He's one of the world's best hip-hop dancers, a part-time tutor with the University of Auckland's Dance Studies programme and now one of Footnote New Zealand's newest dancers, but without video games, Joshua (Fale) Faleatua (pictured) might not be dancing.

One of 10 children, Faleatua was raised in Papakura where his family was heavily involved in the church. For the Faleatua siblings, that meant singing in front of the congregation as well as at places like rest homes and schools.

But when he was home, Faleatua, 23, liked to play videogames and there was one where players could breakdance to fight their opponents. He was intrigued by the physicality of the characters he played and wanted to learn more about movement.

"I loved it [the breakdancing] and I would always choose that option," he recalls, "I ended up going to a dance studio in Pukekohe when my older sister became convinced that I really could dance."


Eventually, Faleatua found his way into Identity Dance Company and its adult hip-hop crew, The Bradas. He travelled with them to the World Hip Hop Dance Championships in Las Vegas last year, becoming part of the first New Zealand adult crew to win a gold medal.

Rather than return this year, Faleatua opted to try something new and attended Footnote's annual Choreolab, where dancers take part in a three-week intensive course. He was then picked for ChoreoCo, a chance for a smaller number of dancers to produce a piece of work. Now he's back with the company for Lifeworld (in five parts).

"The biggest difference, for me, between hip-hop and contemporary dance is the process by which dances are created," he says. "With hip-hop, you pick a song, start improvising and put counts to your movements but with contemporary, it's more down to what the choreographer wants to express with a lot grounded in emotions and exploring what the body can do. It's about taking the audience on a journey."