Grey Lynn's ramshackle landmark Carlile House, on Richmond Rd, provides more than an unusual venue for a dance performance this week. The Carlile Dance Project, in tandem with Strange Fruit, is inspired as much by the building's history as its Gothic spaces.

Michele Powles won funding for the project from Auckland City Council's creative communities initiative, and gathered a group of enthusiastic young choreographers and dancers to take part.

The Carlile House Project, with a distinct Tongan flavour, uses five different rooms to explore New Zealand immigration issues through the eyes of a girl. Because Carlile House now belongs to the Tongan community and they have become involved in the project, the mythical girl is Tongan.

First is Tonga Tango, a welcome to the audience, which will be limited to 40 for each performance, and who will move through the house following the action.

The second "room" reflects the time Carlile House was an orphanage during the 1930s then flips to the Tongan perspective of a small, fledgling community, orphaned in a new land.

During the 1950s and early 60s, Carlile House was empty, although it was discussed as a prospective centre for the homeless. In Tonga at that time, many people were leaving their fields to work in the towns, says Powles. When that work dried up, growing numbers relocated to New Zealand.

The third work is a "family centred piece" addressing the inevitable pain of leaving Tonga and arriving in a new country.

Action in the fourth room skips to 1977, when the Tongan Church bought Carlile House, and planned a recreation centre. The choreography is titled Recreation and features a table-tennis table as well as the volatile period of history that included the dawn raids and widespread uncertainty.

The fifth and final room represents the present and asks whether Auckland will choose to embrace multiculturalism or remain, simply and problematically, a city of multi-cultures.

The five choreographers are Lou Potiki Bryant, Geoff Gilson, Vicky Kapo, Cathy Livermore and Powles. Strange Fruit, the second work in the programme, is directed by Maria Dabrowska and Alyx Duncan.

All the choreographers and performers are either student dancers or graduates of the Unitec School of Dance. Powles is the exception. She chose law school over dance school and now works in Auckland as an events manager, expressing her creativity in the dance field part-time. "Dancing feeds my soul, not necessarily my stomach," she says.

* The Carlile House Project and Strange Fruit, Carlile House, 90 Richmond Rd, Wednesday-Friday, at 8pm. Tickets at the door.