• Pacific Dance Artist in Residence 2016 Announcement

    The Pacific Dance Artist in Residence has been selected for 2016 and for the first time is an international recipient. The dance residence has been a staple of the professional Pacific dance scene in Aotearoa since its establishment in 2010. Now in its seventh year for the first time it has extended beyond the shores of Aotearoa and further consolidates and develops links between communities joined by the waters of Oceania.


    The recipient of the 2016 Pacific Dance Artist in Residence is Tuiahai (Hai) Tuiafitu. Tuiahai is a Tongan dancer and choreographer who has been part of the Atenisi Foundation for the Performing Arts (AFPA) for a number of years. He is the eldest grandson of Atenisi Institute founder, the late Professor ‘Ilaisa Futa Helu who was known as an authority of Tongan history, tradition and culture. From an early age Tuiahai was instructed in the arts of Tonga’s heritage culture by his grandfather as well as receiving great influence being brought up around Atenisi.


    “I grew up with dance and I think I learnt a thing or two from my late grandpa,” Tuiahai relates.





    “I pretty much danced every day when I was young and I was always around AFPA, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays when they would do their dance practice. I was always there.”



    Tuiahai went on to school in the very environment where he grew, at Atenisi, where he soon joined AFPA and began to travel the world as part of its performing group.



    “I love sharing our Tongan culture with others and always used to love the cross-cultural experience when we would go to other places. I had the chance to meet other types of people but even meeting our own Tongan communities in these places, they would be surprised when they saw us dance because we presented a style and technique they had not seen before, or at least experienced first-hand.”



    The style of dance he is talking about is what he will be teaching while on his residency in Aotearoa. He describes them as the four pillars of heritage Tongan dance (still practiced today):

    ‘Otuhaka – a seated group dance with Samoan influence similar to its successor the ma’ulu’ulu but with words and melody much different and from older Samoan origins.

    Me’etu’upaki – the ancient paddle dance of Tonga with Futunan links.

    Fahaʻi-ula (ula) – the predecessor of the tau’olunga, originally performed by chiefly daughters.

    Tau’olunga – stemming from its Samoan origins this dance developed into a particularly Tongan form from the 1800’s and more so with the inclusion by Queen Salote of distinct Tongan wrist flourishes and lakalaka leg transitions in the 1950’s.

    Tuiahai will be delivering workshops three times a week (4.30-6.30pm) including a Saturday at Te Oro Arts Centre, 98 Line Road, Glen Innes from the 15th August to 10th September 2016.

    To register to be part of the residency classes email

    The Residency will be delivered at the new Te Oro Arts Centre in Glen Innes and supported by Creative New Zealand, Foundation North, Pacific Dance New Zealand and Auckland Council Te Oro Arts Centre.

    This partnership is vital according to Pacific Dance NZ director Sefa Enari.

    “Over the past six years the residency has been delivered in South Auckland, Porirua and now East Auckland.”

    Enari continues, “We have timed this year’s residency to end during the New Zealand Tongan Language Week in September. Mr Tuiafitu will work with local schools and deliver pubic workshops at Te Oro during his four week residency.”

    The theme for this year’s NZ Tonga Language Week (4 to 10 September) is “Enriching Aotearoa with Tongan Arts’ – ‘Fakakoloa Aotearoa ‘aki ‘a e faiva ‘a e Tongá’.

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