Western dance-theatre, with roots in German Tanztheater, displays a solidly Occidental interpretation of body and voice. Expression via movement; the staging of the body, has always had firm ties to such names as experimental theatre genius Bertolt Brecht and Tanztheater director and choreographer Pina Bausch. They introduced fundamental elements of the form which are now being taken to further plains by young contemporary dancers/actors. No such development every happened for Maori ritual dance, and the form has therefore retained its original beauty. With little contact to Western cultural expression, Samoan choreographer Lemi Ponifasio has created a performance that transcends all boundaries of form as it takes its viewer on a journey through dance, ritual theatre and visual art. A tentative masterpiece.
‘Stones in her Mouth’ is performed by an amazing all-female cast at the KVS in Brussels. The KVS has already shown work by internationally acclaimed Lemi Ponifasio and his MAU company, but has really found something special with this latest work. His previous work, as the KVS explains, has been performed at renowned festivals and theatres all over the world, and draw on the traditions of the Pacific peoples to create tremendously powerful, hypnotic work that will not leave their audiences unmoved.
And how accurate a description that is, was made clear during the performance last weekend in Brussels; some people walked out of the theatre about 30 minutes into the performance (especially during a remarkably loud part where flashing lights and absurd dance were making simple interpretation impossible). However, by the end of the 90 minute-roller-coaster through amazingly synchronised dance routines, heart-wrenching songs and affective visual performances, the audience that withstood the emotional assault that Stones in her Mouth presents, could not stop clapping and rewarded the dancers with the longest applause this reviewer has ever been a part of. And oh-so deserved.
Stones in her Mouth is an emotional journey through the hearts and minds of the Maori women that grace the stage during the performance. They wrote the lyrics that they so beautifully and emotively sing during and in between the dance pieces. With a simple but effective stage and stunning lightwork, this performance deserves a place in the history books.