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Ōkāreka Dance Company Presents MANA WAHINE

Ōkāreka Dance Company proudly announces the return of their most iconic work, MANA WAHINE. Originally premiering in Rotorua in 2014, the company will celebrate the ten year anniversary of this profound work with a special return performance on 2 March at the Sir Howard Morrison Centre, Rotorua.

MANA WAHINE is a commanding all-female work steeped in mātauranga Māori, that draws strength from Māori culture to illustrate a rich tapestry of dance, theatre and film. With waiata, karakia, karanga, and tikanga infused in this spectacular performance, the work draws inspiration from Māori myths and legends as well as true events to celebrate the courage and power of women.

Having been performed almost every year since its premiere performance in Rotorua a decade ago, MANA WAHINE has gone on to be celebrated globally for its commanding storytelling and mesmerising choreography, captivating and moving audiences both nationally and in Hawai'i, The Netherlands, Australia, Tahiti and Canada. Continuing to celebrate this landmark work, Ōkāreka will follow the performance with a tour to the US.

A choreographic collaboration between Ōkāreka’s Rotorua born and bred Artistic Director Taiaroa Royal, and celebrated choreographers Malia Johnston and Taane Mete, these artists came together initially in 2012 to create a visual feast of imagery and movement that transcends time and space.

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Inspired by two brave ancestral wāhine Māori from Te Arawa; The true story of Te Aokapurangi, a young maiden from Mokoia Island, and the bravery of Kearoa, Te Aokapurangi's ancestor. Both these wāhine tipuna have been the pivotal inspiration behind


. The story of their love, courage, determination and fearlessness provided Ōkāreka with the energy and inspiration to create a work with a vision of strength that empowers women around the world.

In a career that spans more than four decades, Taiaroa Royal is one of New Zealand’s most outstanding dancers, choreographers and creatives. Recipient of the 2023 Toi Kō Iriiri Queer Arts Laureate Award, he has worked with many major dance companies in Aotearoa including Royal New Zealand Ballet, New Zealand School of Dance, Douglas Wright, Black Grace, Atamira Dance Company and more. In 2011 Royal was awarded the Koowhiti Lifetime Achievement Award for his services to Māori contemporary dance. While he continues to create and direct live theatre and performance productions, both locally and internationally, Tai also holds the guardianship or kaitiakitanga for his family farm in Lake Ōkāreka, Rotorua, where he currently lives.

"Having been back at Lake Õkāreka since 2016, I am excited to be bringing MANA WAHINE back to Rotorua to celebrate its 10th Anniversary. We have had many different wāhine dance in this production, with only one original cast member in this remount. Each wāhine brings their own unique strength and integrity to the work, and this cast is no exception! I honour each and every one of them, past, present and future."

says Taiaroa Royal.

Taking to the stage in this energetic anniversary performance is a cast of six dynamic wāhine dancers, including one of the work’s original performers Jana Castillo, alongside returning performers Cory-Toalei Roycroft and Abbie Rogers, and Paige Shand, Emma Cosgrave and Jess Johns who will make their premiere with the work.

“Mana Wahine is above all a rich fusion of choreography, music, tikanga Maori and performance practices, AV, lighting and performance design … enriched and enlivened by the dancing of five powerhouse performers.” – Raewyn Whyte, Theatreview

Mana Wahine plays

Sir Owen Glenn Theatre, Sir Howard Morrison Centre

Saturday 2 March, 7.30pm

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