The Tuatara shakes off his passive past and moves to some contemporary dance rhythms. A lively and amusing piece, it incorporates elements of jazz and ethnic music alternating with the Tuatara theme, building to an exciting climax.
In New Zealand there has been a reluctance on the part of pakeha men to move to music. Perhaps it is our Victorian background that makes us feel silly and self-conscious when dancing. We pefer to sit back and be still, like the Tuatara. In this piece, the old reptile (Tuatara) shakes off his passive past and moves to some more contemporary-sounding dance rhythms.
The work is in a continous movement, divided into several sections. It opens with an ironical glance at the atonal past before flicking it away, like a fly. A jaunty 'Tuatara' theme is played on clarinet over bass ostinati, leading to a more vibrant and lively theme.
While the first section is earthy and physical in character, the second is a fantasy, full of ethereal images. The initial delicate waltz theme develops and grows into a more menacing idea, before fading back into the 'Tuatara' theme.
The rest of the piece comprises various dances that adopt certain styles: jazz, folky, rock. A gypsy-like theme combines with a version of 'God Defend NZ' in a section where pakeha men are on their feet! The finale uses log drum and Pacific Island rhythms to bring the piece to an exciting conclusion.