The Beautiful Ones by Hone Kouka
I was introduced to Hone through Manny Solomon a friend who I was dancing with at the time. My good friend Sandip Singh and I went along to Circa Theatre to audition for The Beautiful Ones on an okay day for Wellington. This was the first time I had auditioned for something outside my routine weekly dance classes I attended.
In hindsight, I don’t really know what Hone Kouka saw in either Sandip or myself – best let me speak for myself and not bring Sandip into this. I was so stoked, relieved and grateful for the opportunity. Hone you really opened my mind. I was young, all of nineteen years old but hungry to learn and excited to try something new plus challenging. I was unaware of what I was actually stepping into during the first process of The Beautiful Ones at the time I was a kitchen hand. But Tawata gifted me the opportunity to dance, get paid and be with my friends.
When rehearsals kicked off this became my full time job for the time. I can definitely say this was my first ‘industry’ job – what a great moment. What I meant by the word unaware is that it took time to understand the opportunity before me. I had to experience how a process works and how to better execute when being in ‘the process’. The Beautiful Ones opened many doors, one of them being contemporary dance. The movement and warm up classes with Dolina Wehipeihana each morning were new to my body. I was inspired by it and wanted to know and learn some more. I was around people who were just as hungry as I and when you’re in that kind of environment everyone steps up to give and receive this good energy. I have always wanted to become good at something and I still do it’s a deep desire within. I’m thankful that I was able to do so in a safe space. At the time I did not really know much about contemporary dance and acting, however the two mediums set me on a path of creativity.
So what did I learn the first time working in this space? I found I had a love to perform and share. I found an innocence of not really knowing what ‘acting’ or ‘performing’ was would actually teach me some very valuable lessons for life and also teach me about what it is I want to do.
Working on the first season of The Beautiful Ones show, I vividly remember trying to memorise the few lines I had. I saw the work Scotty Cotter and Kali Kopae did together -they were investigating and researching who their character would be in a particular scene. They asked questions such as how did their character get to this point? What was the journey of their character? They were using their characters to create magic within the text given. It makes a lot of sense to read the script together in the first week. Read it more yourself – then find understanding of what and why your character is doing what they are doing. I think first must come a small understanding of what it is you are working on. One must create some meaning as to why you’re working this way. Then together you will journey and create the how it is going to look.
I cannot stress how great it was to be around a person like Scotty, someone who has so much joy for life. The environment of the working space is so important to the collaborative work you are doing together. I think Scotty has a great understanding of when we need to drive things as a group. It reminds me of Ian Lesā and Manny, they were both big drivers for what the dance sequences could be. These are people who always pushed ideas, good or bad, it was just an idea after all. They did not hold onto it with emotion. It was always used to help the environment of the working space. This was creating our how how it could look. Tānemahuta Gray and Dol brought such grace in guiding the group, not only how it would look, but also the safety mechanisms of the dance sequences. The awareness and care for one another on stage. This was also a valuable lesson learnt.
The great part of the process is to have time away from the project, to digest and reflect, maybe dabble some more or be content. Time gifts to us ideas we can develop or leave. The more we presented The Beautiful Ones the clearer the story became for me. The Circa Theatre season felt like this for me. I loved the opening scene – Sandip, Manny and myself having a boogie on the dance floor. I think now instead of waiting for the audience to enter to start the performance, my performance could have started prior to the actual show starting – being in a state of mind. The lesson I learnt is, for growth to take place you must embrace the experience. The more I invested in this process the more comfortable I felt in finding my feet.
With the multiple opportunities of being part of The Beautiful Ones, comes strong friendships made, I am grateful for the likes of Sandip, Scotty, Raai Badeau and Te Hau Winitana to name a few. Looking back I am really happy I was able to cross paths with good people and have these experiences. I realise how much value it has given me as a person and for this practice. On reflection of The Beautiful Ones, I admire the courage and vision Hone had, each show was always Bigger, Better and Bolder. From a small showing in Kelburn to Circa Theatre to the BIG smoke Auckland, each moment in time we always strived towards wanting More, doing More and being More. This is the life lesson I take with me. REACH for The STARS and END UP In SPACE.
Image by Matt Grace Photography