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Malia-4 copyThe cho­reo­graph­er for the extraordin­ary World of Wear­ableArt Awards show for the last 14 years, Malia moved to Wel­ling­ton in 2008 to take on the role of artist­ic dir­ect­or, bring­ing the gar­ments to life through move­ment and dance. Malia also teaches at the New Zea­l­and School of Dance in Wel­ling­ton and at Unitec in Auck­land. Malia flew to Wel­ling­ton from rehears­als in Auck­land espe­cially to speak to Fish­Head at the Museum Hotel.

If it’s been a hard day at work and I’m in need of a drink I’ll be… Well, there are lots of places actu­ally, but there’s Rogue and Vag­a­bond, or here at the Museum Hotel — I like their wine!

The next day if I’m in need of a hearty feed and a cup of great cof­fee I’ll be at… Joe’s Gar­age — I’ve had just about everything from Joe’s. It’s just the atmo­sphere, and the cof­fee is great, plus it’s in a nice part of town.

If I’m in need of a slice of cul­ture I can’t go past… Live theatre, but also the New Zea­l­and Film Archive.

My favour­ite Wel­ling­ton land­mark would have to be… East­bourne Hills. That’s where I go for rest and recre­ation, and the views over the har­bour are awesome!

I think Wellington’s best-kept secret is… Lower Hutt (laughs)! The only reas­on I say that is because of all the great walk­ing tracks. I moved to Alicetown just recently and I just didn’t know how many amaz­ing walk­ing tracks they have out there! They are just so beau­ti­ful, and in ten minutes you can go either side, up into the gorges, and find rivers, water­falls, lakes, ponds and swim­ming holes!

Wel­ling­ton has been home to many amaz­ing shows and per­form­ances, but the theatre or ven­ue I most love to view or teach in is… Well, I mean I just have so many memor­ies of put­ting on the World of Wear­ableArt shows at the TSB Arena, but I mean it’s the TSB Arena! So I have to say that, and also I really enjoy see­ing the per­form­ances at Te Whaea that the dance stu­dents and theatre per­formers do in that space, I just love see­ing their work.

One par­tic­u­larly mem­or­able exper­i­ence cho­reo­graph­ing would have to be… There are bil­lions actu­ally, loads, but I think I’ll just men­tion one, which was Helen Clark in 2002 when I cho­reo­graphed her when she was Prime Min­is­ter. She had a cameo role in the World of Wear­ableArt Awards back then wear­ing a gar­ment designed by Susan Holmes. I thought she was very brave, and even though she was used to pub­lic speak­ing and all of that, she was actu­ally quite nervous and she missed her cue!

The high­light of being involved with Mana Wahine has been… work­ing col­lab­or­at­ively with an incred­ibly lively group of artists, includ­ing the AV design­er, dan­cers and oth­er cho­reo­graph­ers, but in par­tic­u­lar work­ing along­side Tui Rana­piri-Rans­field, who is a rel­at­ive of Tai­aroa Roy­al, one of the oth­er cho­reo­graph­ers. She has an incred­ible know­ledge of his­tory, cul­tur­al move­ment, kapa haka, Māori lan­guage and com­pos­i­tion of Māori song and chant. She has basic­ally just opened my eyes to new inform­a­tion and move­ment ori­gins, which has really encour­aged me to play and explore those things really openly.

The mes­sage we wanted to con­vey through Mana Wahine is… that col­lab­or­a­tion is fab­ulous and work­ing to the strengths of the group of people you are work­ing and col­lab­or­at­ing with will not set you wrong… The mes­sage we wanted to con­vey is about strong phys­ic­al­ity in dance; it’s very much a move­ment plat­form that dis­plays the per­son­al­ity of the indi­vidu­al dan­cers along­side their col­lect­ive strength. Mana Wahine presents a dynam­ic range of cho­reo­graph­ic ener­gies and path­ways that were inspired by a true story from Rotorua, where the strength and lat­er­al think­ing of one woman, whose people were about to be slaughtered in a his­tor­ic battle, helped save her tribe. It’s an intu­it­ive work that defies nar­rat­ive but cre­ates an emo­tion­al jour­ney that is ulti­mately an uplift­ing experience.

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