Ciggie Butts in the Sand

Te Papa: Soundings, Wellington

14/07/2021 - 16/07/2021

TAPAC - The Auckland Performing Arts Centre, Auckland

05/03/2024 - 06/03/2024

Production Details

Choreographer Tupua Tigafua
Composer David Long
Producer Tupe Lualua

Le Moana

Award winning Pasifika choreographer Tupua Tigafua & composer David Long with producer Tupe Lualua.

Ciggy Butts in the Sand’ is Tupua’s genuine choreographic response to climate change through the eyes of a child.  Through this provocative yet uplifting dance theatre work, Tupua expresses how everything in the natural and physical environment around a child is filled with wonder with its own life force. Until you grow older and realise how global warming, human consumption and a shift in the Earth’s temperature, rapidly change these objects in the natural environment which in most cases end up becoming ‘lifeless’.

This project wove together the wealth of knowledge and creative excellence that both Tupua Tigafua and David Long hold and have contributed to the arts industry in Aotearoa for many years.

The creative partnership of Tupua Tigafua and David Long will take the audience on a journey of childhood wonder, through to some hard-hitting truths. This work deals with the challenges of global warming, human consumption, and the detrimental effects these actions have in Aotearoa New Zealand and the wider Te Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa Pacific region.

After years of dancing for Aotearoa’s top dance companies, Tupua Tigafua has embarked on a journey of creating innovative dance theatre works that appeal to people of all ages. David Long has had an illustrious career composing music for some of the world’s most iconic artists such as our very own Sir Peter Jackson.

Tupua and David met through What if Climate Change was Purple? and they worked with scientist Natalia Bullon (also part of ‘What if Climate Change was Purple?’) in the early research phase of this work.

The development of Ciggy Butts in the Sand was supported with seed funding from ‘What if Climate Change was Purple?’

Join the award winning creative team behind ‘Ciggy Butts in the Sand’ and experts in science and Pacific climate change to discuss the conceptual development of the show and explore how storytelling and cultural knowledge are inextricably linked to the world in which we live and how their role is vital to shaping a better climate future.

2024 Season at TAPAC Auckland March 5th – 6th
Book Here

2021 Season ‘Ciggy Butts in the Sand’ live performances 14-15 July are FREE events. For more information visit:

Facilitated by Sarah Meads, Founder of Track Zero.  Free public event (no booking required) or join via livestream

Soundings Theatre opens 30 minutes before the talk.

Choreographer: Tupua Tigafua
Composer: David Long
Lighting Designer: Isadora Lao
Lighting Operator: Jazmin Whittall
Stage Manager: Kasi Valu
Producer: Tupe Lualua

Cast: Tupua Tigafua, David Long, Aloali'i Tapu, Chris Ofanoa, Louise Jiang, Aisea Latu, Lyncia Muller, Madison Wade, Onetoto Ikavuka, Saale 'Ilaua

Pasifika contemporary dance , Music , Multi-discipline , Dance , Cultural activation , Contemporary dance ,

60 mins

Gentle nurturing within a grieving process.

Review by Tā'i Paitai 10th Mar 2024

“I love this part” – says young Annie, who sits next to me in the front row during the performance. She would go on to say these 4 words as though delivering an important announcement, throughout the show. I loved her enthusiasm. 

Ciggy Butts in the Sand is a new collaborative work from esteemed Samoan choreographer, Tupua Tigafua, and renowned NZ Musician, David Long.
The work has come from an initial consultation process with a group of scientists, that was part of Track Zero in 2020. Bringing together creatives and scientists with the intention of delivering a work that is in response to their findings on what is happening to our environment throughout the world. 

You don’t have to dig deep to understand where the title stems from. The premise of the work, allows us to see through the eyes of a child. It is here that we are situated from the start to the end. For anyone that has experienced Tupua Tigafua’s work before, it is a style of contemporary dance theatre that always feels like you are unravelling a gift. As the inter-generational audience excitedly assemble, a lone performer can be seen through a door left open, pacing back and forth. A signature of Tupua’s work that insists on the unconventional being a norm, and it is a lived experience. It is reminiscent of life as a child. In love, in awe, inspired and always at odds with what is the ‘norm’. The sheer shrieks of amazement recoils itself throughout the theatre stench of shop-talk and network humming, like the stratosphere that sits above a climactic shift. 

It is dance. A dance, that sweeps across the floor like children (and adults) in a lolly scramble. Generations of hope, take deep breaths before releasing the body of movement that you want to embrace. It is here, that the performer in me of last millennia, cannot hold back the sudden urge to want to learn this work, and ‘dance’. The unabashed, uninhibited dance that reeks of a childhood, nearly 3000 years old. A tree stands like the tree from our backyard, but in my mind, I am the tree and the tree is me. I sat under it, climbed it, ate it’s fruit and even hugged it. I now want to be the tree (note to self – relentlessly hassle Tupua for a chance to perform in their next work) ‘It’s only a tree’, I hear you say. It’s the tree that was in the primary school production. It’s the tree that the great Sean Macdonald mastered with the ease that Bach created his divine music. Alas, there is no Sean, but there is a cast that are the embodiment of the great Tane Mahuta i te ngahere o Waipoua. This cast of performers with backgrounds in music, dance and theatre are annoyingly wonderful. It was shared before walking in to the theatre, that this company put this work together in a week. The expected intensity of that process has given the space for this work to breathe, kind of like inhaling the scent of a frangipani flower. 

Marinate on that for a moment. 
Now come back to 2024, where our island homes throughout Te Moana nui a Kiva will be consumed by the moana.

We are reliving our innocence, and we are grateful for this. There are moments in the very first dance offering, where the choreography highlights a gentle memory. The precise delivery from the performers brings joy. The joy in dance, the joy of being young and connected to everything that is alive. Now, our planet is in a state of neglect. Our heart rate has slowed down, and is in synch with the tree. The shadows created, light the pathway for some soul-searching, and cue spirit guy, kehua, aitu, tūpapaku, ghost. Their presence is a reminder of how far we have allowed the norm to dictate such nonsense as ‘spirits not existing in our daily lives.’ It makes sense that a child would see the spirit as a friendly entity that is connected to both their environment and them. They are our sadness, because we did not do a good job of paying attention to what really mattered.

The collaborative experience is flawless in this work. It is a duet in itself. How often are we privileged to witness such mastery? Obviously, the respect between Long and Tigafua carries into every facet of Ciggy Butts in the Sand. Theirs is the gentle nurturing within a grieving process. It is the reminder, the lesson and hope. Paying attention to someone’s heartbeat is a skill, indeed. What a fantastic outcome for one of the projects of Project Zero.

“I love this part, too”, says Annie, reminding me that she is the seasoned dance theatre professional, here. Spirit-guy is back. We can feel his sadness, and I want to hold Annie close to me, but I forgot to introduce myself earlier. A performer traverses across mountain ranges, the streams of tears flow through the TAPAC theatre, and land in an ocean that has been trashed by people who are not interested in the next generation.

Annie is quiet.

What have we done?

There is hope. A sprightly musician appears before us, as he would, say on a Cuba St corner, 30 years ago. It is a break in time. A moment of checking in. Listening. It is a heartbeat. The artist is responding with all the creative magic they can muster.
It is indicative of our responsibility.

The final image restricts our breathing, as we are consumed by sand that is heaved upon us. How is hope alive, in any of this?

I feel Annie shift in her seat next to me, and I sense she trusts that her Dad, Tupua, has created a safe future for her and her siblings.
If there is an award for a collaborative work that had something extra, Ciggy Butts in the Sand is a serious contender.

(Reviewer side note: A lot of our reviews never get to thank the Producers of the shows that we see. For this production, the engaging Tupe Lualua consistently provides a smile on cue, and understands every aspect of her role with the precision and grace that she has been blessed with. Fa’afetai telē lava x)


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Planting seeds for impetus? Perhaps.

Review by Lyne Pringle 23rd Jul 2021

It’s mid-July. The wind is howling, Wellington is flooding, Te Wai Pounmau is in the thralls of yet another 100 year weather event – triggering the second red alert level for 2021.
Farmers this week closed roads as they converged on city centres to protest law changes requiring them to lower their output of greenhouse gases into the air and nitrates into waterways.
Are we ‘on the same page’ yet? Climate change is here.

There is urgency. Track Zero have felt the call to action. They are a feisty, punching above their weight, organization who aim to: ‘bring together arts, science and other sectors to tell the climate story in ways that engage people’s hearts and minds – inspiring transformative climate change action’.  
Matchmaking scientists and artists, to initiate pan discipline conversations to, potentially, fold scientific data into arts practice. Creating performance works that provoke the audience to contemplate the state of the planet. And to . . . well . . .?

Scientists gather data in order to understand the natural world and to project future scenarios.
How can art practice have an effect on people’s perceptions and behaviours?
Does the artistic offering tell us ‘what we already know’ – things are bad?
Does it place in front of us a poignant and grief-stricken threnody for what is lost?
Or, does it place in front of us a revisioning of a voluptuous future that has solved our current problems?

Ciggie Butts in the Sand creates resonant images that stay with the viewer long after the work has dissolved. Planting seeds for impetus? Perhaps.

Tupua Tigafua is a clever and imaginative director/choreographer. He finds inspiration in his four young offspring.  There is a freshness in his work, that invites the viewer to see through the eyes of a child; as if transported into a dream so vivid that upon waking one is reorientated.
The sonic landscape from David Long is astonishing. Layered, surprising, by turns joyful and sorrowful, it provides a rich tapestry for the work and adds emotional depth and power. Various musical elements are cleverly juxtaposed.

A large chorus, of recent graduates and training actors from Toi Whakaari, conjure a magical world. They are sad bedraggled creatures or sprightly wood nymphs or trees mourning the loss of their neighbours in tender, poignant and regretful scenes that anthropomorphize the disintegrating natural world.

When they dance it is electric. Jeremy Beck is an absolutely crucial component in the choreographic field. An exquisite mover, full of nuance and delicacy, he leads the way with his creative contribution. Sean McDonald as the rehearsal director assists in shaping the whole.

This is an evening that celebrates partnerships: the complicité between Long and Tigafua – Track Zero in the match maker role has hit the jackpot; the dialogue with the science community, in this case paua researcher Natalia Bullon – again with Track Zero as conduit;  the insightful What if Climate Change Were Purple project, led by Professor James Renwick – using part of the money he received as recipient of the Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize 2018 – supported by the University Te Herenga Waka/Victoria University of Wellington ; Tupe Lualua and Le Moana as producers; Te Papa as the host; Te Auaha providing rehearsal space and Toi Whakaari interning students. Truly a community effort to bring this work to the stage. This level of co-operation among multiple partners is a triumph in itself.

The final scene references the intriguing title of the work in typical turn-it-on-its-head Tigifua style.  Humans have an intense relationship with oxygen and we all have different capacity to hold our breath. Our extremities tend to writhe and wriggle when we are running out of air. Are we suffocating ourselves by our actions? Are we in danger of being extinguished like Ciggie Butts in the Sand?

There are many unique and startling components to the work, which can be interpreted as a disruption of the current humancentric hierarchy. Constantly pan personal and  pan object where the boundaries between humans and the rest of the natural world dissolve. 

A project such as this dips a toe into the water of collaboration between science and the arts – the potential for powerful and resonant artistic offerings is compelling and urgent. 

Beautiful, imaginative and whimsical, yet it is unclear how this work will lead to real changes in behaviour, carbon use and legislation. The smallish audience for the event, to make a sweeping assumption, are probably left leaning and already switched on to sustainable practice on some level. Where to from here for this work? How far can the ripples of this kind of important practice, reach across the waters of hopelessness and apathy that many are feeling?

Science sifts through a blizzard of data to find razor sharp truths. The arts are blunter, accessing an intuitive realm through the imagination and the heart. How in the latter practice do the dots of – problem – heart response – citizen action get connected?

In the Sunday Q & A ,hosted by Sarah Meads, that followed the two night season of Ciggie Butts in the Sand, there were a scientist, an activist and two artists in the hot seats.

When asked by an audience member how one can find hope in the midst of all the ‘bad news’ there were a variety of responses. 
Penehuro Lefale, Senior Climate Change Advisor, Tokelau, says he has hope in ‘technological solutions  such as  atmospheric manipulation – a bit controversial.’
Unangaro Vakaafi – Council of Elder member of the Pacific Climate Warriors had simple pragmatic advice: ‘use your vote, plant trees.’

Artists David Long and Tupua Tigifua were more wistful and poetic. Long: ‘work towards a centre . . . there is a need for deep conversations to change the prevailing narratives.’ Tigifua, whimsically taciturn: ‘ Everyone has something in common, treat everyone nicely, remind people about magic and beauty, share a space with children to find a common ground [with the adult world].’

The chair of Track Zero, Sarah Meads, states in their annual report:  ‘a dance, song or painting can tell the climate story in ways we feel, not just know, deeply changing the way we think and behave to inspire a collective response to the climate crisis.’

Ciggie Butts in the Sand  provides a road map, albeit it mystical, for communities to get ‘on the same page’ to ensure some semblance of a future for our children.

How easily this particular work can achieve stated aims and how far the resonances of this kind of practice can travel remains to be seen.


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Climate change through the eyes of child

Review by Anton Carter 15th Jul 2021

Samoan choreographer Tupua Tigafua and New Zealand composer David Long bring their two worlds together in a unique collaboration, to create a dream like magical world where anything is possible.    

If you have seen Tigafua’s earlier work called Shel We, then this work is an eco-hybrid turbo charged edition. It is like seeing a movie sequel with some of your favourite characters returning (the ghost man with the sheet over his head, the family of deer with branches as antlers and talking trees).  

The beauty of this work is that it is made for your imagination and is not reliant on extensive sets or elaborate lighting design. Simple props are used; like a model aeroplane, cardboard boxes or large sheets of crumpled paper that morph throughout from clouds, animals, human figures, to mass paua shells.   

Each scene presented is like a chapter in a book that slowly unfolds to tell the story. The most impactful scene has a live guitarist and talking trees, highlighting the impact of Kauri die-back, when the trees gather to say a few words for ‘Tony’ who got the chop because of the disease. Another memorable scene is with a model aeroplane being pushed across the stage, which then takes off amongst the ‘floating clouds’ of crumpled paper sheets.       

David Long’s compositions are top notch, they sync effortlessly with the movement adding colour, depth, and variety. Employing delicate filmic soundscapes, a powerfully layered fugue which builds in intensity, electronic strobing riffs through to guitar-based plucking with an eastern European influence. David’s vast experience as a composer shines through and is a real pleasure to hear. The cast also use their voices adding harmonic tones to good effect. Simple is best when simple is clever and well thought out.   

The movement could be described as childlike and playful with a wonderful rhythmical bounce, sideways foot shuffles, upward lifted clasped hands, shoulder shrugs, synchronised knee wobbles and fluid upper body tremors. The full cast (fourteen in all) do a great job of mixing Tigafua’s fresh dance choreography with nice theatrical touches that bring out the subtle environmental commentary underpinning the production.     

The group sequences, at times, remind me of 70’s synchronised nightclub dancing.  They are beautifully executed.  Towards the end the chorus dances to Elvis Presley’s ‘Crying in the Chapel’ which is humourous but also poignant. Humour is a key factor which flows through the production.     

Seeing the world through the eyes of a child means everyone can relate to something going on, no matter your age or dance experience. Cannot wait for the next sequel and continuing collaborations. 


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