I am the worst New Zealander ever. I don't pronounce Maori words properly, even though I can (I think this is a self-consciousness thing). I don't speak the language. I didn't really know what Matariki was until very very recently. It's not that I don't care, I just haven't made it a part of my life up until now.
You don't have to berate me for this, I already berate myself. What's even worse is that there are actually a few drops of Maori blood in my veins. A 32nd to be exact. In my ancestral past there was a Chief's daughter called Huihane who married an English carpenter by the name of John Callaway (apparently he was a bit of a rascal.) They lived in Kikowhakarere on the Coromandel. Their house is still there.
A photograph of my great great uncle hangs in the Auckland War Memorial Museum because he wrote the waiata for the Maori battalion in the Boer War.
These are things I'm quite proud of, but I guess I've always connected with the stories as myths, not realities.
Despite being a "post-tribunal" child - as my aunt puts it - my knowledge of Maori culture has never extended beyond what I learned in school, and most of that knowledge has faded in years spent away from home.
So when I went along to KaHa: Short Works by the Atamira Dance Company I felt like a cultural blank slate. I had everything to learn, and that is at least in part, why it was such an amazing experience.
KaHa opened with an amazing haka, which was choreographed by Moss Patterson, Atamira's artistic director. The strength of intent behind each movement and word and facial expression was something I felt as a physical force. Everyone else in the audience understood what was being said, they knew the significance, and it was strange to feel so locked out of that - but to still be so affected by it.
Each piece was introduced by Moss Patterson himself, and that opened the whole night up for me, it invited me and my ignorance in. KaHa gave me an insight into a world I should really know more about, and it made me want to know more about it too.
Each dance was so vastly different. Some were hilarious. Some were breath-taking. The talent and grace of Atamira's dancers was inspiring to watch.
For me, it was Ngai Tahu 32 that was the most moving. It was so atmospheric and intense. I think my mouth was hanging open throughout the whole thing. I was also totally hypnotised by Bianca Hyslop in the beautiful solo piece, Piata, which was choreographed by Taane Mete.
I don't want only to talk about how moved and emotional KaHa was though, because there were more than a few moments during the night when I was laughing out loud and clapping along. The bizarre but identifiable distractions of Jack Gray's Mitimiti, and the great final piece, Poi E Thriller, which you'll recognise from the movie Boy - there were hilarious moments in each of these.
Perhaps more than anything though, I was touched by the connectedness and enthusiasm I felt within the New Zealand dance community. Gather & Hunt has sent me on little adventures into so many different facets of cultural life in this city, and yet I'm always discovering more. There is such vibrance and talent and creativity and innovation to be found here. It's wonderful to see.
Moss Patterson said that Matariki was a time for refleciton and celebration. At KaHa, I definitely experienced both. There are just a few more opportunities for you to have the same experience, click here if you'd like to.
A weekly ray of sunshine in your inbox! We scour the city for the best ways to optimise your week