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Tough Crowd: The Future is safe in their hands

24 Jan 2019
A fresh take on intercultural communication: Kate Powell reviews Jump Cut at the Pah Homestead, a contemporary dance performance by a vibrant group of talented young migrants and refugees.

A white flag waves over a crest on a grassy hill. Through clever use of perspective, the audience is sat so the bearer is invisible, below our line of sight. The flag is joined by a line of white shirts and undergarments, and eventually the bearers emerge stoically over the rise. They line in front of the audience, and as one they raise their fingers to point behind us at the grand old homestead. As one they suddenly cry “THIS HOUSE IS BUILT ON BONES!” The cry has been a repeated motif of the performance that is now wrapping up, and it's a powerful refrain. It's evocative of conflict, the weight of generations, and archaeological layers of history. Glimpses into this history were the subject of Mixit's annual Jump Cut production. This year, the show focuses on an interpretative dance account of our setting, Pah Homestead.

Over the course of 14 years, Mixit – a non-profit charitable trust based in West Auckland – has made a name for itself supporting young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. Using creative outlets such as dance, Mixit aims to foster a non-judgemental and joyous environment for its diverse participants to increase self-confidence, support intercultural understanding and improve communication skills.

Now in its 13th incarnation, Jump Cut follows a distinct yet unexpected path that successfully delighted, sobered and provoked the large audience who first gathered outside of the elegantly imposing entrance of Pah Homestead on a sweltering Saturday afternoon. We were immediately split into two groups- in my case, swept into the building under the guidance of the effervescent Madame BB.

The merging of past and present has become the calling card of Pah Homestead, which now houses the spectacular modernist-to-contemporary art collection of Sir James Wallace. Creativity is never born in isolation and it became immediately apparent that this juxtaposition was to become a powerful thread that wove its way throughout this hour-long performance as it snaked its way around the homestead and through the garden.

Because the troupe had a mere two weeks to research, devise and put on a full production, Jump Cut bristled with an unflinching, visceral energy. Some performers clearly knew their steps better than others, but not only was that to be expected, it only added to the productions raw charm. It was particularly admirable that they didn’t shy away from the Homestead’s colonialist past; the tale of how the original 400 acres was brought for 60 pounds and a jumble of clothes was given an ominously powerful edge. While the glow up from a simple country house to the grande dame of Auckland was explored through the use of delightfully surreal props. But it was the acapella version of Wade in the Water – a nod to the sites tenure as a Catholic Orphanage that undoubtedly stole the show.

After making the walls talk, the performers ushered us outside where they lovingly played with the more ridiculous aspects of high art, utilising the sculptures with ease. It was while we meandered around the grounds that we were introduced to Mother Nature, who banished some selfie taking hooligans. This was the only aspect of the work that seemed out of step with an otherwise seamlessly devised performance from a talented troupe.

It was a real joy to see such enthusiasm, ability and thought on display. The future of dance in Aotearoa is in safe hands.