MOANA '14, a Pacific Dance Showcase

TAPAC - The Auckland Performing Arts Centre, Auckland

25/09/2014 - 30/09/2014

Production Details

MOANA ’14, a Pacific Dance Showcase

Moana ’14, a Pacific Dance Showcase (TAPAC Theatre 25th – 30th September) is the second instalment of this dance series. It presents a series of works from Pacific choreographers who call Auckland home.

Moana means ocean in Pacific languages and the term is used here to represent the coming together of people from various parts of Moana Nui a Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean) in Auckland, New Zealand.

Moana is a forum in which to present works which express a range of specifically Pacific voices through the form of dance.

This is the story of Auckland City, a reflection of its urban environment and lives lived and grown within its belly. Pacific Dance New Zealand presents Moana ’14 as a celebration of Auckland as a Pacific City.

During the evening shows, choreographers Sesilia Pusiaki (Pukepuke o Tonga), Nikki Upoko (The Call) and Aruna Po-Ching (Bended) take you on a journey of their experience. These up-and-coming and mid-career choreographers present stories of identity, passion, heritage, modernity and urban flux within a one-hour presentation of works reflecting what it is to be Pacific in Aukilani/Auckland today.


Dancer:  Aruna Po-Ching
Costume: Simamao Po-Ching
Thank you:  Martin Creative Studio


A P.I. woman in the 1970s dealing with bipolar, we witness her erroneous bended reality. I had first-hand experience with a dear friend with bipolar and the repercussions of her illness on her two young children and her on-again, off-again boyfriend.  May we have compassion for those with mental disorder.
R.I.P. Robin Williams

If you’re lucky enough to catch the matinee shows, specifically for school aged students from around Auckland, you’ll see choreographer Hadleigh Pouesi (The Freshness) and his hip-hop dance crew Fresh Movement NZ present a story exploring the Pacific influence in NZ hip-hop and the influence from America in our own culture.

Fresh Movement also appears in the evening show on the last night of the season – making that particular evening something special.

Also, for the first time, Pacific DanceNZ will be holding a special invitation Gala Nite on Sunday 28th September at 6pm in order to celebrate 5 years of operations. This will showcase a number of Pacific Dance NZ’s dance stable, from kids to choreographers and dancers who have been involved over the years – not to be missed.

Tickets are available from TAPAC –

BOX OFFICE / RECEPTION – ph: 09 845 0295 ext 1, e:

Guests: Hadleigh Pouesi (The Freshness) and his hip-hop dance crew Fresh Movement NZ 

1 hour

Complex ideas explored in cultural and contemporary forms

Review by Margi Vaz Martin 26th Sep 2014

Moana ’14, a Pacific Dance Showcase (TAPAC Theatre 25th – 30th September) is the second instalment of this dance series. It presents a series of works from Pacific choreographers who explore both cultural and contemporary performance in making new works  to communicate complex ideas.

The Call by Nikki Upoko begins and ends with poetic monologue by Michelle Durey, Upoko’s MIT student colleague who was a part of the devising process. With half her face painted with a  grey sugar skull, Durey represents the dancer’s conscience. Upoko steps into the spotlight in a red bra and grass hula skirt with a tale of grass (a titi) bobbing from her waist. She is strikingly dramatic in her costume. Her elaborate head piece (pare) is large and colourful. She dances Cook Island Hula ( they call it Ura) with swaying hip movements. She is sensual, with flowing grace and skill. Upoko has devised a piece that blends some contemporary with traditional. The range of music in the accompaniment track includes piano and she uses sticks to beat time between steps. After she discards the sticks she also discards her head piece and titi. Staring intensely at the audience, the music is close to dub-step and she finds a vocabulary that contemporises the hula. Moving between seated and standing she flows into a hip hop influence, arms wacking, while hips isolate. When Durey re-enters with more creative monologue, Upoko moves quietly and slowly around her.

This engaging and enjoyable piece has a few areas which could benefit from growth if it is further developed. For example, if the poetic narrator represents the conscience then it would be good to establish a closer link between the two at beginning.

Bended by Aruna Po-Ching emerges as sounds of sea, wind and guitar rise through the studio, andPo-Ching appears in a pale blue dress that her mother wore in the 70s. (You know the advice to clean out your wardrobe regularly is wrong!) In half light she steps, looks, steps again and then Hula explodes from her knees with bass sounds and voices wafting from the distance. The dance comes from her. It seems to be her, as if it is the way she progresses through any day. Lights rise and there are cutting lines to usual soft Hula arms. They are sharper and point to a change. Gradually joy erupts as foot patterns intensify and eyes connect with the audience as she grins manically. This is a piece about a Pacific Island woman dealing with bipolar disorder but we do not need the programme notes to tell us that. Po-Ching transitions between conflicting states with skill; showing joy, sliding into normality and then with crazy, angry depression. She concludes with arms wide, quiet turning and joy as if heavenly waters are washing over her.

 Po-Ching shows that she is ready for the depiction of complex issues through dance and can fill the stage herself without backup. We are definitely watching a mid-career artist. Her ideas are clear and well developed, her movement and expressions are flawless.

Pukepuke o Tonga by Sesilia Pusiaki truly upholds Tongan culture. I bask in the ambient light, continuum of warm, drone-like harmonies; Tongan language, community connection and precise fluid movement. Sesilia Pusiaki has done it again – she has produced a stunning cultural experience that takes us into the heart ofTonga and lets us rest there, while we drink in sights and sounds. The family, performance community just gets better each time, if that is possible. Continuing to upholdTonga’s three ancient dances from her home, Pusiaki reinvents the order of sequences and configurations in a satisfying way.

The 14 on stage start seated, in four groups that balance the space. In blacks, they are adorned in skirts, cummerbunds made from mat (kie) and red lei. The light is soft like a clear evening. There is a sitting dance for the girls while family accompany in continuous song. The movements are graceful and there are intricate hand movements while everything is fluid or to use a music term – legato. Boys transition to take the front while the girls blend back into the seated community. The exuberant leaps and falls that always appear in this dance are executed in a box with movement into the middle and away. As they step and turn rhythmically it is buoyant but not sharp. Tenuto, not staccato. For a while the harmonies are pentatonic using 4ths and 5ths, as they repeat over and over and remain at the same moderate dynamic. At the conclusion, we linger in the theatre space, dreamy. 


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