National | Dance

Young aspiring dancer encourages Māori to take up ballet

Thirteen-year-old Te Ātihaunui-a-Pāpārangi descendant Jayda Ponga developed a passion for ballet when she was a child and is encouraging other Māori youth to give it a go. She is one of a very few Māori that is pursuing a career in an industry where very few make it to the big stage.

One lesson is all it took to inspire this aspiring dancer.

Ponga reflects back on that first ballet lesson and says, "I had my first ballet lesson and I found it so fun. I could really express my emotions through the dance moves and I found it really interesting."

Unlike many other teenagers on holiday at this time, Jayda is committed to upskilling her technique at the RAD Centenary Summer School.

Ponga also says, "Dance is really hard like sport. People think all you have to do is spin around and do a couple of moves. Dance is like, you have to be focused, you have to have your feet in the correct position, you have to have a great posture, the expressions. So there's a lot of things that come with dance.

Nine-year-old Peyton Luamanu of Ngāti Toa and 8-year-old Aotea Bauer-Ngawaka of Ngāti Hine are enjoying the different challenges and have an appreciation for the basic fundamentals of ballet.

Luamanu says, "I like it that you can do competitions and that it's really fun. And that you go into grades and you do exams."

Bauer-Ngawaka says, "When  you go into a new grade I like the challenge for you on each harder level."

The Royal Academy of Dance is celebrating 100 years of teaching dance. National Director Bronwyn Williams says the academy offers all the knowledge aspiring dancers need to succeed.

Williams says, "So the Royal Academy of Dance started in London in 1920. It was started by a group of dedicated dance teachers and professional dancers, in order to ensure that there was some standardisation in the way in which ballet was taught."

Williams is hopeful that more Māori will become inspired to learn ballet and says there are many similarities in the basic fundamentals of kapa haka and ballet.

Williams also says, "We really would like to encourage Māori and Pasifika more into ballet."

Ponga says in closing, "Not many Māori people are in ballet because they think that's not really normal so I wanted to show them that some Māori people can actually dance."

Ponga has plans on becoming a dance teacher one day and hopes she will inspire others like she was at her very first lesson.