International Dance Day: Student touring with acclaimed dance company

Whitireia Performing Arts student Nazerene Paea will perform today with New Zealand/Samoa choreographer Lemi Ponifasio’s dance company, MAU, at a UNESCO event in Paris to mark International Dance Day 2016.

Performing Arts student Nazerene Paea is touring with dance company MAU

Nazerene, who is in her third and final year of the Bachelor of Applied Arts (Performing Arts) programme at the Whitireia Performance Centre in Wellington, was selected by Ponifasio himself to join MAU on the group’s current tour of Europe. Whitireia Performing Arts students are expected to develop an extensive knowledge of genres and artistic endeavour in Māori, Samoa, Cook Islands and New Zealand contemporary dance. Performance and international touring are significant parts of the programme, and the experience provides Nazerene with a wonderful opportunity for applied learning. Indeed, this is yet another example of industry engagement and work-integrated learning that gives students at Whitireia a true taste of experiencing life in their chosen industry.

The tour was timed to coincide with the event in Paris, after UNESCO chose Ponifasio to be the official author of this year’s International Dance Day message, putting him in the company of such dance luminaries as Merce Cunningham, William Forsythe, Maurice Bejart, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.

Established in 1982, International Dance Day is promoted by the International Dance Council (CID) and is aimed at attracting attention to the art of dance. The official message for International Dance Day is sent to over 100,000 dance professionals in 200 countries and is translated into dozens of languages.

‘The UNESCO event is also chance to celebrate the amazing work of MAU,’ Nazerene noted prior to leaving. ‘We will be conducting the welcome and will hold a 30-minute performance at the end of the ceremony.’

The company will then head to St. Poelten, Austria, where they will workshop the new work ‘Hine Nui te Po’ and attend performances as guests during the Vienna Festival. From there, they travel to Hannover, Germany, where they will be part of an installation inside Marienburg Castle and perform outdoors at the Herrenhausen Gardens.

Lemi Ponifasio is the author of this year’s International Dance Day Message

International Dance Day Message 2016:


touch the cosmos
the source of our divinity
the face of the ancestors
so we can see our children

woven above
beside below
unite all within
our flesh and bones
and memory

the Earth is turning
humans in mass migration
turtles gather in silent preparation
the heart is injured

make dance
a movement of love
a movement of justice
the light of truth

– Lemi Ponifasio


Whitireia celebrates student success

This year’s graduation ceremony is officially done and dusted, and the event went down in typically colourful fashion. A crowd of over 2,000 turned out to see around 450 graduates from the Faculties of Arts, Business & IT, Health and Te Wānanga Māori celebrate their success with whānau, friends, peers and academic staff.


There were also a number of milestones celebrated at this year’s ceremony, including the 30th birthday of Whitireia, and the graduation of the institution’s first Masters graduate and first Toi Poutama (Māori Arts) graduate. Leutele Grey (pictured below) graduated with a Master of Information Technology, while Moana Hilliard graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Arts (Toi Poutama).


The event was only made more vibrant by the numerous haka, karanga, waiata and general acknowledgment received by each graduate as they crossed the stage. This is something that undoubtedly sets the Whitireia graduation ceremony apart. You would be hard-pressed to find a more festive ceremony anywhere in the world; it is an event that truly captures the spirit of Whitireia.


Congratulations to all those who graduated on Thursday, we wish you every success.

Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe he maunga teitei.
(Seek the treasure you value most dearly; if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain).