The traditional and contemporary intertwine at the first Pacific Dance Festival in three years.
After a pandemic-induced absence of three years, Pacific Dance New Zealand’s annual Pacific Dance Festival has returned to Auckland. Opening the three week-long festival last week was Manu Malo by Aloali’i Tapu, with the highly anticipated Moana ‘23 Pacific dance showcase following suit tonight.
The showcase features emerging dance choreographers and artists including the Annual Choreographic Lab cohort of 2023, run by Pacific Dance NZ, which aims to nurture upcoming New Zealand-based Pacific dance choreographers to create new original works. A mix of local and international acts with a diverse range of experiences featured, including students from Unitec and the New Zealand School of Dance, Hayley Tekahika, Corbyn Taulealea-Huch, Lomina Meteri-Araitia, John Vaifale and Phab Pasifika.
Taulealea-Huch, who was formerly a member of Parris Goebel’s ReQuest dance crew, is directing a piece for the showcase called ‘Beast’. She describes it as “an exploration of masculine femininity through five Pasifika bodies”. The work draws inspiration from dance genres such as dancehall, lyrical and hood, genres that helped shape Taulealea-Huch as an artist and creative.
John Vaifale’s performance is about navigating through life from a child to an adult, through the lens of a New Zealand-born Polynesian. “It’s a solo piece that highlights what it’s like growing up in a western society with traditional Pasifika values,” Vaifale said.
‘This is me, this is us’ is a piece by PHAB Pasifika, a group set up to build the confidence of Pacific youth and adults with and without disabilities.
Naomi Vailima says their performance is about showcasing love for Pacific cultures and what inclusion and acceptance looks like through their eyes. “We have five dancers and three drummers. Our live drumming is a huge highlight of the five minute performance, because have you ever seen someone in a wheelchair using the drum?”
The festival runs until 16 June 2023 – here are three shows to check out.
Sau Folo by RAKO
The last three years haven’t been easy for RAKO Pasefika as, like many in the arts industry, they had tours, bookings and projects cancelled due to the Covid-19 restrictions. During this time, RAKO felt an urge to return to their island home of Rotuma and immerse themselves in their culture, which led to the development of three major works that highlight the journey of three Rotuman women of royal blood, from painful, emotional experiences to being a fierce defender.
The cast includes Iane Tavo Atalifo and John Taukave, who are the choreographers of the piece, as well as dancers and musicians.
When: Wednesday June 8 and Thursday June 9
Where: Rangatira, Q Theatre
Hikule’o by Tautahi
If Tongan mythology interests you, then Hikule’o is a great performance to catch, celebrating the stories and honour of the paramount chieftess of Tonga’s underworld, Pulotu.
The performance is done in two parts, merging the traditional sounds of ‘otuhaka and me’etu’upaki chants (dance items from Tonga) with contemporary acapella singing. Accompanying the songs are modern Tongan movements and spoken words.
The artistic director behind Hikule’o is Sisi’uno Helu, who has been a well-regarded Tongan choreographer and musician for almost 30 years, having completed many tours internationally.
When: Friday June 10 and Saturday June 11
Where: Loft, Q Theatre
‘Enua by Vivian Hosking-Aue
A beautiful example of Pacific couture, beauty and dance will close out the festival. The show, created by Vivian Hosking-Aue, AUĒ dance company, and the House of Vain 2014 and originally called Territory. It returns as ‘Enua to ask questions such as “what if South Auckland was Ponsonby today?” ‘Enua aims to showcase the importance of embracing our differences, while also understanding the similarities that unite us all.
There are 24 models and 12 dancers participating in this Pacific fashion dance show including Diamond Langi, Samisoni Mesake and Rebekah Stowers.
When: Friday June 16
Where: Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Aotea Centre
The Pacific Dance Festival is on now until June 16 2023.
This is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.