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Pacific pioneer the New Zealand dance industry

1 Mar 2011

This content is tagged as Multi-Artform .

NEWS

More New Zealanders dance than play rugby and netball combined, suggests a strategy formed as part of the national dance industry.

As many as 267,000 are actively involved in dance, investing deeply in audience with a 2003 survey showing some 400,000 people attending a dance performance within the previous 12 months.

Some 90,000 students are currently enrolled in studios across Aotearoa.

Among them, at the bottom of the Polynesian triangle, Pacific dancers are having an undeniably huge impact on this part of the New Zealand economy.

Over 200,000 people flock to the annual Pasifika festival, just over half of all people reporting yearly attendance, at least, at a dance performance.

Revenues from the three-day Pasifka event are estimated in the millions.

Such numbers are helping build a cultural centre of gravity exerting pull beyond New Zealand to the rest of the region with hundreds of practitioners involved from afar a-field as Hawai’i.

Against this background, up to 80 Pacific dance exponents are expected in Auckland next week, attending a one-day fono.

This is the fifth annual Pacific Dance Fono, the first being held in 2006.

This year delegates, including from Wellington and keynote speakers from Hawai’i, will share their experiences with Pacific dance and discuss the general direction of this fledgling industry.

A highlight of the fono: performances from the Mana Maoli Collective, an eclectic ensemble of modern and traditional dancers from Hawai’i, with some members doubling as an island reggae act.

Sefa Enari, the director of Pacific Dance New Zealand, the organisation running the fono in association with Dance Aotearoa New Zealand (DANZ, the national dance organisation), is excited about where things are going. He explains.

“It’s really good that this has grown over the past five years and this year is really special because of the involvement of the Hawai’ian contingent and others from the region here for Pasifika. I think given that the dance industry in New Zealand is growing, obviously so will the number of Pacific dancers and choreographers. This fono helps us to look into the future to see where the sector is headed. It also helps us to link through to the Pacific, which really is where we want to focus in the future as well as looking internally to what we’re doing here in New Zealand.”

The Mana Maoli Collective are second time visitors, after appearing at Pasifika for the first time in 2010. Their rapid return speaks volumes for a part of an industry linking back to its island roots.

Consultations have already been built into the New Zealand Dance Industry Strategy, and now Pacific Dance New Zealand wants to flesh out the bones outlined in a 22-page guide released in 2009.

Getting an exact idea on numbers of Pacific dance performers may be difficult in a fluid and still mainly volunteer sector. Importance may again be gauged by the status of Pasifika as the largest festival of its kind across Oceania, the pearl in the crown of a rich festival calendar region-wide. This is also reflected with the ASBPolyfest, which is the largest dance event in Australasia.

Leveraging this market dominance into greater opportunity and rewards for the largest Polynesian city in the world is a challenge but signs are optimistic.

Having events like the Pacific Dance Fono help in galvanising not just an industry but a community of practitioners. And, looking ahead the fono is set to be an integral part of development in the future.

The Pacific Dance Fono is being held on Wednesday 9thMarch between 1:00pm and 6:30pm at Auckland University’s Fale Pasifika. Follow this link for more details and the programme.