156,000 - The impressive number of New Zealanders last recorded to be registered rugby players.
300,000 - With over 140,000 registered members, more than 300,000 people participate in netball annually.
630,000 - It is estimated that over half a million New Zealanders, of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, dance regularly. That would mean more people in Aotearoa dance than play rugby and netball combined.
I always knew I was born to dance. I was very vocal about it too. When I was six, my dad finally succumbed to my whinging and signed me up for a hip hop class at a church down the road. It took a single session for me to realise that taught choreography wasn’t in my future. I’d already mastered my great grandmother’s famed move of pretending to dry her back with a towel. Obviously, I needed no further instruction. At eight, I entered my primary school’s talent quest and improvised my way through Step’s bona fide banger ‘5,6,7,8’. In a shock upset, three minutes of grapevining from one side of the stage to the other did not bring home the crown. Still, I continued to dance and I continued to love it. And then high school happened, puberty happened, and the idea of dancing in public suddenly became terrifying.
Dancer: Kimberly Mankin
Fast forward through ten years of anxiously avoiding the d-floor, I found myself invited to No Lights No Lycra, an ‘hour of dance freedom in the dark’. I agreed with absolutely no intention of actually attending, forgot to make an excuse in time, and reluctantly turned up to a community centre with a surprisingly diverse bunch of boppers. And in the total darkness, in the absence of judgement and pressure, I moved my body and I discovered a new sense of liberation. I danced. And then I danced in my bedroom, I danced with my friends, I danced in a fantastic Shut Up & Dance class in front of colleagues. I even drunkenly performed the routine I learnt in said class in front of more strangers than I will ever remember. Dancing will never be a career for me, nor would I want it to, but it makes me feel confident and connected and provides a release that other activities just can’t compare to.
Dancers: Fish and Fox
Beyond my personal feelings of freedom, dance can increase physical fitness, improve memory and balance, positively impact mental health, and help to form relationships and communities. This week is New Zealand Dance Week, an event that was established in 2016 in an effort to celebrate local talents and get Aotearoa moving and engaged in the world of dance. There are events on for absolutely everyone, of all ages and physical abilities. It costs nothing and the benefits are undeniable. As Martha Graham famously said, “Dance is the hidden language of the soul.”
Dancer: Hannah Tasker-Poland in 'AKE'
This week, more than ever, I still know I was born to dance. And that’s nothing to do with me, it’s because we all were.
You can find events near you on DANZ’s website.
Dancer: Jahra Wasasala 'Rager'
All images by Jocelyn Janon photography.