It was a Tokaanu connection for Tutus on Tour when the Royal New Zealand Ballet came to Taupō on Tuesday.
One of New Zealand's leading contemporary dance choreographers, Moss Te Ururangi Patterson, is originally from Tūrangi and creates dance for the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
His dances Pango and Marama toured Taiwan, China, Korea and New Zealand from 2016 to 2018, and last year he created the 2019 Choreographic Series for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, recreating memories from his grandmother/kuia in a dance that re-imagines and brings to life his ancestral home Pūhaorangi, the wharenui at Tokaanu Marae.
Later this year he is taking Remember Songs to Taiwan.
Spending a lot of time in Tokaanu as a child, Moss says Pūhaorangi, is a deep part of his identity.
"My earliest memories are of being nurtured, surrounded by amazing groups of aunties and uncles. This is the source of my creativity for me as an artist. Even thinking about being back at Pūhaorangi gives me a sense of freedom.
"The smell of cooking, steam from the puia (hot pools) people laughing, someone talking about the photos on the wall."
As he gets older, he says he spends more time thinking about what's important.
"The interesting thing with choreography and art making, is thinking about how to indigenise the art space," says Moss.
He says his creativity all started with his mum Jane Patterson's pottery in Tūrangi.
"I would make dinosaurs. It gave me a sense of creating, and choreography is similar. It's sculpting, but tactile contemporary forms."
His kuia Rowena Southon and his aunts and uncles taught him traditional dance.
"Nana taught me a few things [kapa haka] at her house, and when we were growing up our aunties and uncles would get us to learn a traditional dance ahead of an event."
Moss says he was very proud to perform the traditional Ngāti Tūwharetoa haka Wairangi at Rowena's funeral.
"Pūhaorangi is my ancestor. The kowhaiwhai [decorative work] within Pūhaorangi is a deep part of my identity as an indigenous person."
The Patterson family moved to Alexandra, Otago, when Moss was five years old, and he would come home every year for Christmas. An opportunity to regularly visit his kuia came about while Moss was a contemporary dance student at Unitec Institute of Technology, in Auckland.
"I would come down every two or three weeks and sit at her table, she would make me cups of tea and tell me stories. I was just fascinated with the old days. Now I can tell my kuia's stories through dance," says Moss.
During his school years he never had any formal dance lessons. At Dunstan High School, Moss says he was massively into sport, would go in the school plays and joined a band, approaching everything with enormous levels of enthusiasm.
"This story is similar to many men who come into dancing late. While at school I worked out that music and theatre was what I wanted to do. When I was acting in a play, the directors said 'you are so physical, you should do dance'."
Viewed as a rough diamond at dance school, Moss was offered professional dancing work while in his third year at dance school and then graduated with flying colours.
Moss is based in Auckland and married to Annabel Farry. The couple have two teenage children, Anahera, 15 and Maia, 13, who are fluent in te reo Māori and Moss is currently studying te reo Māori. He wants to be a confident speaker and says his grandmother wanted him to be a speaker on the marae.
Learning te reo Māori led to a fascination about the history of te reo Māori as part of the Austronesian family of languages. He met people from the smaller tribes of Taiwan and was asked to take master classes at seven different universities in Taiwan.
"At one of the master classes, one of the professors popped out. He was Taiwanese, but could understand what I was saying! We compared what was similar. I sang all the songs I could remember, and so did he - we were tonally similar."
Inspired by the experience, Moss choreographed a new series of dance about the Māori connection with tribes in central Taiwan, called Remember Songs. Next year Moss is travelling to Asia to develop Remember Songs, with a Taiwanese choreographer.
These days, Moss comes home often to see his mother, enticed by her rice pudding, and says he is looking forward to the Tokaanu Marae re-opening soon, after it was closed for renovations.