Dance workshop attracts young Pasifika men
A biannual dance workshop in New Zealand aims to lure young Pasifika men into a dance career.
A biannual dance workshop in New Zealand is aiming to attract young Pasifika males into a dance career.
The Tu Move workshop at the New Zealand School of Dance accepts up to 20 young Maori or Pasifika teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 to take part in a three day workshop on contemporary dance.
Daniela Maoate-Cox reports.
Most young Pasifika men showcase their dance skills once a year at New Zealand's annual Polyfest festivals. But the Tu Move workshop hopes to steer that talent from a one off stage performance into a professional dance career. Ten young men worked up a sweat in the Wellington dance studio as their tutors pushed them through hours of technique training, strength and fitness building, and hip hop.
Among them is sixteen year old Ben Tuetue who represented New Zealand at the Hip Hop International Dance Competition in Las Vegas last year. His parents are from Samoa and he grew up in Christchurch learning the traditional Samoan sasa dance, from his older brother. Ben says he was inspired to try contemporary styles after watching video clips of dancers on the internet.
BEN TUETUE: I saw a Youtube clip and it really inspired me on how people can actually move. In my childhood I usually do just traditional dancing like the sasa. At first I didn't really like it because I was really un-co but then my brother started teaching me about timing, like what beats to clap on and so I started to take that on board.
Ben Tuetue says the workshop was an opportunity to try out different dances and expand his skillset. And Head dance tutor Luke Hanna, says the workshop is about utilising the existing dance skills of Pasifika and integrating them with a contemporary style.
LUKE HANNA: Already there's so much of this natural ability that's just come through with their culture which is beautiful and so there's a unique sort of natural way that they move which is something that I've definitely been conscious of that I'm keen to tap into.
Luke Hanna says Pasifika men are often praised for their physical strength.
LUKE HANNA: Men are very good at being physical, it comes naturally to us and I think predominantly Pacific Island men, look at how many Pacific Island men are in the All Blacks. There's a real strength just physically and there's also a real need for Pacific Island men to be more in the dance world.
The head of contemporary dance Paula Steeds-Huston, says a lack of male Pasifika dancers is what drove her to start up the course four years ago.
PAULA STEEDS-HUSTON: There's a real need in the industry for Pacific Island and Maori specifically male dancers. There's a few companies out there that were requiring some dancers that had a little bit more of the technical aspect to them.
But Ms Steeds-Huston admits the high cost is a barrier for some Pacific Islanders.
PAULA STEEDS-HUSTON: It's not cheap to do dance, even to go to the odd dance class or a weekly dance class, it's expensive and often these guys don't have the resources to do that.
Paula Steeds-Huston says most of them experience amateur dance through cultural groups, churches and schools. But for the boys in the workshop, a professional dance career is one step closer.
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