Pacific Dance Choreolab 2012

Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland

10/11/2012 - 10/11/2012

Production Details

The Pacific Dance Choreographic Laboratory 2012 promises to showcase a broad slice of Auckland’s Pacific dance talent. Ranging from street and hip-hop to contemporary and classical Polynesian dance, the Pacific Dance Choreo Lab brings together talent from youth (Secondary) students, to Unitec Department of Performing and Screen Arts dance students, to more experienced professional dancers in a laboratory where experimentation is key.

This year, the fourth year of the Lab, 3 selected choreographers – Tupua Tigafua (Black Grace, Mau, New Zealand Dance Company), Nita Latu (3rd Year Bachelor of Dance Studies) and Dr Maile Giffin (Polynesian Entertainers) have embarked on a journey to discover and develop their various dance visions to create 3 very different and distinct dance work. 

Tupua Tigafua (Samoan), coming from a contemporary dance background, has been working with four Unitec dance students to develop his work – ‘Shel We’. Although previously devised in ‘En Route’ earlier this year, Tupua wanted to develop this work into a larger piece. His inspiration comes from a book he found in his childhood, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (1964), who also wrote for ‘Sesame St’. Here, Tupua seeks to capture the humour and wit of Shel’s writing along with the simplicity of space shown in his drawings and to explore within this the Samoan concept of the ‘Va’ (the space between).

Nita Latu’s (Tongan) piece, ‘We are Who we Are’, on the other hand is firmly based in youth dance; street and hip-hop with elements of contemporary. Nita’s subject matter deals with the disturbing topic of youth suicide and she has worked with secondary students in order to seek a ‘true’ expression of the feelings of this age group while seeking not only to address the issue but to find ways to give hope in a world sometimes seemingly overwhelming. This piece promises to be a hard-hitting account and expression of the urban youth experience today.

Dr Maile Giffin (Hawai’ian) has stuck to Hawaiian expression in her piece – ‘Changes of our Land’ in which she explores the changing face of Hawai’i from the 1700’s into the modern day tourist Mecca it has become. Maile has worked with more experienced dancers (who have not done Hawai’ian dance before) to create a piece showing off the range of Hawai’ian movement from Kahiko (ancient forms) to Auana (modern forms). This piece promises to tell a story, large in its scope but also intimate in its delivery.

This year’s laboratory was mentored by Iosefa Enari, director of Pacific Dance New Zealand and the former convener of the ‘Pacific Music and Dance’ programme at the University of Auckland. Iosefa has also held posts at Te Wananga o Aotearoa as the curriculum leader of Pacific dance studies as well as BEST Training where he was instrumental in developing the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts (PIPA) programme.

Iosefa’s mentoring approach this year was based on ‘the business side of dance’ where Sefa focused this year’s choreographers not only on choreographic values but also on the business of organisation, scheduling, budgeting and the business of moving into dance theatre production.

2012 has seen 20 dancers from around Auckland come together under the vision of these three up and coming Pacific dance choreographers and their mentor. This year’s laboratory showing on Saturday, 10th November, 7pm, Mangere Arts Centre, promises to showcase a slice of the tremendous talent coming out of one of the fastest growing arts sectors in the country – Pacific Dance. And, it’s free!! Not to be missed. 

For media enquiries email, for general enquiries or to RSVP, phone: 376 00 60.


1 hour

Another year of discovery for Pacific Dance Aotearoa.

Review by Teokotai Paitai 13th Nov 2012

The Pacific Dance Choreographic Lab (PDCL) is in its 4th year, has a full house and is brimming with excitement. Support is one of the key factor’s to the success story of PDCL, and this year is no different.

After formal acknowledgements by Pacific Dance New Zealand Director and this year’s Senior Dance Mentor, Iosefa Enari, the show starts to thunderous applause.

The first of this year’s 3 choreographer’s, Nita Latu (Tonga) is about to present “We Are, Who We Are”. In her final year of the Bachelor of Dance Studies, at the University of Auckland, Latu is also a product of the Black Grace Dance Company’s, Urban Youth Movement. Along with 9 students from 3 colleges (Avondale, Rutherford and Kelston) based in West Auckland, Latu tackles the overbearing weight of youth suicide within the Pacific community.

The dance asks, ponders and makes positive affirmations. Rhythms blend into imagery, and we witness hip hop transcend contemporary with ease, and vice versa.

Friends appear, and disappear; where one once sat in dismay, another arrives to offer, a hand up. The message of this dance unites and at the same time, offers each audience member, a challenge. A brave and noble dance, filled with integrity. These dancers are exciting to watch. They epitomise the vitality and promise of hope within youth. There is poise entrenched in this dance. It is a gift that comes from a special place.  It is known to everyone. Malo ‘aupito.

The next offering is “Changes of our Land”, by Dr Maile Giffin (Hawaii). With the interest in Hawaiian hula (dance) growing in Aotearoa/NZ, it is a treat to get an insight into the history/culture of our Hawaiian cousins. Few of us have witnessed the Merrie Monarch Festival, held in Hawaiievery year. It is testimony to the resurgence of another culture that was colonised, in the Pacific.

Six performers open with chant. It is grounding. Movement is offered, humbly; inviting us into this new world. The audience takes check, and we realise we are witnessing a new voice, that we are familiar with, but, are not. Respectfully, we recognise, and we allow the ensuing dance to wash over us, like the scent of the ever-prominent Pacific iconic, frangipani flower. Precision cuts through this dance, hands, eyes, hips, legs. All are coordinated, to uncover a history, unknown to many of us in the audience. We reveal, we understand, and we acknowledge. It is story-telling, from the Pacific. We know.

Shel Silverstein. Heard of him? By the end of this, the final dance offering of the PDCL 2012, I’ll be on my iphone to google him, and soak myself in his writings.  For it is this writer that has inspired the dance work,

“We shall see Shel on the seashore” by Tupua Tigafua.

Before I continue, allow me to give a little more background to the Pacific Dance Choreographic Lab. The ‘lab’ was set up to offer emerging choreographers, of Pacific descent, the chance to present a 10-15 minute work that they would like to develop, without the pressures of producing a show. This year each choreographer was given rehearsal space, dancers and promotion of their new work. Each choreographer also had 2 months to prepare their work, the longest time offered so far, for the ‘lab’.  

This dance is an unexpected treat. Tigafua is a natural. The dancers (all 1st year dancers’ from Unitec’s Bachelor of Performing and Screen Arts (Contemporary Dance) course) bring to life the magical nuances of a truly beloved story-teller.


If you are a dreamer, come in,

If you’re a dreamer, a wisher a liar,

A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…

If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire

For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.

Come in!

Come in!

(Shel Silverstein: Where the Sidewalk Ends)

A full moon dances across the sky, as men cower under trees from the rain. The scene is set. A gentleman arrives home to familiarity. There is magic asunder. A hand takes hold of his umbrella and scarf, while a shoe, neatly polished, flexes to wear his cap. A dance evolves out of ‘thin air’, or was it a sneeze? The full moon outside taunts, as a pied piper enlightens the un-converted.

The movement is light, filled with suspense. The tide slowly comes in, to take loved ones away on a ship. The audience respond with vigour. I try to remember the last time I waved farewell to a ship? There is humour in abundance. Moustached, young characters parade, across the stage, some only making it out of the wings. A foot taps a beat, another travels backwards.

Where are we? It doesn’t matter. We are treated to a journey en route to a place called Happiness.

Come in!

Come in!

The overall sense of a complete show embodies me as I walk through the fine hallway of Mangere Arts Centre. This is the final show, for the Southside Arts Festival. Families and friends surround the performers and choreographers. They prop them up and celebrate another year of discovery for Pacific Dance Aotearoa.


Kia Manuia


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