'A blast of cultures': Lockdown inspires Māori and Pacific students' performance

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Students at Whitireia’s Māori and Pacific performing arts programme have poured the pain of a lockdown spent apart, and the sense of excitement when finally able to perform together, into their show A New Wave.

A New Wave 1Wahia Te Pouri performs a Cook Island dance in "A New Wave" for students at Naenae College.

Lockdown handed a specific blow to the students, who had just returned to the programme’s original home in Porirua after being based in Wellington for 10-years.

Head tutor Taofi Nehemia​ said everyone had been excited to return to the Porirua campus, where the programme began under the guardianship of iwi partner, Ngāti Toa Rangatira in 1991.

“Then Covid-19 hit.”

A New Wave 2Losaline Tupou performs a Maori routine with fellow Whitireia Maori and Pasifika performing arts students.

“This severely impacted what the students love about this programme, time together learning about their cultural histories and expressing themselves through dance.

When lockdown lifted, the group felt a sense of celebration at being able to rehearse and perform together, and A New Wave was created.

The performance, which showcases storytelling through the art of Māori Kapa Haka, Siva Samoa, Cook Islands Ura and Contemporary Pasifika, is a reflection of the return to Porirua, as well as the new world students see post-Covid.

A New Wave 3Front L-R: Mina Ruaporo, Iorina Tafili, and Losaline Tupou perform in their lockdown inspired show "A New Wave" for students at Naenae College.

Second-year student Taamara Pokotea​, said people can expect a blast of different cultures coming together when watching the show.

“It is really what binds us as a family, having that common ground of performance, and having our own culture in that mix.”

For Pokotea, being based back in Ngāti Toa felt like being home, compared to being based in Wellington.

“They really wanted to fight for us coming back home in the Ngāti Toa area, so we really feel the mana and the wairua of all the past students.

“I really feel that when I am dancing.”

The show is currently touring through schools across the Wellington region.

A New Wave 4Mya Tuapawa-Birkenhead performing at Naenae College.

While nerve-wracking, Pokotea said it felt great performing for students in her community and letting them know there was a place outside of school for dance.

Head of creative arts at Porirua College, Karl Payne, said attending the performance gave his students the opportunity to see the next level of quality Polynesian and Māori choreography, singing, storytelling, dance and performance.

A New Wave 5Whitireia Maori and Pasifika performing arts students display a contemporary pasifika dance for students at Naenae College.

“For our students to see a former Porirua College student shine under high pressure while they perform is beyond inspiring. It allows our students to dream and strive to train or create at the level Whitireia does.”

Chairperson of Ngāti Toa, Dr Taku Parai, said the programme had given students from the community an opportunity to advance skills from within their own culture, and extend it into a formal qualification.

Former student, and current Porirua-based dancer Te Rau Oriwa Mitchell, said it was awesome the programme had returned to its original home.

“It is now back to the people it has the greatest cultural links with, and it is more accessible to the community here and encourages youth to examine the role of culture in their society through dance.”

The show is touring high schools this week but members of the public have the opportunity to see the performance from November 4 to 6, at Te Auaha in Wellington.

 Excerpt taken from https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/porirua/123144632/a-blast-of-cultures-lockdown-inspires-mori-and-pacific-students-performance