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Pacific Dance: Sesilia Pusiaki Tatuila

Sesilia Pusiaki Tatuila
Interview with Sesilia Pusiaki Tatuila, one of three emerging to mid-career choreographers of Pacific Island descent take on the Pacific Dance Choreographic Laboratory.

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2011 sees three emerging to mid-career choreographers of Pacific Island descent take on the Pacific Dance Choreographic Laboratory; Ojeya Cruz Banks, Sesilia Pusiaki Tatuila and Tepaer

2011 sees three emerging to mid-career choreographers of Pacific Island descent take on the Pacific Dance Choreographic Laboratory; Ojeya Cruz Banks, Sesilia Pusiaki Tatuila and Tepaeru-Ariki Lulu French.

The Pacific Dance Choreographic Laboratory is in its third year and is a three-week intensive lab in which these three have the opportunity to create dance works towards an eventual showing of works in development at the Mangere Arts Centre on Friday 14th October (7pm).

Aaron Taouma from Pacific Dance New Zealand asked Sesilia Pusiaki Tatuila a little about how she got there and what she hopes to achieve in the lab.

When did you start dancing and what drove you to continue on with it to this point? Tell us abit about yourself and your history.

The Arts have always played a major role in my life especially Tongan Arts – I was influenced from a very young age to embrace music and dance by my grandfather, both my mother and father and also my fathers’ siblings. What was a hobby as a young girl ended up being the one thing I am very passionate about and with generations of knowledge, skill, technique and stories passed down through my family is what I fell in love with. I want to share some of this knowledge through teaching, performing and creating work.

What do you love about dancing?

That instead of vocally telliing a story you can do exactly this through dance; everyday actions can be turned into dance movement.  But mostly the feeling and emotions portrayed within dance.

What are your Pacific Islands roots?

I’m Tongan from a line of performers - poets and choreographers. My great grandfather, Vili Pusiaki, was a personal ‘punake’ (master poet) to Queen Salote and he led a group called the ‘lomipeau’ which took Queen Salote’s poetry and choreographed dances to them. Over the last century these dances, poems and songs have been passed down through my family and are still performed today.

How do you see these roots, or this heritage, informing your current practice?

I grew up mostly around Tongan traditional dance and with what I'm doing now (contemporary Tongan dance) you still see elements of Tongan within it though I have mostly been focused on the contemporary side these days. I’ve been focused on movement that has more of a narrative appeal than traditional Tongan movement does.

What are you developing in the choreographic laboratory? What is your idea about?

The Idea was to explore Tongan contemporary movement to be able to tell or share what my interpretation of a particular traditional Tongan poem is and to also expolre if contemporary movement could be added but not take away form our already rich Tongan dances/faiva using Tongan traditional music and poetry to express my interpretation of it.

Neil Ieremia is this year's mentor to the lab - how do you feel about working with him and what do you hope to get out of this relationship?

Neil Ieremia was one of the reasons I applied for the lab, thinking if you would want to be mentored by any established choreographer then he would be it.  I guess it's more about direction rather than anything
else, just wanting to know if the approach or the way in which I’m going about my piece is of good quality and how I could improve in technique/skill.

Where do you hope to go from here in terms of your dance practice and development perhaps of the ideas you've been working with in the laboratory?

The poem that I am working on is one of many, what I am wanting to do is to create a series of pieces as a timeline of stories/events or at least that’s the idea - not sure if it would all be dance maybe a mixture of art forms including dance.

How has the experience and opportunity been for you?

It's been awesome working with everyone a great experience as a choreographer and knowing that the idea I originally had has grown and developed and me along with it.

Written by

Pacific Dance New Zealand

10 Oct 2011

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.