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Whitireia Māori & Pacific Dance Showcase Hails New Era With Regional High School Tour

Dance students in the Whitireia Māori & Pacific performing arts programme have reflected on all things new with their upcoming regional dance showcase - ‘A New Wave’.

The name refers to what students see as a new world post their Covid lockdown experiences and applauds a new beginning for the programme following its relocation from central Wellington back to where it first began in Porirua.

‘A New Wave’ will tour from north in the Wairarapa, down the Kapiti Coast, through the Hutt Valley and into Wellington with performances at many high schools in these areas. These include Kuranui College in Greytown, Aotea College, Porirua College and Whitby Collegiate in Porirua, Naenae College and Taita College in the Hutt Valley, Newlands College and Wellington East Girls College, among others.

School students will be treated to storytelling through the art of Māori Kapa Haka, Siva Samoa, Cook Islands Ura and Contemporary Pasifika.

“There was such excitement at the start of the year to finally return the programme from 10 years in the city back to Porirua where it all began under guardianship from our iwi partner, Ngāti Toa Rangatira in 1991,” says Taofi Nehemia, the programme’s head tutor.

“And then, Covid-19 hit.

“This severely impacted what the students love about this programme - time together learning about their cultural histories and expressing themselves through dance.

“That is why when lockdown lifted we felt such a sense of celebration to rehearse and perform again and we created ‘A New Wave’. There has been an incredible uptake of the schools tour and we are so excited to share our work.”

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Karl Payne who heads up Creative Arts at Porirua College explains the importance of his students attending the Whitireia high school dance tour.

“Watching the showcase lets our students see the next level in terms of quality Polynesian and Māori choreography, singing, storytelling, dance and performance. For our students to see a former Porirua College student shine under high pressure while they perform is beyond inspiring. It allows our students to dream and strive to train or create at the level Whitireia does. It also shows them a possible pathway for further training.

“We have a strong history between Porirua College and this course, with many past students going on to teach or participate at Whitireia and many going on to be performing arts stars.

“The fact that the programme has also recently relocated back to Porirua is an added bonus. If students are training there next year it allows us to pop down to watch rehearsals or workshops. Along with that the course stays close to the Pacific Island community,” says Karl.

At the forefront of the return of the course to Whitireia was the voice of Ngāti Toa Kaumatua (elders) who were adamant that the course return to Whitireia, it has, and will remain.

“The program has for many years given students from the colleges and wider communities an opportunity to advance the skills from within their own cultural backgrounds and extended out to a formal qualification which is fantastic,” says Dr Taku Parai, chairperson of Ngāti Toa.

Te Rau Oriwa Mitchell, who graduated from the Māori and Pacific dance programme at Whitireia in 2014, and is a professional dancer based in Porirua, explains the importance for students of having the programme return to Porirua.

“I think it's awesome that the dance programme is back. It grew out of Porirua and this is its home. It is now back to the people it has the greatest cultural links with, and it is more accessible to the community here and encourages youth to examine the role of culture in their society through dance.

Taamara Pokotea, who is in her second year of the Whitireia Performing Arts programme, and is participating in the high schools tour agrees: “I started the course when it was based in Wellington, but I am really happy that it is moving back because most of the students are based here, that makes transport easy! I also feel that because of the mana here, there is extra pressure, and it makes you work a lot harder. Now, we have the chance to share our hard work and passion with the next generation of performers coming through - and I feel so proud about that!”

Whitiriea will be conducting auditions for the next intake of students to the Whitireia Māori & Pacific performing arts programme on Friday 16 October, to register your interest, please contact:

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