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A Well Spring Of Dance Traditions

By Linda Lim, Dr. Linda Ashley and Francesca Horsley


Mudra DC

English, Scottish and Irish dance has a long tradition in New Zealand as settlers brought these dances with them from the 1840s onwards. The tradition has been handed down through the generations, refreshed with arrivals from and visits to the ‘homeland' playing a pivotal role.  Irish dancers travel overseas to compete – Australia and America are important - but the ultimate goal is the World Irish Dancing Championship, known as the Worlds, held in Ireland annually. 

Highland Dance is represented by two organisations in New Zealand. The long standing New Zealand Academy of Highland and National Dance (NZAHND) was established in 1946. In late 2010 the NZAHND formed the Highland Dance Company, and two works premiered at their annual conference in 2011. 

Folk Dance NZ was established to provide a gateway for folk dance in NZ. The Ruritanian International Folkdance Club, amongst many, has been providing and promoting opportunities in folk dancing for over 20 years.  A diversity of dance traditions from Europe such as the Scandanavian, Italian, German, Polish, Jewish, Hungarian, Russian, Greek and former Yugoslavian countries are alive and well throughout the country. 

Spanish Flamenco has a had long history in Auckland, with Jane Luscombe establishing her Spanish Dance School in Mt Eden in 1972, shortly after returning to New Zealand from travelling Europe as a dancer. The school celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. 

Dance from the Indian community is also well-established. Kanan Deobhakta has been performing and passing on her knowledge of Bharatha Natyam, Odissi and Indian folk dance since 1982 in Auckland and Wellington. 

The Asian population in New Zealand grew rapidly in the decade to 2001, it is no surprise that Chinese New Year Lantern Festival celebrations, organised by Asia NZ in Auckland and Christchurch, and Asian Events Trust in Wellington, all started around this time. Diwali festivals in Auckland and Christchurch have also become an important part of cultural events calendars. Dance features prominently in all these festivals.  As part of this new dance growth, new works have been created specifically for the festivals as choreographers have moved outside the boundaries of their national dance, bringing diverse cultures together and fusing diverse movement vocabularies. 

Read the full article (Iss. 34) A Well Spring of Dance Traditions

A Well Spring Of Dance Traditions

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