Unitec lecturer realises long-held dream with NZs first Maori contemporary dance festival

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Pioneering Maori dance choreographer and Unitec lecturer Charles Koroneho is finally realising a long held dream when the curtains go up for the inaugural Kowhiti Matariki Festival of Maori Contemporary Dance at the end of this month.

The dance festival will be held at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum in Wellington between June 24 and 27 featuring dance performances, forums, films and lectures from established and emerging dance artists of Maori contemporary dance.

This festival will be amazing and is something thats long overdue, says Koroneho. As a dance community, weve been trying to get more involvement in mainstream festivals but our style of work doesnt always fit in with their programmes so its great to see an event like this solely dedicated to Maori dance.

Koroneho has struggled for years to establish and gain recognition for contemporary Maori dance and is pleased to see this finally happening.

He was a founding member of Te Kanikani O Te Rangatahi Dance Company and then began teaching at Unitec 15 years ago, where he now lectures in dance theory, choreography and performance at Unitecs Department of Performing and Screen Arts.

He says contemporary Maori dance is unique in that it is made by Maori people, contains Maori language and protocols, and is both cultural and political.

Most importantly it is made in this country and has reference to Aotearoa and the pacific.

A lot of contemporary dance you see doesnt always reflect the country it was made from but contemporary Maori dance is really physical and is now recognised around the world as coming out of Aotearoa.

During the Kowhiti Matariki Festival of M?ori Contemporary Dance, Koroneho will perform one of his signature works called He Taura Whakapapa that is more than 20 years old. He will choreograph the piece and perform it with five other dancers from the Atamira Dance Collective.

I thought it could be a good idea for the young generation of dancers to see this work. It will be the same piece as it was originally but certain things will be shifted and changed as a way of reinvigorating the work and making it relevant for today.

Koroneho recently returned from overseas where he completed a three-week residency at the Naisda Dance College – the longest running indigenous dance school in Australia.

There, he taught He Taura Whakapapa to six Naisda students – four Aboriginal and two Torres Strait Islanders who will perform the piece at Australia’s international indigenous arts festival, The Dreaming Festival, being held in Queensland this month.

Koroneho will return to Naisda in September to work with the dancers again.

Its fantastic to have aboriginal indigenous dancers performing Maori contemporary dance and by returning to Naisda its a chance for us to keep the connection between the schools alive.

This is a connection between indigenous contemporary dance networks which is something I am very excited to be a part of and to be nurturing, he says.

For more information see www.unitec.org.nz; www.kowhiti.org.nz or www.thedreamingfestival.com

For further information or interviews with Charles Koroneho please contact:
Andrea Rush on andrea@360connect.co.nz or 09 918 7712 or 021 962 349

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