Whitireia Performing Arts Grad Show 2009

Wellington Performing Arts Centre, Wellington

19/11/2009 - 21/11/2009

Production Details

Māori Dance | Samoan Dance | Contemporary Dance | Cook Islands Dance

Māori Dance Repertoire – tutor Tanemahuta Gray
Samoan Dance Repertoire – tutor Tupe Lualua 
Contemporary Dance Repertoire – tutor Tanemahuta Gray
Cook Islands Dance Repertoire – tutor Tuaine Robati

For three performances only, at
Wellington Performing Arts Centre (WPAC)
36 Vivian Street
19 – 21 November 2009

Book: 0800 944 847 ext 3218
Waged $12 / Unwaged $5
Tickets available at WPAC


Multi-skilled ambassadors

Review by Jan Bolwell 20th Nov 2009

This has been a transitional year for Whitireia Performing Arts as they made the shift from the Porirua campus into Vivian Street, Wellington. Their presence was soon noticed as the sound of Pacific drums blasted out from studios, causing consternation amongst some of the local inhabitants.

Walking into the building you are immediately aware that Wellington Performing Arts Centre has had a spruce up – freshly painted walls, leaking ceilings repaired etc. But the changes go deeper than this. A new energy inhabits the space, and the presence of so many Māori and Pacific students, tutors and their whanau is a very welcome sight.

Eighteen year 1-3 students gave a full on, non-stop two hour performance which reflected the depth and quality of work carried out in this programme. The students are required to become skilled exponents of Māori, Samoan, Cook Island and contemporary dance.

Tanemahuta Gray has tutored the students in both Māori and contemporary dance, and because he is skilled and knowledgeable in both genres, there is much crossover in the programme.

The Māori dance section mirrors the structure we have been accustomed to seeing at the national and regional kapa haka festivals. With strong voices and unified action the students give a committed performance of works drawn from composers and writers from different iwi. Guided by a female leader, a notable and moving addition was Ka Panapana, a silent haka with lighting that gave a silhouetted backdrop and paid homage to women who lost sons and husbands in World War 11. 

The female students were particularly strong, both in voice and movement, and their poi dance was delightful and accomplished.

One of the rich pleasures of the Whitireia Grad Show is that it allows audiences to see the similarities and contrasts in Polynesian dance styles. The Samoan dance section, under the guidance of tutor Tupe Lualua, emphasized the sensuality and grace of the female dancers, while the men gave full rein to their athleticism in the Siva naifi (Knife dance) and in the Fa’ataupati (slap dance). Dressed in elegant black and gold long dresses the women performed a stylish and refined narrative dance (Ma’ulu’ulu) composed by Maiavatele Pouono Hunkin, and which tells the story of missing a loved one and comparing it to the natural surroundings.

The sasa is always a highlight of a Samoan dance performance, and this was no exception. Choreographed by a previous Whitireia intake, it cleverly retained the form of the sasa while integrating contemporary and often hilarious references to contemporary life.

A strong and admirable dimension of Māori and Pacific dance forms is the ability to preserve traditional structures while enlivening them with an infusion of contemporary ideas and movements. This can work both ways.

In the contemporary dance section of the programme, Tanemahuta Gray borrowed liberally from traditional Māori dance forms while choreographing to the music of contemporary Māori musicians, Tiki Taane and Ninakaye Taanetinorau. One of the most beautiful and powerful parts of this section was the use of double long poi, manipulated skillfully by the students as they created a wheel which rotated full circle.

Tanemahuta showed similar inventiveness with the use of ti-ti-torea – a nod to his full scale show Maui – and with Koorari (flax stem), combining Mau Rakau (fighting stick) with contemporary dance actions from hip hop and krump. Most of the Whitireia students do not have in-depth training in contemporary dance, but Tanemahuta served them well by ensuring they worked within their technical capabilities.

The show ended with the Cook Islands repertoire, beautifully staged and costumed by their highly experienced tutor, Tuaine Robati. There was an extraordinary range of dances in this section.

‘Aro it te rangi’ was a narrative work about Christianity coming to the Cook Islands, dense and quiet in structure. In ‘Tiare Akatoka’ composed by Ephraim Taokia, two students powerfully enacted a lament for a daughter lost in a road accident. Second year student Nooroa Vaevae gave a delightful solo he had created about his papa’anga kopu tangata (genealogy) and his love of clowning and juggling.

In the action song ‘Enua Manea’ the woman glided swiftly cross the stage while performing a mesmeric, fast hip action which showed off to full effect Tuaine Robati’s fabulous costumes. A stand out in this section was a beautiful solo by second year student Kura Jans. A tall, statuesque dancer with a warm and engaging stage presence, Kura created her own dance and costume design, and carried off both with aplomb.

This year these Whitireia students toured to Spain. I can’t think of better ambassadors for Aotearoa New Zealand.  
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