Pasifika and Māori dance troupe wows Macau

New Zealand dancer Xavier Breed, founder of Manu Collective, wants to help talented Māori and Pasifika dancers perform on overseas stages, especially in Asia. Kim Bowden reports.

Xavier Breed is something of a dance floor diplomat.

He and his troupe of talented young dancers wowed crowds at an international dance festival in Macau last month.

The 22-year-old dancer directs Manu Collective, which brings together Māori and Pasifika students from the top dance institutions in New Zealand.

He founded the group last year and says it’s a place for collaboration and networking, allowing its members to navigate their cultural identity through contemporary choreography.

Plus, he wants to help Kiwi dancers perform on overseas stages, especially in Asia.

Xavier and media mob in Macau2

Kiwi dancer Xavier Breed fielding questions from reporters in Macau.

The University of Auckland Dance Studies Programme postgraduate student and member of the Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network has travelled to South Korea and China to dance.

“I thought to myself, I’m really blessed to have these opportunities.

“But then I thought, I’m sure there’s many Pasifika and Māori who don’t get to experience this, maybe because of financial constraints or maybe because the opportunity just isn’t there.

“So I wanted to provide that opportunity to them.”

Breed travelled to Macau with 16 of his dancers and four directors to take part in the biennial International Youth Dance Festival.

They joined approximately 600 dancers from more than 15 countries.

For three-quarters of the group, it was their first time in Asia. For some, their first time outside New Zealand, Breed says.

“It was pretty life-changing for a lot of them.

“I think their minds have been opened up to a whole new world of what possibilities lie outside of New Zealand after graduation, especially in Asia.”

They performed three dances. One, Le Vā, was choreographed by Breed.

“It was based on the significance of the Pacific Ocean and it’s use for cultural exchange, and discovery and journey for Pacific ancestors.

“It gathered the biggest applause from the crowd.

“It was something very new ... A lot of the countries there were from Asia, from Europe. For a lot of them it was their first exposure to Pacific culture and Pacific energy.

“There were a lot of people who came up to the group after and congratulated them and wanted to collaborate or look into New Zealand dance.”

Dance, and the arts in general, can be a great connector of people, Breed says.

“It doesn’t matter what language you speak, it transcends that communication barrier.

“You could be performing a Māori contemporary piece within Asia, but they don’t need to be able to speak Māori or English to understand the concepts or importance of that piece.”

Manu Collective at the ruins of St Paul one of the spots the troupe performed.

Manu Collective at the ruins of St Paul – one of the locations where the troupe performed in Macau.

While the other members of Manu Collective have jetted home, Breed’s stayed on in Asia, setting himself up for several months in Taiwan, where he’s being hosted by the prestigious Taipei National University of Arts Department of Dance.

There, he’ll be facilitating dance workshops and knuckling down to his master’s research, which asks the question: How might a choreographic process empower cultural understanding by engaging creative-practice choreographic research in the context of international diplomacy?

His time in Taiwan also coincides with the local Harvest Festival, the most important festival for Taiwan’s indigenous tribes.

“It’s like their Matariki equivalent.”

It will be a chance to see and learn from their cultural dances, he says.

– Asia Media Centre


The Manu Collective performing at the 2018 International Youth Dance Festival.