Personal experience, family stories, historic events and cultural traditions: these are the themes which flow through this year's Pacific Dance Festival where 11 Pacific choreographers fuse traditional cultural dances with contemporary styles like street dance, voguing and theatre dance.

All reflect what it means to live in a multi-cultural society whether that's exploring, as festival opener Wahine Toa does, the strength and diversity of Pasifika women or reflecting on the Mau Movement of 1920s Samoa, as in Aumaga.

Then there's work like Nu'u, a moving hour-long love story of three featured characters and their experiences growing up in New Zealand. Developed collectively by Freshmans Dance Crew under the direction of Hadleigh Pouesi, this is set to live and recorded Pacific beats.

Festival director Iosefa Enari says Pacific Dance companies, like Black Grace and MAU, have been performing for 20 years but many of the independent artists featured in the festival are just starting out.


"The Pacific Dance Festival gives them extra visibility."

Here's what those taking part say about the importance of the festival:

Vivian Aue, Pacific dancer/choreographer, dance tutor at MIT: "This year's Pacific Dance Festival showcases talented, creative and passionate Pacific choreographers with important ideas to communicate through movement. As Pacific choreographers, we need more opportunities to showcase our unique work to the world. This is a significant platform and a great stepping stone, hopefully one of many more to come."

Carl Tolentino, dancer, NZ Dance Company: "It brings together new works from a diversity of Pacific artists, from current students and recent graduates to well established artists, all in one amazing venue, Mangere Arts Centre, at a very affordable cost. This festival is important for furthering the expression of art/dance/song/ music and, even better, for sharing the rich and vibrant cultures unique to Aotearoa."

Carrie Rae Cunningham, artistic director, Tempo Dance Festival: "The beauty and strength of the Pacific Dance Festival is the opportunity it provides to see and experience the rich diversity of Pacific dance across many cultures and traditions. The voice a festival like this gives to the Pacific dance community is a powerful means to artistic expression and development, education, visibility and awareness."

Sachiko Soro, artistic director VOU Dance, Fiji: "There is a fantastic line up of talented choreographers and dancers this year. I hope this festival engages with a wide audience to allow their important stories to be told. There are many platforms for traditional Pacific arts, but festivals such as this give a voice to Pacific Islands facing contemporary issues in a modern globalised society."

Jack Gray, indigenous dancer/choreographer and director of I Moving Lab: "Auckland has always been a hotbed for Pacific arts and culture. The Pacific dance community has expanded well beyond the Creative NZ funded companies, Black Grace and MAU, to an array of independent artists who are creating new approaches and practices. The Pacific Dance Festival celebrates the diversity of their approaches and increases their visibility whilst bringing their ideas to new audiences. This festival is synonymous with other First Nations Arts Festivals happening around the world right now, all presenting choreography and emergent art practices which embody and express indigenous values and frameworks."

Anton Carter, executive director, Dance Aotearoa New Zealand: "Work presented at the festival will no doubt develop and travel to other events around the country and therefore the festival can be seen as an important platform to influence the wider performing arts scene in New Zealand and ultimately the world."


What: Pacific Dance Festival
When & Where: Mangere Arts Centre, from Thursday - Saturday, June 24