Dancing the Island connection
Inspiring teenagers to dance can be a tough task – but Tuaine- Nurse Tamarua Robati has taken that challenge to the extreme.
He is using dance to connect young Cook Islanders with their heritage.
Robati, who is part way through a 10-week dance residency with Pacific New Zealand, has been hosting a series of workshops designed to help young Cook Islanders engage with their culture.
‘‘ It’s fantastic. I’m really enjoying it,’’ he said. ‘‘ Students seem to enjoy it, because they keep coming back.
‘‘It’s a great opportunity for me to put something back into the community, and use my experience from having worked in this field for 20-plus years.’’
Robati teaches through a concept called Puera (‘‘to bloom’’), a synthesis of culture, dance, spirituality, costuming and music. He hopes Puera will help develop students’ appreciation of their culture more than traditional dance programmes do.
‘‘I went to Polyfest last year, and saw a lack of excitement in the students’ eyes and a lack of pride at belonging to an ethnic group.
‘‘We’re now looking at third and fourth generation Cook Islanders, and my perception is that they’re disconnected from the homeland, so this is a way to re-connect them.’’
Robati said he had already seen a change in his students.
‘‘It’ll take the whole of the residency for Puera to get established. I really don’t know if it will pick up a life of its own after that, but I’d be excited if it does.
‘‘I see [students] responding really well. I see excitement in their parents, who sit and watch. That’s where I draw the encouragement from.’’
Culture through dance: Tuaine-Nurse Tamarua Robati is helping young Cook Island Maori discover their heritage.