UOA students present dance research conducted in New Zealand and Tonga

Five Dance Studies students from The University of Auckland spent their summer holidays teaching and researching dance in communities across New Zealand and Tonga. They then presented their research in China’s leading dance institution, The Beijing Dance Academy, during the Community dance: new meanings and pathways’ symposium (April 17-20).

From amongst hundreds of applicants, Pauline Hiroti (Ngaiti Awa), Salote Nita Latu, Nicole Pereira, Sophie Wlliams and Caitlin Williams were awarded Summer Scholarship Research Grants to conduct ‘real-world’ research. The talented postgraduate students used their grants to develop workshops, classes and performances for youth that responded to the specific cultural and social needs of their communities. All five are passionate about dance and the ways it can foster self-expression, creativity and build confidence, making communities better, richer, places to live.

Manurewa resident Pauline Hiroti, worked with youth in Whanganui, using dance to explore topics such as substance abuse, gang culture and peer-pressure.

Salote Nita Latu, a resident of Kelston and of Tongan descent, travelled to Tonga’s main island Nuku’alofa to teach workshops and create dances in urban locations, such as wharves and bus stations.

Nicole Peireira, from Botany, investigated how UNESCO policies on arts education compare to Auckland Council policies and plans for arts in the community.

Sophie Williams, from Rotorua, examined how the Maori concept of ihi can influence a contemporary dance performance on Auckland’s waterfront.

Caitlin Williams, who lives in Mt Wellington, worked with teenagers in Tauranga, creating a dance environment where even the “self proclaimed non-dancers” felt comfortable and safe to cooperate through dance.

“These projects are core to the values of our Dance Studies Programme, and respond to a growing demand from across the world to see how dance might make communities safer, happier places” says Associate Professor Nicholas Rowe, Acting Head of the Dance Studies Programme.

Professor Rowe is in Beijing for the three-day symposium, which was organised by The University of Auckland and the Beijing Dance Academy. While the Beijing Academy is renowned throughout the world as a pre-eminent dance conservatory, training dancers such as Li Cun Xin in Mao’s Last Dancer, it is also increasingly concerned about the social role and responsibilities of dance professionals. “Our student’s research is powerful and unique, and is seen here as very relevant to China’s rapidly urbanising population” says Rowe.

The University of Auckland Summer Scholarships are awarded annually to outstanding students undertaking postgraduate study.
The University of Auckland’s National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries comprises the School of Architecture and Planning, Elam School of Fine Arts, the Centre for Art Studies (CAS), the School of Music and the Dance Studies Programme.

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