together do have descendants.”

Mītai-Ngātai said Kurungaituku was said to have lived in an almost inaccessible cave and was renowned as an expert bird hunter.

“Her name derives from the phrase, ‘a spear that was thrown,’” Mītai-Ngātai said.

“She may have been feared. She may have been a recluse and chose to live on her own.”

Mītai-Ngātai said he did not think the original Kurungaituku was half-bird but she may have had other special talents.

“The retelling of the story is an honouring of the highest order.”

Hatupatu Kurungaituku: a forbidden love Kapa Haka lyrics and choreographer Wetini Mitai-Ngatai. Photo / Stephen A’Court
Hatupatu Kurungaituku: a forbidden love Kapa Haka lyrics and choreographer Wetini Mitai-Ngatai. Photo / Stephen A’Court

Mītai-Ngātai said Kurungaituku was portrayed in the production as a fantastical being, as an acknowledgement of the powerful women of Māoridom and of the old world.

“I’m excited about this extremely talented cast and also the greatly talented crew. I’m happy to be a part of the production.”

Mītai-Ngātai said it was also an honour for the retelling of the story to take place amongst the Te Arawa people.

“I think it’s deservedly should feature here in Rotorua among the descendants who will also be present.”

Taki Rua Productions’ chief executive Tānemahuta Gray said audiences were in for a “unique experience”.

“[The performance] elevates, quite literally, a beautiful Māori story which so many in Aotearoa have read from a young age and inserts the audience right inside it.

“The forests, geysers, and the bird realm are visceral for the audience – the story unfolds above and around them. It is an experience we hope sheds new light on this legendary love story and secures its place in the hearts and minds of New Zealanders long into the future.”

Hatupatu production for Taki Rua, 28 July 2023. Photo / Stephen A’Court
Hatupatu production for Taki Rua, 28 July 2023. Photo / Stephen A’Court

Hatupatu | Kurungaituku: a forbidden love Rotorua performance details:

Thursday, March 14 to Sunday, March 17

Energy Events Centre Rotorua: Queens Drive, Rotorua

Tickets: https://www.ticketmaster.co.nz/

The team behind Hatupatu | Kurungaituku: a forbidden love

Cast

  • Hatupatu – Eds Eramiha
  • Kurungaituku – Kasina Campbell
  • Hānui – Manuel Solomon
  • Hāroa – Sharn Te Pou
  • Karika – Wahia Te Pōuri
  • Tamumu Ki Te Rangi – Kia Jewell

Creative team

  • Artistic director – Tānemahuta Gray
  • Kapa haka lyrics and choreography – Wētini Mītai-Ngātai
  • Set design – John Verryt
  • Costume designer – Elizabeth Whiting
  • Composer – Paddy Free
  • Lighting design – Jo Kilgour
  • AV design – Delainy Kennedy and Rachel Neser (Artificial Imagination)

Maryana Garcia is a regional reporter writing for the Rotorua Daily Post and the Bay of Plenty Times. She covers local issues, health and crime.



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