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Saturday, 25 November 2017 08:25 pm

Māori see future careers in performing arts

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CURTAIN CALL: The seven Performing Arts graduates bow out on a high. IMAGE: Matthew Lau

SEVEN feet-stomping, slit-drum banging, hip-shaking graduates of Whitireia Performing Arts have signed off for the final time as students of the polytechnic – and six of them are Māori.

An eventful six weeks saw the Whitireia Performing Arts ensemble endure a grueling schedule which started in Taiwan.

In early October, the Whitireia whanāu travelled to Tainan City in Taiwan to represent Aotearoa at the Nan Ying International Folklore Festival.

On returning from the wānanga, they got straight into their Body of Work – a contemporary 20-minute piece choreographed by each of the seven third-year students.

Then last week the performers capped off a strenuous year with 10 full graduation shows crammed into four days.

The class of 2014 third-year students in the Bachelor of Applied Arts (Performing Arts) consists of: Kiwa Andrews (Ngapuhi, Ngati Porou, Ngati Whatua), Jay Hana (Te Arawa, Ngai Tahu, Niue), Marangi Hare (Tuhoe), Jason Karena (Ngapuhi, Ngati Kahungunu), Mapihi Kelland (Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Kahungunu), Jacoba Meafou (Ngati Kahugunu, Tuhoe, Samoa), and Maria Puaula (Falealupo, Iva – Samoa).

Mapihi Kelland, 23, is hoping to expand her horizons by learning more to do with acting and singing.

“Short term I’m going to audition for as many dance jobs as I can.

“I hope I’m lucky enough to have the same opportunity as graduates who have gone on to work in dance companies and travel overseas.”

To learn more about her craft, Kelland aims to continue to take different dance classes, which she hopes will help her be able to create more of her own work.

“I chose to enrol at Whitireia because I was passionate about singing, dancing and Pacific cultures and I wanted to explore the culture more.”

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SHAKE IT OFF: Jason Jose Karena (front) leads the boys in the Cook Islands cavort. IMAGE: Matthew Lau

Jason Karena, 21, currently has a part-time job at a restaurant, where he will continue to work “to keep paying the bills” until an opportunity in the dance industry arises.

“My aim is to get into a contemporary dance company, possibly developing my own program to do with kapa haka, with the help of our Māori tutor Kereama [Te Ua].

Karena intends to stay involved with capoeira, where he continues to learn different dance styles and also creates his own.

“My back-up plan is to become a dance teacher,” he says.

“I’ve always had a drive to teach. This means going to teaching college for a year.”

He was drawn to the Performing Arts degree at Whitireia to pursue his passion for dance, having been inspired by his older sister who he watched perform in kapa haka.

Family comes before career for 24-year old Jacoba Meafou, who says her main focus is on her son, having dedicated so much of the past four years to the degree.

“I want to focus the next year on him, get him into NRL and kapa haka.

“Once I finish here I just want to work, probably for a year. Then move to Aussie where my family are. More opportunities there as well.”

Jay Hana, 22, is interested in applying for a few dance companies, as well as travelling and experiencing living overseas.

“I want to give modelling a crack, and I want to hopefully come back to teach contemporary dance at Whitireia.”

Hana originally auditioned for commercial dance after doing a year of ballet and hip hop.

“The tutor that took the commercial dance hip hop class told me I had to have a background in all genres that they do, so I ended up looking into the performing arts course.

“It was the best decision.”

Marangi Hare, 22, has her sights set on a dance company in Auckland called Hawaiki Tu.

“It will be a big move if I get it,” she says.

“That’s my main focus, but once we’ve actually finished course I’ll be working at Te Ara Whanui.”

Hare is hopeful the Performing Arts degree will take her overseas, where she can perform around the world gaining more experience in the arts industry she is so passionate about.

One man hoping to get into the industry as fast as possible is 21-year old Kiwa Andrews.

A Whitireia tutor has already given Andrews the option to do a gig in Queenstown.

On Andrews’ bucket list is Merrie Monarch, which is a week-long cultural festival held annually in Hawaii.

“I like the idea of joining a dance company and tour around.  Either I’ll join a contemporary dance company or kapa haka group.”

Like his fellow male graduates, Andrews would relish the opportunity to come back to Whitireia as a tutor, and is considering doing a year’s study in teaching.

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A TOUCH OF GRACE: The smiles’ – as shown by Mapihi Kelland (front) – were contagious among the entertained crowds. IMAGE: Matthew Lau

At 27, Maria Puaula is the oldest of the graduates from this year.

Puaula is of Samoan heritage, her aim in life is to have a Pacific comedic show like The Laughing Samoans.

“My ultimate goal is to travel the world doing what I have done here [at Whitireia], making people laugh with my performing arts experience.

“I am just applying for anything and everything that piques my interest at the moment.”

Puaula’s determination has paid off as she has recently been accepted into a theatre company called THETA (The Theatre in Health Education Trust).

However, she is holding out for the Mana Aroha Cultural Exchange Scholarship contract in London.

Whitireia Cook Island dance tutor Tuaine Robati says the options after study are broad as there is no standard protocol for graduates of the Bachelor of Applied Arts (Performing Arts).

Robati has seen numerous graduates move on from Whitireia over the past 20 years.

“We’ve had four go to Black Grace and worked with Neil [Ieremia] at different times. One is currently still with them.”

The field is not just restricted to New Zealand, Robati recalls two graduates now in Brisbane who have started their own company.

Some have gone on to teaching on the programme, such as contemporary dance tutor Paora Taurima, Samoan dance tutor Taofi Mose-Tuiloma and principle accompanist Isitolo Alesana.

“We have people involved in television, there are quite a few running different community projects.  It gives people the skills to run management or work office jobs.

“Some people come just for health or personal growth, or to learn of cultural studies.”

Asked why people should enrol for Performing Arts, Robati believes Whitireia grooms amazing future citizens of New Zealand and the world.

Auditions for prospective students for 2015 will be held on December 9 at the Whitireia Performance Centre, 25 Vivian Street, Wellington.

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