Choreographer Lemi Ponifasio in Tempest: Without A Body
Over the weekend, San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presented Tempest: Without A Body, a work created by Samoan choreographer Lemi Ponifasio for his company MAU which is based in New Zealand.
MAU is a Samoan word that means both “vision” and “revolution” and was also the name of a Samoan non-violent resistance movement that challenged both German and New Zealand colonizers in the early 1900’s. The work was performed without Maori activist Tame Iti who is protesting U.S. military actions in Libya and Ponifasio says that his absence is also part of the work itself.
Maori Activist Tame Iti in Tempest: Without A Body
Tempest: Without A Body first premiered in 2007 and is said to focus on:
“issues brought to light by the 9/11 attacks, including the rise of ‘power of the state’, the erosion of individual freedoms, and the devastating effects of colonisation on indigenous peoples.”
Lemi Ponifasio considers Tame Iti central to the work in which Iti performs a traditional dance combined with a monologue in the Maori language. Iti is known for his dramatic political performances and Ponifasio says he first met Iti during a performance event related to the “selling of Aotearoa (New Zealand)…he was exhibiting and selling buckets of dirt for x amount of dollars.”
Moments from Lemi Ponifasio’s Tempest: Without A Body
Tempest: Without A Body only scratches the surface of the work of Lemi Ponifasio and MAU who says this about his company:
“The performers in my company come from within the community context. The dance we learn is part of the cycles of life within the communityâ€”birth, farming, fishing, house building, ceremonies such as funerals, rites of passagesâ€”towards serving life. Therefore, as part of our upbringing we are taught dancing, oratory and singing as well as conducting ceremonies. The origin of my dance is born from this environment. It is the environment that a MAU dancer must emerge from. They bring the quiver, and a reason to dance; they are not dancers for hire. They may be young people but they are also skilled fishermen, house-builders, farmers. They are master artists, musicians and dancers and full-time human beings.”
Official Site: MAU