As a youngster Pauline Hiroti danced a lot. From salsa to hiphop, the former Wanganui High pupil enjoyed school but loved dance more. This week her passion for dance took her onstage to receive a Bachelor of Dance Studies (Honours) degree from the University of Auckland.
The youngest of six from a fitness-mad family, while a teenager she joined the New Zealand Youth Salsa Team and danced her way through Asia, Australia and the USA. The travel opened her eyes to a world of possibilities, which initially saw her shift from Wanganui to Auckland to teach salsa to youth. While there she met dance students at the University of Auckland and was encouraged to audition.
Pauline of Ngati Apa, Nga Wairiki descent, focused her research on community dance and particularly how it might foster engagement and participation for youth. During her study Pauline got the chance to find out first-hand when she was awarded a Summer Scholarship from the University that allowed her to set up and run a three-week community dance initiative in her hometown of Wanganui. The students who took part came from very diverse backgrounds and levels of education. They all trained with her four days a week during their holidays, eventually choreographing and performing a dance that explored and addressed the issue of substance abuse.
“The relationships that were formed extended way beyond the classroom” says Pauline. “The students worked really hard and would arrive at my sister’s house, where I was staying, at 7am for 10am class. They would have breakfast and then come back at the end of the day. The house became like a big marae. I’m very whanau-focused so I loved it.”
The experience taught Pauline the positive impact dance can have on everyday lives. “The kids all developed an enormous zest for life through completing something well. They learned goal-setting and for some of them it was such a milestone,” she says.
Originally intending to start a doctorate, a trip back home over summer saw her defer her PhD for a year to take up the challenge of being a Leadership Coordinator for the YMCA, teaching leadership skills to children and youth. She also helps teach Maori performing arts at a local college and runs a youth dance group on the side. “While it’s great to travel and research around the world, my heart’s in Wanganui and I want to work in my own community first and serve my whanau” she says.
The University of Auckland’s National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries comprises the Elam School of Fine Arts, School of Architecture and Planning, the Centre for Art Studies, the School of Music and the Dance Studies Programme.