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Pacific Dance - Introducing Santana Schmidt

Santana Schmidt
The Pacific Dance Choreographic Laboratory is an annual event which gives 3 up and coming choreographers of Pacific Islands descent an opportunity to devise, develop and perform a dance work.


The Pacific Dance Choreographic Laboratory is an annual event which gives 3 up and coming choreographers of Pacific Islands descent an opportunity to devise, develop and perform a dance work.

The three choreographers selected to take part in 2013 are Santana Schmidt, Amo Ieriko and Nikki Upoko.

As part of the Southside Arts Festival, the Pacific Dance Choreo Lab showing will be at the Mangere Arts Centre, Saturday 2nd November at 7pm.

Here is a quick Q & A with Santana Schmidt about her piece called #Hashtag.

Q & A

Q1. What is your piece called and what is the inspiration behind it? 

My piece is called #Hastag and the inspiration behind the title comes from the recent trend that our generation has created from the influence of Instagram and other social media networking sites. It has stuck with me ever since I was first introduced to it and it amazes me how quickly it has spread through social media networking sites. If you don’t hashtag then it’s not cool.

Q2. What is your background in dance? When did you start dancing and what were your early dance influences?

My technical training in Contemporary dance started in my first year at the University of Auckland where I did a Bachelor of Dance Studies degree. From there, I connected myself with Pacific Dance New Zealand (PDNZ) where I was introduced to Pacific Dance through the Choreographic Lab in 2010. Furthermore my relationship with PDNZ grew as I participated as a dancer for two Choreographic Labs and one Artist in Residency.

Dance came to me at a late stage during high school, I had taken Dance as a ‘laid-back’ subject right throughout my junior and senior years. It wasn’t until my last year of high school where I got serious about Dance. A new dance teacher came in and changed our dance department around. We saw more field trips to see shows, productions and participate in various workshops.

During that year I had a fascination with Neil Ieremia and his company’s works, all of my assignments and essays where based on his company Black Grace which led to my interest in Contemporary Pacific dance.

I went to their show Gathering Clouds in 2009 at the Civic Theatre and was blown away by a particular dancer, Tupua Tigafua, and I remember saying to myself, I want to be him but obviously the female version.

From there I auditioned for Urban Youth Movement (mentoring program under Black Grace) and was successful into the group. The three months spent working with the company opened my eyes to the Dance industry. The idea of using movement to voice our thoughts and opinions about youth issues inspired me to take on Dance at a tertiary level.

Q3. How does your dance background influence your current work?

The growth in my three-year Dance degree has enabled me to experience a variety of different cultures, techniques and literature, other ways of communicating an idea or concept that I am interested or passionate about and my experience with different choreographers, dancers and teachers.

Everything I have been involved in has contributed into the molding of who I am as an emerging Pacific artist. I’ve gained so much knowledge with people I’ve worked with and I dedicate my shaping as a choreographer to them.

Q4. In your piece for the choreographic lab, is there an essential message you wish to convey? How are you planning to convey this through your work and what do you want the audience to take away from it?  

My piece is basically raising awareness of how obsessive we are with social media networking sites like Instagram, Facebook and Skype to just name a few.

I want to confront this by giving my audience a personal inside view on what goes on behind the screen and keyboard, our thoughts, opinions and judgments. Our language, our identity is becoming unrecognizable as we try to ‘fit in’ with the common universal trend.

Through poetry, song and spoken text I, along with my dancers will convey this message with compliments of my technical training in contemporary dance.

I really want my audience to understand that this isn’t just a universal statement but also a statement that relates to our Pacific youth today.

Our world is undergoing a generational shift however it doesn’t mean we need to change who we are but the reality of this issue is that we are becoming virtual in our engagements. But how can we stop ourselves when it’s such a popular trend at the moment? That’s what I want to ask my audience and that’s what I want them to take away from my piece.

Q5. How does it feel to be part of the choreolab and to be called a choreographer rather than just a dancer? How different is it for you?

I have always been a dancer for the choreographic labs, so getting the news that I was chosen to be a choreographer this time round was very unexpected but also encouraging as well. I have always been ready to choreograph but never found in myself the courage to take on the role.

I have always felt comfortable being a dancer, educator and an observer of dance in general, and now adding to that a choreographer is defiantly a challenge and an experience I am willing to take on as well.

Q6. What do you hope to gain out of the experience of being part of the Pacific Dance Choreographic Lab 2013?

Opportunity, not only for me as an emerging Pacific artist but for my dancers as well. Choreographic lab allows us to meet, dance and share a journey with other emerging Pacific artists. That networking for us only makes our Pacific community that much stronger, and it’s something I love to see growing amongst our Pacific people. It gives us confidence within our identities, who we are and what we are about and I hope to gain this from this years choreographic lab for 2013.

Q7. What are your hopes for the future?

This year I am in the midst of completing my Graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching at the University of Auckland, as well as dancing I have a passion for teaching and educating our youth in Dance. Becoming a dance teacher is definitely something I want to do long term, as well as keeping myself involved in projects outside of a normal high school day. Therefore my hopes for the future are dedicating myself to teaching dance to our youth, letting them know that dance can be a life changing career option. 

Further information: 

The Pacific Dance Choreographic Lab is an annual event run by Pacific Dance New Zealand.

In 2013 the showing of works developed at the lab will feature as part of the South Side Arts Festival at Mangere Arts Centre, on Saturday 2nd November at 7pm.

Contact details:, ph: 376 00 60

Written by

Pacific Dance New Zealand

23 Aug 2013

Interests Pacific Dance New Zealand fosters and encourages the development of the Pacific dance sector of New Zealand. We are involved in running dance workshops, conferences, community and professional events promoting Pacific dance in New Zealand.