MOANA Showcase 2024

Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland

15/06/2024 - 15/06/2024

Pacific Dance Festival 2024

Production Details


Experience the Magic of MOANA at the Pacific Dance NZ Festival 2024

Embark on a journey across the vast, blue expanse that connects us all as we celebrate the essence of MOANA at the Pacific Dance NZ Festival 2024. This annual spectacle, nestled in the heart of our festival, is more than a show—it’s a tribute to the enduring spirit of our islands and the rich tapestry of cultures that flourish around the Pacific Ocean. This year, we invite you to witness a showcase like no other, brimming with talent, innovation, and the soulful narratives of our Pacific people.

Venue: Māngere Arts Centre
Dates: 15/6/2024
Times: 7PM
Prices: $28.12

Featured Artists:

2024 Choreographic Lab Cohort:
– Lagi Hogue
– Paige Mowbray
– Jenna Te Ariki

NZ School of Dance
– Corbyn Taulealea-Huch
– Anton Pulefale

Dance , Pasifika contemporary dance ,

60 minutes

A meeting place, the space-between, the Wā/Vā,

Review by Chas Mamea 18th Jun 2024

Pacific Dance Festival has provided the Moana showcase as a platform for emerging Pasifika and Indigenous Maori dance artists for over 15 years. The 2024 cohort was a mixture of distinct Pacific stories and storytellers, made up of Pacific Choreographic Lab nomineesPaige Mowbray and Jenna Te Ariki; NZ School of Dance performing Papakāinga choreographed by Braedyn Togi; Unitec duets performed by Komai Waqalevu and Nilla Wooching, Juelz Silulu and Leilani-Grace Tonu’u; and solo emerging artists, Corbyn Taulealea-Huch and Anton Pulefale.

The audience brings a mixed bag of performers/choreographers who have previously been a part of the lineage of Moana showcase(s) and Pacific Dance Festival over the years, joined by families and friends of the diverse cohort of dancers involved from street dance, traditional Pacific dance and the contemporary dance scene. Their mafana is felt throughout the show, breaking the fourth wall and reflecting the dancers and choreographers’ villages, which they carry with them.

Nukututaha by Anton Pulefale opens up the show with a powerful start. The house lights flick on, and we are greeted by a charismatic introduction, where Pulefale is found amongst the audience. He waves to his friends and magafaoa (family) amongst the crowd as he makes his way to the stage, “standing out from the crowd”. Pulefale does well in demanding the space and attention of the audience with a strong presence. He journeys from powerful, striking, athletic street dance moves to subtle, embodied flows. His use of musicality reflects his dedication to his skill and craft in choreography and freestyle. Although a solo work, Pulefale showcases a video that includes the communities he works with and carries with him, reflecting that although we come as one, we walk as thousands, carrying our communities and ancestors with us in all we do. Pulefale’s work reflects the urban narrative as a Niuean creative living in the diaspora “in an accessible and relatable way for many Pacific people to affirm their culture”. As such, Nukututaha reflects the work being done by artists reclaiming their identity through street dance. Although street dance is not widely considered ‘Pacific Dance’ within scholarly literature or in current dance community conversations, the integral adoption of street dance by Pacific/Indigenous artists in Aotearoa has allowed creatives like Pulefale to unpack indigeneity in empowering and relatable ways. I look forward to seeing this piece being developed further into a full-length show.

PAPAKĀINGA choreographed by Braedyn Togi and performed by NZ School of Dance trio Te Atawhai Kaa, Anya Down and Sophie Sheaf-Morrison, showcases three women dressed in grounded, earthy tones. They gently acknowledge Papatūānuku with soft gestures towards whenua and calm, intentional breaths. A gentle relational threading between the women reflects that of layered whakapapa and stories coming together to merge as one. As the music picks up, the women move together seamlessly, and a playful relationship develops, showcasing each dancer’s individual whakapapa of dance vocabulary and highlighting their personalities through lively expressions. Their technical moves largely impress the audience – refreshing for Pacific audiences who don’t see contemporary dance often here in Tāmaki Makaurau but also reflect the human body’s capability in gentle and graceful way(s). Flowing motifs are used throughout the piece to which the women resemble flowing trees in gentle winds.

Ko Teia te Openga? choreographed by Jenna Te Ariki opens up her piece with te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani spoken by one of her elders, layered with vintage footage of Cook Islands dancing. These layers tell us she is rooted in her culture, coming from a strong Cook Islands performing background. Te Ariki states that her piece is based on preserving, nurturing, and valuing cultural traditions in urban landscapes where the Cook Islands language is rapidly declining. Pacific-contemporary fusions mixed with Pacific influences in their costuming reflect those crossovers in traditional and urban influences for young Pasifika navigating their cultural identities. Embodied gestures of rowing a vaka signify the journey of her ancestors and the journey of (re)connecting to one’s cultural heritage.

Of Change choreographed by Juelz Silulu and Leilani-Grace Tonu’u, displays a gentle but sure presence between the dancers, and the connections, disruptions and relational conflict. This was reflected in their flowy fighting movement vocabulary. The pair wear contrasting navy blue and maroon silk pleated shirts and black formal pants. The conflicting layered ideas of brown bodies in ‘semi-formal’ work attire moving through contemporary dance choreography very articulately, prompts me to think critically about the piece through a political lens – as brown bodies executing contemporary dance is political. Our existence in these spaces and ways of moving are political, as they have not been inherently passed down to us; however, the emerging Pasifika creatives engaging in contemporary dance have taken the art form and made it their own. To see our people represented in such spaces. Silulu and Tonu’u do well to move and tell their story in such ways – defying gravity with flow, intention and performance. I enjoyed their performance quality and commitment to their craft.

Allies in Motion choreographed by Komai Waqalevua and Nilla Wooching, explores the multifaceted nature of friendship. Waqalevua and Wooching do well to command the space with their dominant presence. Both are beautifully graceful yet powerful movers, and the pair complement each other well. They are met with large cheers from the audience. Their stylish costuming of black mesh tops, grey half-dresses with side splits, coupled with black flared pants, and a slick braided hairstyle adds to the performance quality. The duet finds varying ways of embracing one another, to upbeat music that encourages me to sit at the edge of my seat. This is a duet I look forward to seeing more of in the future.

Resonance choreographed by Paige Mowbray with NZ School of Dance cohort, Miriam Kendra, Anya Down and Te Atawhai Kaa – open up their piece by crawling onto the stage in creature-like ways. Mowbray explored the ideas of presence and space within her work whilst paying tribute to the people in their past to build the foundations for their present. Their technical training at NZ School of Dance is made prominent through their inversions, falling, flowing, spinning and jumping with ease and without a sound. The piece’s flow becomes an endeavour of the three women moving across the stage in an ethereal-like manner, a dream-like state, further established through their flowy white costuming, which compliments the movement well. The three women glide and slowly make their way off stage, as the final woman to leave continues to hold space well as she drifts, floats, and circles in fullness until the very last moment.

BOOKMARK choreographed by Corbyn Taulealea-Huch is a stamp in time around her current identity and journey as a dance artist. Corbyn explores themes of masculine femininity with a star cast of 11 heavy-hitting street dance creatives, both experienced and new generation: Fia Taualai, Viva-Leah Elesoni Palalagi, Isla Potini, Chay Kealey, Emma Huch, Chantelle Huch, Byron Fa’aui, Jacob Filipe, Iavana Seauala and Jaden Godinet. Coming from a street dance background, and understanding the competitive whakapapa that our community comes from – it is important to acknowledge the collaborative mahi that Taulealea-Huch has allowed to come in the creation of this piece – a representation of Pacific peoples in all parts of the street dance scene: Saintz, Royal Family, Nappyboyz. I appreciate the diverse mixture within her cast.

Each dancer gets their flowers, as the piece starts with a choreographed cypher. The synergy in the group is undeniable and equally felt by the audience. The team receive loud cheers during each dancer’s solo debuts. The music and choreography take us on a journey of Taulealea-Huch’s distinct and diverse style as an artist. Taualai and Elesoni Palalagi showcase an afro-beat duet, which we see they are well-versed in through their articulation of the choreography. The men perform locking to a different kind of track, as their musicality showcases their much-commended experience in the locking style foundations – particularly within a dance scene, which does not often honour foundational hip-hop/street dance styles.

The highlight of this piece was the chair scene performed by the women in the team. The embodiment by Kealey for this section is to be commended, as an emerging artist in the dance scene, but holding space as a hard-hitting mover. Taulealea-Huch’s distinctive style is a reclamation of the flow of how a Pacific woman can present herself in multi-faceted ways: the gentle caretaker, the caring leader, the shy introvert; but she can also be the tomboy, the gangster, the girl from the hood. Bookmark highlights these ideas, and breaks those stereotypes. Overall, this piece was a strong finish for the Moana show and it is refreshing to see quality, stimulating, invigorating street dance performance work. I look forward to seeing more of the content Taulealea-Huch has to offer – hopefully, this work will develop into a full-length show.

Moana Showcase 2024 offers us a meeting place, the space-between, the Wā/Vā, the weaving of Mana Moana stories to exchange and reflect upon the ideas of ‘Pacific Dance’ being explored in the current landscapes of Aotearoa today. Fa’afetai, ngā mihi, fakaaue, ​​meitaki, vinaka for your collective, diverse work.


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