10022020 PHOTO: SUPPLIED From hip-hop to contemporary dance, and Polynesian dance to theatre, Goodbye Naughton pays homage to the experiences that have shaped the life of the ??tara grown artist, Aloalii Tapu.
New Zealand Festival of the Arts; Goodbye Naughton
Te Rauparaha Arena, February 26
In the performance of Goodbye Naughton, Aloalii Tapu lets us into his heart and world. He is a compelling and honest dance artist.
The peels of his mother’s laughter start the show as she describes, on video, how her son has pursued the unexpected and become her ‘dancing boy’.
This sets the scene for a dance theatre work that constantly surprises, moves and charms.
It is refreshingly candid and expertly crafted dramaturgically by Leah Carrell. The delivery is relaxed, yet precise so that the cavernous Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua becomes like Aloalii’s living room.
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We become guests, spending time with him and his two friends as he ranges over deeply felt topics of identity, masculinity, disconnection and the importance of support from his friends and community.
He had three names growing up in Otara: his palagi name Naughton, the various names teachers called him unable to pronounce his Samoan name and his real name, thus the title of the work.
It is at times stand-up comedy in tone and confessional in style but with a constant underpinning of movement in the form of traditional dance, hip-hop and contemporary dance.
His two friends from childhood, Chris Taito, Uati Tui move in and out of scenes in an exquisitely understated way.
They are like two quiet sentinels – ‘just there’ for him, sometimes singing gorgeously or talking softly.
In one poignant scene Tapu bathes their feet, referencing the Christian values that are espoused in a video during the performance: ‘The way to leadership is through service.’ It is a beautiful gesture.
Aloalii is consummate in all of these idioms, as he flows, without constraint, from one mode to another.
His body is lean and lithe and he has developed a unique contemporary dance form that follows the intuitive current of his phrases.
In an hilarious sequence he pokes fun at contemporary dance tropes, in another he spins incessantly whilst singing about “love going round and round’.
When he kicks into his own style it is functional with a fascination for angles and planes, augmented by intricate little gestures. He sure knows his way around the dance floor.
Traditionally he is also at home in an eloquent siva or a strident haka.
Two small girls beside me are utterly entranced throughout. The audience is moved, laughs heartily and applauds with delight and respect.
We stand in tribute at the conclusion and feel more connected with each other. Goodbye Naughton is a brilliant ‘must see’ show.