Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Pacific dance tutors garner worldwide following in lockdown

Jayden Luapo of Tautua Dance

As many across the country adapt to online learning in lockdown, that has also meant the same for Pacific Island culture experts teaching performing arts to maintain and revitalise traditional dance.

For Porirua-based dance practitioner Jayden Luapo of Tautua Dance school, that has meant conducting his community dance classes on Facebook – what he says has allowed more followers to learn the practice of siva Samoa.

“We actually went online a week prior to us going in lockdown. We made steps prior to everything, and I felt it was good for us and our dance school,” says Luapo.

“We saw the need for actual online classes for the world.”

While his community classes, with an original role of 160 members, have seen a slight drop by 10 since lockdown, Luapo says his public Facebook lives have garnered more than 100 viewers from as far as North Carolina and Hawaii in the United States.

“I had no idea where North Carolina was,” says Luapo.

“It’s broadened our horizons in a way that we’re now thinking more in terms of engaging more people from around the world.”

Cook Islands dance tutor Nikki Upoko

For Cook Island dance tutors Nikki Upoko and Moana Taio, that has also meant utilising Instagram and Youtube.

Upoko, who is Auckland based, says while she is already utilising Instagram to share Cook Island ura, or dance, alongside her community classes, the online space has allowed a “comfortable” environment for more followers to join in.

“I do notice that for some of the people that are taking my classes it’s quite new to them, and I know it can be a little bit daunting going to a class with other people who are at different levels of experience,” says Upoko.

“Having it in the comfort of their own home where no one is watching them, they can do whatever they want.”

Moana Taio, Tamure Fitness

Meanwhile Rarotonga-based fitness instructor Taio of Tamure Fitness says the idea to run the recently launched ura workout classes online came at the request of locals keen to keep up their fitness as the Cook Islands’ take heed of social distancing and quarantine measures.

“We found going live a bit easier for them and more accessible to them, so that’s kind of where we started,” says Taio.

Since then, she says the classes have attracted an international following beyond what her and her team could have imagined.

“It’s been amazing, and that’s what I think is feeding the adrenaline rush,” says Taio.

“It’s not just Cook Islanders from overseas. We’ve had people from countries like the USA and Papua New Guinea.  It’s been really exciting to share Cook Island culture with different countries, especially in this time of isolation.”

As Pacific Island culture adapts to the online space and sacred practices are shared on the worldwide web, Luapo says there’s no cause for concern as long as fundamentals are taught correctly.

“As long as people are getting to know who they are, learn the stories of our people and the stories are still being told during isolation, then I don’t see where the problem is.”

By Moana Makapelu Lee

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