The night is getting closer for 20 couples sweating it out on the dancefloor for Harcourts Dancing for Hospice. As adrenaline levels rise, Kristina Crouch and Kereti Rautangata take a breather and sit down with reporter Leah Tebbutt. Although not knowing each other until paired for the competition, they quickly realise their motivation is the same.
Who would be the harsher critic, a panel of judges or a school full of children?
Pupils at St Michael's Catholic Primary School are eager to see the routine their principal Kristina Crouch has been working hard on for Harcourts Dancing for Hospice but she is hesitant.
"They will be harsher than the judges no doubt."
Crouch (Ngāti Kahungunu) has been paired with Kereti Rautangata (Waikato, Te Arawa) for this year's competition and five weeks in the pair said they are feeling "solid".
"It is definitely a really big commitment," Crouch said.
"But that is the whole point, to sacrifice something for Hospice."
And it is not just her committing to the cause, it is a real family affair.
"Two of my children have chosen to give up their extracurricular stuff for the term.
"We had a whānau hui and they said, 'it's a commitment from our whole whānau to let mum do this'."
Meet the couples: From the rugby field to the dance floor
Harcourts Dancing for Hospice back for 2019
It was only last year when Crouch lost her own mum to cancer but she said the aroha Hospice gave to her whānau was that of guardian angels.
"What I am doing now is for those guardian angels."
Crouch said her mother, the matriarch of her wider whānau, was a fiercely competitive woman who was consistent with her expectations and values.
"If she was here she would be critiquing every single dance move and she wouldn't hold back on Kereti either."
Rautangata is relatively new to town, only moving back to Rotorua in January but when he was asked to take part he knew the big commitment was worth it.
"My mother passed away with cancer on Mother's Day in 2015.
"Losing your mum, for me, was losing my world. She was my mum and my dad and I lost a rock."
His mother was diagnosed four months before her death and because of how fast it happened, Rautangata said he would be eternally grateful for the support Hospice gave his mother and himself.
"I am humbled to be in a position to give back because time and effort is really not enough for what they did for my family."
With a similar reason for dancing, it is not surprising to hear Rautangata say he gravitated towards Crouch when they first met the other contestants.
"I live in quite a Māori centric community, it was nerve-racking to step into this dancing arena but then to also be sitting right beside each other, and then to be put together, it made me feel comfortable [to be with Crouch]."
Coming from a kapa haka background Rautangata is used to long practices but it wasn't until recently he realised how big the night will be, now considering it to be Rotorua's Te Matatini sized event.
Their lips were sealed shut on what to expect on stage but Rautangata let slip the routine was far from easy.
"It is quite unique in the timing and pace and also the way your body has to be in order to fulfil the move.
"The night is the end result but let's not forget about the journey."
Tickets are available on Monday at 9am from Ticketmaster.