From a difficult childhood to a loving family of her own — Onera Beck might consider herself fortunate, but it's her mum Olivia, dad Jamie and three younger sisters who consider themselves the lucky ones. Taupō & Tūrangi Weekender editor Laurilee McMichael reports.
Onera's story is hard for her to tell in words. So, with the help of Olivia and choreographers Hannah and Lucy Golebiowski, she turned it into a dance.
And DanceNZmade competition owner Dean McKerras was so moved when she performed it at the DanceNZmade regional competition in Taupo this month he invited Onera to be a guest performer at the DanceNZmade nationals in Palmerston North in September.
Onera's dance is based on a short YouTube film, ReMoved, a spoken word piece which tells the story of a young girl growing up with family violence. She is eventually removed by the authorities and goes through a series of foster homes before she finds a new home where she is loved and secure.
The story mirrors the 15-year-old's own journey but when she was 7 she was fostered by Olivia and Jamie Beck, who five years later became her legal guardians under an arrangement known as Home for Life.
"That was the turning point. That was the best day," says Olivia of the day that Onera officially became a Beck. "We are very, very lucky."
Olivia originally enrolled Onera in dance to increase her self-confidence. Onera has done jazz and hip-hop for three years and now also does contemporary dance and performance through Dance Central, as well as at school.
Taupo-nui-a-Tia College dance teacher Iggy Gloy helped Onera edit the ReMoved spoken word piece down to two minutes and Onera had to come up with a dance which would express her feelings. While she initially tried to choreograph it herself with Olivia's help, it was too close to home for both of them.
"I asked her if she was ready," Olivia says.
"She went through moments of 'I don't know if this is too much' Originally she tried to do it on her own but we had to get Lucy and Hannah on board near the end ... it was perfect because they took all the emotion away."
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Onera says what she loves about dance is the ability to express yourself. The hardest part was putting it all together and deciding that she was going to go through with it.
"I had bits where I was like 'I don't want to do it any more," says Onera. "I was really stressed because it was too close." Onera enjoyed the workshops and being part of a school-based competition at at DanceNZmade as well as the opportunity to do her own solo dance.
"When you dance to something that you are connected to you can really show the emotion to the audience.
"When I perform this song I can really feel it inside.
"I never thought I could be picked for a solo guest appearance ...
"I was blown away and very excited."
Olivia thinks Onera was invited to be the DanceNZmade guest performer because of her courage in telling her story.
"She [Onera] finds it hard to talk about the past and everything she's been through but because she can express it through dance, it came really easily."