July 20, 2019


It's not often Te Papa hosts anything on their stage other than conference speakers. Extra staff are on hand to direct people not accustomed to the venue, all museum parts are roped off and any hope of having a late night look around, or sneak peek at the new Te Taiao Nature exhibit are crushed.

A small crowd gathers waiting for the doors to open. Finally, we're allowed in. There are no allocated seats. Greetings are heard as old friends find each other, a hug, a kiss then a seat shuffle so they can sit together. Pretty soon the shuffling becomes harder as more people arrive.

A dark stage. A tiny mountain of sand surrounded by a large ring (I do not envy the cleaners) are the only stage decorations. Breath, haunting, fills the large darkened theatre - a Goddess is on stage.

From flowing, sweeping costumes to throbbing beats, from lights that make water appear on stage to movements both jerking and fluid Opepū illustrates the six atua wahine (Māori Goddesses) who control the winds of the world.

The audience are enthralled, there's not even a whisper the whole performance in the packed theatre where everyone seems to know someone. As the stage lights go down at the end of the show there's a pause - is it over? - then one brave person starts clapping and the theatre erupts in cries and applause.

Contemporary dance can be a bit hit and miss, in my experience, as can culturally based performances. It might be too artsy and the audience may not understand. But with all the potential to miss the mark Onepū manages to hit it squarely.

Performances: June 28 - August 22
Check times, locations and ticket sellers here

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