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The Outsiders Ball delights in the joy, freedom and exhilaration of dance

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The Outsiders Ball

Black Grace and Neil Ieremia

Auckland Concert Chamber

Until July 9

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

With his latest dance creation, “The Outsiders Ball” Neil Ieremia has gone back to his roots and his first experiences of dance. As he notes in the programme,

“Growing up as a kid in the 70’s various groups would run a siva(dance) as a fundraiser, these were always filled with lots of laughter, friendly rivalries, paper plates of food, undercover romances and sometimes bad behaviour” and “the overwhelming explosion of colour floating on a haze of sweet perfume mixed with cigarette smoke.”

This is going back to the primal roots of dance, an activity which societies have been engaging in for centuries. They are the communal meeting places, often at the core of men and women, boys and girls learning about social interaction under the beady eyes of aunts and uncles.

What he describes is not far from Peter Cape’s 1958 song, “Down at the hall on Saturday night”.

‘Yeah, it’s great being out with the jokers

  When the jokers are sparking and bright,

  And it’s great giving cheek to the shielas

  Down the hall on Saturday night”

Ieremia attempts to recreate one of those Saturday night dances filling the hall with a range of people from young to old and they bring every style of dancing from rock and roll to ballroom with a bit of Samoan slap dance and a trace of chorus line. There are loads of human interaction as individuals try out their best moves while others manage to make fools of themselves. This ball for outsiders  delights in the joy, freedom and exhilaration of dance.

As with much of his previous dance work Ieremia manages to transform everyday simple movements into elegant dance so that what we see is superbly controlled chaos. There are elements of his choreographic practice throughout the various dances with his signature waves of dancers streaming across the stage coupled with abrupt changes of direction.

Some of the music is real dance material such as James Brown’s “Superbad” and Donna Summers’ “Last Dance” but there was also music from Blondie, Shannon and Troy Kingi. The dancers respond with enthusiasm and energy to each of the numbers and generally create the spirit of the local dance. The one work which didn’t seem to really carry the right mood was the dancing to Grace Jones’ version of “La Vie En Rose” which lacked the anguish and sorrow it needed.

This glorious celebration of dance ended with an animated cabaret / drag number complete with disco ball, the hall filled with the lights of Matariki.

While Ieremia is on stage dancing he also takes times to address the audience with a few  discursive monologues talking about own life  as well as social issues which affect Maori and Pacifica, probably not the normal conversation at the dance hall but relevant conversations which need to be had.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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