Inspirational

Celebrating Matariki 2016

For many New Zealanders winter signals a special time of remembrance and celebration, as the community welcomes Matariki.

The rising of the star constellation known locally as Matariki [also known as the Seven Sisters or Pleiades] is an important time in the Maori calendar. Twinkling in the winter sky just before dawn, it heralds in the Maori New Year; a time to connect with, and give thanks to the land, sea and sky.

The Seven Sisters Project 

It wasn’t until her early adult years that Cathy Livermore’s dancing journey began. At age 23, she had formal training in contemporary dancing, contact improvisation and butoh – a form of Japanese dance theatre.

In the years since she has made a name for herself as a respected dancer and choreographer, and is now the Head of Dance at the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts in Avondale, Auckland.

Born and raised in Sydney, Cathy has always felt a strong pull to return to New Zealand, the home of her extended family and strong Ngai Tahu links. 

She has travelled and performed internationally. Fostering connectivity through cultural exchange and sharing stories has become a central philosophy and method for creation of her art, and this is particularly evident in her latest production.

The show draws on her belief that audiences are constantly evolving and changing, and that sitting in the dark without interaction is not enough. 

"Culturally dance has always been associated with singing and coming together – it’s about community, relationships, joining in and bringing joy."

Entitled 'The Seven Sisters Project', her latest work delivers the audience an inter-disciplinary performance with layers of stories offering passion, feeling, dreams, possibility and connectivity,  inspired by Matariki. Created with fellow choreographer Jessica Latton, it delivers a special multimedia performance using a mix of live dance and video elements to transport the audience to a place of deeper engagement and contemplation.

"Matariki is a time designed by the natural world. Our ancestors responded to the winter season by taking the time to go inward, literally and metaphorically, into the deeper, quieter spaces rather than focus on the outside world of activity. It is a time for sitting together and sharing stories, for reflecting over what has been and farewelling those who have left us, while giving thanks for all that has been received during the year."

"It's also about dreaming and planning the possible and setting our intentions for the coming year. This performance is a celebration of that process, applied to the moment or season here in 2016," says Cathy.

The unique show will bring together a number of different nationalities involving people from Iran and Nigeria, USA and Japan.

"The Seven Sisters Project gives a creative expression and platform to acknowledge the feminine aspects of ourselves and to give voice to the feminine wisdom I’ve heard so much of and witnessed in cultures around the world," adds Cathy.

"In today’s patriarchial society this wisdom, often carried by the women is still so overlooked in our communities and dialogues. Yet there is such great wisdom and insight within these feminine stories and perspectives that provide solutions for our collective futures and give us hopeful ways forward."

Cathy says she hopes the project and performance is the start of a longer conversation that can be had with other cultures and communities around the world through dance.

Photo: Dancer and choreographer Cathy Livermore with Navi Fong from Fiji. © Paulo T. Photography

The Seven Sisters’ Project is part of Dunedin’s annual Puaka Matariki Festival which brings together a range of diverse community celebrations across the communities of Dunedin to celebrate the rising of Puaka and Matariki. Puaka is the principal star of Ngai Tahu and the festival celebrates Puaka Matariki as the ‘Wananga Season’, the time to come together to share stories, pass on knowledge and learning and plan for the year ahead. 

For further details about events and activities taking place as part of Dunedin’s Puaka Matariki Festival, visit matarikidunedin.co.nz.