Whāingaroa Youth Movement returned to the Wainui Bush Park on Saturday with their performance of Case of the Missing Meaning.
In the 20th year of the group, Patti Mitchley and her dancers investigated the never ending search for meaning and how life can sometimes lead us down paths that create disconnection and isolation. There was a sense of community and groundedness in the bush park as the crowd poured in and the pīwakawaka gave us their own show before the dancers came into the clearing.
As the opening music swelled, one dancer performed alone. One by one she had several hoodies placed on her small frame by the other dancers, emphasising the heaviness of life and the collective heartache we are living through.
Following this striking opener, the next few pieces captured the chaos and discombobulation of life. The dancers flitted around, each performing their own repetitive movements to an eclectic soundtrack including Imogen Heap, Haim and Gotye. After a performance to “Issues” by Julia Michaels, the smallest group of dancers crept on stage in oversized trench coats, hats, sunnies, (and even moustaches) to inspect the older dancers who were frozen in space. The search for meaning continued as they peered behind the statues, creating a sense of playfulness and mystery.
The speakers then blared out the Fatboy Slim and Bootsy Collins track “Weapon of Choice. This upbeat song was perfect for the group of bright tutu-clad dancers to showcase all the choices we have to make in our lives and the different paths they can lead us down. As the younger dancers walked off with their hands over their eyes, ears and mouths, the older group transitioned in mirroring their movements setting up for the outstanding performance to “Lost in the World” by Kanye West and Bon Iver. As the song started to build the repeated choreography got more striking; a hand indicating to stop, arms flexed in strength, prayer hands to the sky, hands protecting their heads. The repeated refrain in the song “I’m lost in the world, I’m down on my mind” served as a reminder of how difficult the last few years have been and captured the entire essence of this year’s performance; the constant search for meaning and togetherness. Jorden Lahood-Timu assisted Patti with choreography this year and her collaboration added a beautiful urgency to the movements that reflected the message of the show.
If that dance served as the energetic climax, then the next performance by the two youngest groups felt like the emotional climax. Soundtracked by the stunning song “Little Blue” by Jacob Collier and Brandi Carlisle, the dancers came together, skipping in pairs and holding hands. You could feel the smiles grow and perhaps some tears falling amongst the crowd (myself included) as they danced to the lyrics “Don’t be afraid of the dark in your heart. You’re gonna find a way to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. You’re gonna find a way home.”
The emotional journey continued with the final piece to Coldplay’s “Fix You”. The dancers desperately reached into the space, searching for something, anything to grab on to. They ended on their knees, their arms outstretched, an offering to the audience. The only way we can move through this life is by doing it together. Our collective burden was then lifted as one dancer returned wearing all the hoodies from the opener which were removed one by one by her fellow dancers. Once all the hoodies were removed the dancers stood holding hands and holding that weight together, ready to move forward.
All the dancers then swarmed back into the clearing for the finale dance to “This Must Be the Place” by Talking Heads who put it better than I ever could, “Home is where I want to be.” Finding home and community is what we are all searching for and Patti and her dancers encapsulated this in another stunning work.
Every year the Whāingaroa Youth Movement puts on a spectacular show, highlighting the creativity of our tamariki and the community we are lucky to call home. Their shows often reflect the complications of being a human in the modern world but what it ultimately comes down to is the way we come together to look after ourselves and the people we love. This year’s show was no exception.
Thank you to everyone for coming to support our dancers. Lastly, a big shout out to the Raglan Māori Wardens who did a great job handling the traffic and the parking for the event.