Atamira Dance Company’s ‘KAHA’ at the MACC

Most Maui residents and visitors are familiar with the legend of Maui, and his tale of slowing down the sun. But Maui is also extremely prominent in Maori folklore as well.

The story goes that Maui was the youngest of five sons. His mother Taranga, believing he was stillborn, wrapped him in a bundle of hair and cast him into the ocean. He floated onto to a beach, where he was found by his mortal stepmother Tamanui-ki-te-rangi, who raised him as his own. When old enough, Maui began to question his origin and reunited with his deity family. His four older and jealous brothers conspired to leave him behind on a fishing trip. Maui made a fishhook from a jawbone and hid under the floorboards of his brothers’ canoe. Once far from land, Maui revealed himself. He took out his magic fishhook, threw it over the side of the canoe, dropping deep under the sea, where it caught a huge fish. Together as a family, they brought the fish to the surface. That fish is the island of Aotearoa, New Zealand. Aotearoa, or North Island, is also known to Maori people as Te Ika a Maui, or Maui’s fish. If you look at a map of North Island, think of the fish’s head as the south, with fins at the east and west, and its tail in the north. South Island is Te Waka a Maui or Maui’s canoe, and Stewart Island is Te Punga a Maui or Maui’s anchor stone.

Keeping Maori cultural traditions and story telling alive is Atamira Dance Company. Founded in 2000 as a “response to the need for a platform for Maori urban identity through dance,” the relatively new dance company has quickly become world renowned.

Its choreographers, dancers and designers reflect a diverse cross section of voices from both urban and rural backgrounds. Atamira takes stories of their whakapapa (defined as “the genealogical descent of all living things from the gods to the present time”) to relate Aotearoa’s history, while touching on contemporary Maori issues such as Mana Whenua (Maori rights). Not unlike Hawaiian words, Atamira means more than one thing: in a literal sense it means stage or platform, but more accurately it translates as a platform for the dead and caring for those who have died.

Their latest production, “KAHA,” presents several short works that embody the essence of their unique landscape and cultural identity. Haka blends contemporary and traditional movement; Moko is a tribute to the art of body tattoo; Te Paki explores the rhythm of the sea and Rakau was inspired by a traditional Maori song and stick game.

* Atamira Dance Company will perform “KAHA” at 7:30 tonight in Castle Theater at the MACC. There will be a free pre-concert talk at 6 p.m. with Atamira’s Artistic Director Moss Patterson. Tickets are $12, $22 and $32 with half-price tickets for children (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets for any MACC event, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at

Another tale of the sea will be performed by 39 keiki this weekend. After six weeks of summer camp rehearsals, Theatre Theatre Maui opens with “Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr.” at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa in Kaanapali on Friday.

“Our kids and the creative team have worked so hard to put this show together,” says TTM executive director Angie Thompson. TTM board president, Penny Wakida, adds, “It’s going to be a great show, and we couldn’t be more proud of this great group of kids.”

If you don’t know the story, ask any female between the ages of 5 and 35, and they’ll be happy to tell you the plot in great detail. The original story was written by Danish children’s author, Hans Christian Anderson, in 1837. Island and seaside writing sabbaticals in Italy and throughout Scandinavia inspired his tale of the mythical merfolk.

The daughter of King Triton, Ariel, has become fascinated with “The World Above.” Merfolk are forbidden to make contact with humans, but in true rebel teen fashion, Ariel disobeys her father to be “Part of Your World.” After a handsome Prince falls overboard, Ariel saves him and they fall in love. Fishdad, infuriated by her disobedience, strongly scolds the now melancholy, Ariel. The only logical solution to cure her ocean blues is a large-scale musical number to a calypso beat, and all of the jellyfish, starfish and crustaceans “Under the Sea” are happy to oblige. Ariel’s adventure eventually leads to heroic battle with her estranged aunt Ursulla, a reconciliation with Dad, and a happily ever after marriage.

“It’s such a joy to watch the kids grow and have fun. ‘Little Mermaid’ is not so much a story about a girl changing herself to get her man, but a girl following her own heart. She always felt out of place, even before she sees the prince,” said director Kristi Scott.

In Anderson’s original tale, Ariel dissolves into a “daughter of the air,” forced to serve 300 years of doing good deeds. Good behavior by a single child removes one year of her service, but bad behavior by any child would cause the spirit of Ariel to weep and a day of service would be added to every tear she shed. The famous statue of Ariel in Copenhagen Harbor has depicted a weeping Ariel for the past 100 years. Luckily, someone at Disney said, “Um, yeah, let’s not do that.”

* Theatre Theatre Maui presents “Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.,” directed by Kristi Scott, choreographed by Hadley Garcia and musically directed by Vania Jerome. Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa’s Haleakala Ballroom. Tickets are $10; $5 for children for younger than 12. For details, call 661-1168, or email Angie Thompson at


Maui OnStage will hold auditions for the American farce “Love, Sex and the IRS” by William Van Zandt and Jane Milmore from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at the Historic Iao Theater. This is an open audition call; appointments are not required. All roles are available, and include: Jon Trachtman (male, 25-40), Leslie Arthur (male, 25-40), Kate Dennis (female, 25-40), Mr. Jansen (male, 35-60), Floyd Spinner (male, any age), Vivian Trachtman (female, 50-65), Connie (female, 25-40) and Arnold Grunion (male, 30-70). “Love, Sex and the IRS” will be directed by Lee Garrow, and rehearsals begin the first week in August. Performances are Sept. 27 through Oct. 6. For details about auditions or detailed character listings, visit