Hannah Playhouse, Cnr Courtenay Place & Cambridge Terrace, Wellington

01/06/2019 - 02/06/2019

Te Auaha - Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington

12/12/2018 - 14/12/2018

Gisborne War Memorial Theatre, Gisborne

16/10/2019 - 16/10/2019

Globe 2, Globe Theatre, 312 Main St, Palmerston North

20/03/2019 - 21/03/2019

Opera House - Toitoi, Hawkes Bay Arts & Events Centre, Hastings

19/10/2020 - 19/10/2020

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival 2019

Festival of Cultures 2019

Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2020 (Harcourts)

Kia Mau festival 2019

Measina Festival 2018

Production Details

Le Moana

Shel We? Tupua Tigafua/Le Moana
The Globe is delighted to host Shel We? as part of the Palmerston North 2019 Festival of Cultures. Support from Pub Charity Ltd, Central Energy Trust and Palmerston North City Council has enabled three performances and a workshop in schools as the centrepiece of this years’ Festival of Cultures.
Inspired by the works of renowned American writer Shel Silverstein, choreographed by the Award winning Tupua Tigāfua and produced by Tupe Lualua, Creative Director of internationally acclaimed dance company, Le Moana, Shel We? is an enchanting, playfully intriguing and visually stunning show.
Tupua Tigāfua is a highly accomplished dancer and one of the most gifted ingenious storytellers of this generation. After an illustrious career dancing for some of Aotearoa’s creative elite, Tupua has steadily created his own dance style and has now developed his full-length dance show ‘Shel We?’.
Shel We? premiered in December 2018 to launch the annual Measina Festival, a springboard for Aotearoa’s cutting-edge dance and theatre, and one of the only festivals in the world that is committed to the growth of Contemporary Pacific Arts.
Le Moana, founded in 2012 by Creative Director, Tupe Lualua, is a dance theatre company based in Wellington, New Zealand. Le Moana is a vessel for the exchange of stories, concepts and ideas dedicated to cultural enrichment of Pacific heritage through the medium of Pacific dance and theatre.

“Finesse, superb technical skills, experienced performers…the dance movements and choreography is assured, well-crafted and clever. Tigafua possesses a highly theatrical imagination and a liking for clearly-defined movement that uses the full-bodied energies of the male dancer” – Theatreview 2016

If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are 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


Harcourts Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2020

6:00 pm on 19 October at Toitoi, Hawkes Bay Arts & Events Center



Kia Mau Festival 2019

1-2 June

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival 2019

“Gravity is defied, literally, emotionally and metaphorically.”John Smythe, Theatreview.

“Shel We? Is the best dance theatre work I’ve seen since Michael Keegan-Dolan’s ‘Swan Lake’.”Carla Van Zon, Festival Director

War Memorial Theatre, Gisborne
Wednesday 16th Oct 2016
Post Show Talk 7:30pm
A Reserve $25, A Reserve Concession $20, B Reserve $20, Children $15
A strict lock-out policy will be in place once the show starts. So, please ensure you are on time.


Pasifika contemporary dance , Dance-theatre , Dance ,

1 hr

Gently woven story, precise and fluid dancing

Review by Kim Buckley 20th Oct 2020

It occurs to me I am bearing witness to the Pasfika custom of verbal storytelling, a legend passed down through the generations translated through the beautiful physical narrative unfolding before my eyes and recognised by my heart.

Tupua Tigafua choreographs the story of his parents’ life before and after him. I find it humorous, wonderous, playful, polished, sharp, well timed, joyful, thoughtful, simple yet intricately layered.

Tigafua keeps his narrated ideas gently woven piece upon piece. I really enjoy the way his story intelligently unfolds. Contemporary dance with physical theatre and vocalising, and a beautiful singular male voice in song with guitar.

I recognise his dance elders within the choreographic quartets of movement. The dancing itself is precise and fluid, and satisfyingly embraced by dancers Justin Haiu, Chris Ofanoa, Jeremy Beck, Andy Faiaoga and Tigafua himself.

I feel content as the dancers take their bow and yet am left with wanting more dancing. I look forward to the choreographic maturity this artist will achieve that comes with the growth of continued movement research. More of this could only delight further.

Please come back next year, Tupua, and tell us another story. 


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Playful, poignant, ambiguous …

Review by Jo Thorpe 17th Oct 2019

From the opening minutes of Tupua Figafua’s first full length dance theatre work Shel We, we sense we are in for something different.  No fanfare.  No ‘look at me!’ kind of opening.  Just a man with another man on his shoulders, walking across the stage in front of the curtains, counting aloud (though you have to strain to hear) the number of steps he is taking.

It is a naturalistic, almost pedestrian (some might say underwhelming) beginning, closely followed by a man sitting on the floor strumming a guitar very quietly.  He rocks from side to side, singing almost inaudibly, as if to himself.  Rain falls.  There is a tree, a moon. 

What follows is an idiosyncratic collage of scenes, snapshots, loose-limbed, baggy-trousers ensemble dancing of stunning precision, musicality and timing, to a mix of baroque music, soulful harmonica playing and evocative Samoan songs. 

Tigafua’s work was last seen in Gisborne as part of Footnote’s 2018 Search Engine.  In that programme, his piece Home Sweet Home explored the theme of searching – for home, acceptance, peace of mind.  Of Samoan descent, Tigafua has worked for most of NZ’s top contemporary dance companies, including Black Grace, MAU, the NZ Dance Company and Atamira, and this experience shows.

The programme tells us that Shel We was inspired by the “offbeat style and metaphorical imagery in the poetry and illustrations of the work of American writer, Shel Silverstein”.  I have one of Silverstein’s books, The Light in the Attic, on my bookshelves, given to my kids in the 80s.  Referring to it now, I can immediately see Tigafua’s skill in transforming Silverstein’s quirky black and white drawings and wondrous characters into delightfully engaging dance theatre. Gestural and facial expressions play an important part, as does humour and wit, albeit tinged with poignancy and ambiguity.  I am reminded of Kylian at his funniest – or Mats Ek at and C de la B at their least dark.

In one scene, a dancer (Sean MacDonald) takes the stage.  He has branches in his mouth and hands, and is soon joined by another, similarly equipped.  Before long they have morphed into a horse (or is it a reindeer or donkey? I’m thinking Don Quixote here, or A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Suddenly there are two horses doing a courtship dance, and yes, love is in the air.

And on comes the glorious baroque music, ushering in the first burst of group dancing.  The all-male cast of light-footed, limber dancers – Sean MacDonld, Justin Haui, Christopher Ofanoa and Andy Tilo – impress with their comic timing and sheer joy of movement.  Their precision ensemble dancing defies the fact (disclosed at the Q and A session afterwards) that they have only been dancing together for one week!  Energy abounds and their loose, insouciance is infectious.  Hips gyrate, hands outspread, heads roll, shoulders shrug, and legs do a knees-up gambol around the stage, springy-kneed and easy in a Mr Bojanglesque kind of way.

Suddenly we are back to The Tree.  It hums a tuneless ditty.  Boys gather round it, hide in its branches, play wargames around the trunk and shoot guns into the wings.  (As hugely-experienced dancer Sean MacDonald says with delightful irony in the Q and A afterwards – “I have been around for a long time, danced with MAU, NZ Dance Company, Black Grace, and I get to be a TREE!”)

This air of infectious playfulness is evident in performance as the dancers recite nursery rhymes  (“Ickle me, pickle me, tickle me too”), become Whooooo-ing ghosts shrouded in white, or chant the Alphabet song before exiting stage right with a casual leap, jacket slung over one shoulder.  It all feels very natural; honest. 

Enhanced by simple staging, clever use of props, and soundscapes of rain, birdsong and voices, Shel We has the kids in the audience engaged throughout and the adults reminded of what it is to be playful.   

But then, just as we are lifted up, moments of poignancy will surprise and leave us dangling.  These come especially when the dancers appear to be constantly searching for something just beyond the horizon.  They run forward, peer into the distance, then fall back bewildered, their bodies ricocheting and flowing through sound. 

Curiously, it is this more sombre vein which remains with me the next day.  One of Silverstein’s most famous stories, ‘The Giving Tree’ (1964), has been translated into 30 languages.  It features the close relationship between a boy and a tree.  As he grows up, the boy has less and less time for the tree, but more and more need for what the tree can give him.  Eventually the tree allows itself to be chopped down to make lumber for a boat so the boy can go sailing.  As an old man, he returns, sits on its stump and rests.  ‘The Giving Tree’ was described at the time as “sad and ambiguous … a realistic assessment of the human condition.” 

In Shel We, Tigafua creates his own intriguing version.  A man stands in the sun drinking a cup of coffee.  He looks around, seemingly contented.  But soon he is given a jacket by a passing stranger.  Then a hat.  Then spectacles.  Then a chair.  All his needs are being met. 

As are ours by this Festival.  At every performance, Festival Director Tama Waipara greets the audience seated in the auditorium, thanks them at the end of the show, thanks the performers too, and invites everyone to join in for kai and korero in the foyer afterwards. It is this act of welcoming and sharing, this manaakitanga, that has seen connections being built, relationships forged.  Tairawhiti Arts Festival-goers are the richer for it.  


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Gravity is defied, literally, emotionally and metaphorically

Review by John Smythe 03rd Jun 2019

American children’s book writer Shel Silverstein inspired creator and choreographer Tupua Tigafua to create Shel We, which I think had its first outing in Pacific Dance Choreolab 2012 before gracing Wellington’s Measina Festival 2018. Tigafua has passed Silverstein’s invitation (from Where the Sidewalk Ends) on to us:

If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are 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!

Falling Up’ and ‘The Giving Tree’ are also mentioned in the programme along with the factoid that Silverstein wrote lyrics for Doctor Hook (‘Sylvia’s Mother’) and Johnny Cash (‘A Boy Named Sue’). What a mind!  

Those with a thorough knowledge of Silverstein’s works will doubtless catch countless visual echoes of the numerous poems. While we are always able to recognise human behaviour, states of being, and deep-felt desires, curiosity and concerns, the ephemeral playfulness of Shel We defies literal interpretation.

Many sequences recur, either precisely the same way or with slight variations: the step-counting man obeying the orders of his shoulder-riding passenger; the questing cluster of men ever-seeking something just beyond their perception; the prancing beasts with green-twigged horns and tails; the man with the photo, looking for someone he’s lost … Other sequences stand alone, including fun with torches, ‘Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too’, the Alphabet Song and the floral-sheet ghosts.

Astonishingly light on their feet and often moving in perfect unison, Tigafua, Sean Macdonald, Justin Haiu, Jeremy Beck and Andy Faiaoga are an impeccable dance ensemble. In constantly changing combinations and permutations, their total confidence in the purpose of whatever they are doing, even when it’s specifically non-specific or lost in existential limbo, compels our continuous engagement. Like them, we instinctively seek meaning, even as we glimpse the meaninglessness of such an obsession.

Having opened the show on his back, gazing up at the sky while strumming a guitar and singing softly, beanie-wearing Tigafua recurrently bridges the larger sequences by personifying the dreamer, wisher, liar; hope-er, pray-er, magic bean buyer: variously agitated, vague, excited, fearful, curious, wary … He establishes the whimsically idiosyncratic physical language his colleagues embrace with fluent alacrity.

Lisa Maule’s lighting design and Tigafua’s sound design (operated by Haami Hawkins) evoke a range of weather conditions and locations. Music spans classical to modern, Pasifica, European and Western; voice-overs may whisper or speak emphatically. Simple props are ingeniously used, as are the limbs of performers.

As in ‘The Giving Tree’, childlike playfulness and the realities of manhood are compared and contrasted. As in ‘Falling Up’ gravity is defied, literally, emotionally and metaphorically. So much more could be said in an attempt to capture the full scope and delight of this 55 minutes of wondrous invention but your responses and interpretations will be your own so that’s enough from me.

This brief season is over now but if Shel We? comes your way in the future (produced by Tupe Lualua with Those Guys and Le Moana), don’t miss the chance to experience the “flax golden tales” it spins. 


Chris Jannides June 3rd, 2019

Lovely review, John. I couldn't agree more. This show is extraordinarily delightful. You write a good dance review too.

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Swagger, simplicity and capitivating dance

Review by Kate Martin 22nd Mar 2019

The Globe Theatre in Palmerston North hosted “Shel we?”.   A Contemporary Dance/Theatre Piece choreographed by award winning Unitec graduate Tupua Tigafua and produced by Tupe Lua Lua the creative director of internationally acclaimed company “La Moana”.  The Globe hosted “Shel we?” as part of the Palmerston North Festival of Cultures.

“Shel we?” was originally performed at the end of 2018 in Wellington as the opening of the Measina Festival which celebrates and gives a platform for Maori and Pasifika contemporary/performance.  

Choreographer Tigafua dances solo and alongside his small ensemble of accomplished dancers. Sean MacDonald, Jeremy Beck, Andy Faiaoga and Tofifailauga Misa. These dancers are all exceptional in their own right so when they are dancing together in unison it’s a beautiful synchronicity.  A special mention to Sean MacDonald who is one of New Zealand’s most prolific Contemporary Dancers. Macdonald is most likely used to standing ovations with his past performances over 25 years with the likes of Black Grace, Atamira, NZ Dance Company, Douglas Wright and Michael Parmenter to name just a few.  The small but supportive and enthusiastic audience at the Globe Theatre in Palmerston North soon realized how lucky they were to be in the presence of these accomplished dancers.

In true Tigafua style, the choreography was refreshing, quirky, intricate and precise with very humorous undertones which comes done to excellent intuitive timing. It is very clear that choreography is not just a sequence of technical movements. It was full of familiarities of human behaviour which makes it very accessible and relatable to your regular audience member. It is clear that behind the finished choreography is hours of workshopping movement and you can only imagine the amount of material that was created but then cut out in order to create the final product.   

“Shel We?” is based on the writings of American Poet/Writer Shel Silverstein, hence the “Shel” in “Shel We?” (just in case you were wondering).  Silverstein’s poems are often darkly humorous which is certainly a running theme throughout. Most scenes commenced with a light feeling of familiar everyday situations which set you up with a false sense of security as the scenes often shifted into more abstract states with deeper messages about human behaviour.

The stage setting and lighting was very simple with little use of props. The recurring props were the use of branches which I assume represented Silverstein’s fable “The Giving Tree” which is about a lifelong relationship between a boy and a tree.  However, even without an understanding of Silverstein’s poetry/writings I feel the audience would have been able to connect with what the dancers were trying to tell us.

The soundscape throughout was varied and well thought out with background ambience of a humid rainstorm at night or a summer’s night with crickets chirping loudly and then there were the dancers own harmonised singing mixed in with familiar children’s nursery rhymes, the famous ABC song which was a crowd favourite and the convincing portrayal of animal noises and then whispers between friends.  Lighting design was minimalistic, merely to represent light and dark and more isolated moments with just the use of a torch and the quirky use of tealight candles on their heads swaying like the ocean with a toy boat lit up bouncing on the waves.

The main dance segments were choreographed to Baroque music. The choreography however was in contrast to the type of choreography usually danced to such music.  The choreography was full of gestural, staccato and isolated movements with strong facial expressions mixed in with a natural ‘swagger’ and fluidity, almost like a slowed down HipHop routine. The choreography also displayed clever use of precise and varied spacing patterns, albeit a bit traditional and clichéd with good old choreographic canons (but they did them well) and then in the blink of an eye you were transported to moments which resonated with the clean lines of the technical modern dance era influences such as Michael Parmenter or Douglas Wright.

I was fortunate to have been a contemporary dance student at Unitec with a young Tigafua back in the day. He was a newcomer to contemporary dance at the time but before venturing into contemporary dance he had been doing traditional Samoan and Tongan dance. Soon after graduating from Unitec, Tigafua embarked on a professional dance career where he presented works with Pacific Dance New Zealand, Healing Through the Arts and Justin Haiu. He has created works for public schools and for students at the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts and Unitec. Tigafua danced with Black Grace from 2007-2010, and worked with Mau Dance Company in 2011, and the New Zealand Dance Company from 2012-2016. In 2017 he was awarded the emerging artist award through Arts Pasifika. 

Tigafua’s “Shel we?” left a strong impression on me.   The audience were certainly left wanting more. Everybody was captivated for the entire 60 minutes and the dancers certainly deserved a larger audience. Hopefully the work can continue so more people can be witness to it. It’s the kind of contemporary dance show that connects with people. You leave the theatre feeling a deep appreciation for contemporary dance and for the festivals which are platforms for helping New Zealand choreographers to spread their wings.


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A captivating balance of sombre and smiles

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 14th Dec 2018

I have been to works at all of the past five Measina Festivals and watched this gathering of Māori and Pasifika performance grow. Bravo all. On opening night, the pre-show introduction and tasters of works in this year’s Festival works very well-whetting the appetite and setting a table for sharing.

The opening night work is a new full length dance/ theatre choreography by Tupua Tigafua, who himself dances alongside a star line-up of performers: Sean MacDonald, Jeremy Beck, Andy Faiaoga and Tofifailauga Misa.

Shel We? is an infectious series of vignettes based on writings by Shel Silverstein with a captivating balance of sombre and smiles. Opening on a lone guitarist playing and singing, but more ambient than audible, the final line …. “someone waiting for me to make me happy….” somehow encapsulates the work. We leave the theatre happier.

On the way to smiles there are poignant moments and some joyous shared movement in excellent unison that carries both audience and dancers forward.  Recurring motifs of giving, finding, searching and moving through light to dark and back give us chances to engage both in their journey and to think about our own.

A fluid, seamless dance vocabulary is comfortable and accessible, albeit strongly derivative of early modern dance but non-the-less effective. Baroque music and structures bring a timelessness to the group sequences. Strong gestural and facial expression support the narrative progression of the ideas. Staging is simple with effective use of lighting producing solitude and shadows set against ebullience and exhilaration.

The Measina Festival has a full and fascinating programme and congratulations to all those who have masterminded the development of this showcase of works. Shel We? is a great opener. The festival runs till Sunday and ends with an auction to raise funds for the Teresia Teaiwa Scholarship Fund.

Get along to Te Auaha and leave with Pasifika smiles. 


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