An online magazine of news and opinions from the Asia New Zealand Foundation

Kiwi kids dazzled by Diwali dancers

Kiwi kids got a taste of Indian culture when a dance troupe in the country for this year’s Diwali festivals took to the road and visited schools in Auckland and Porirua last week.

It wasn’t all one way traffic either, with the students delighting the performers with their own waiata, dance and music.

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Watch a video of the dancers performing at Titahi Bay Intermediate and the school's culture group returning the favour

Led by the Foundation’s education programme, the troupe visited Balmoral School and Owairaka School in Auckland, and in Porirua visited Titahi Bay Intermediate (who were joined by juniors from Ngati Toa School), Brandon Intermediate and Bishop Viard College.

The visiting group, Kalika Kala Kendra, performed their traditional lavani folk dance, wearing bright saris and clusters of small ankle bells which, the children were amazed to hear, weighed as much as seven kilograms on each foot. Accompanying the female dancers were men playing hand drums known as dholki.

Kids from Ngati Toa School's junior classes taking in the show

Titahi bay Intermediate principal Dairne Kaimoana, who was roped into attempting some of the lavani dance steps on stage, says her students loved hearing about the Diwali festival and experiencing the lavani performers.

“Our students enjoy learning about other cultures and really enjoy sharing their own culture with visitors to our school. 

“Valuing who people are and their cultures and being proud of your heritage is promoted at Titahi Bay Intermediate,” she says.

“We pride ourselves on being proud of who we are!”

The Indian visitors were clearly impressed by the skills on show at the schools they visited. At Titahi Bay Intermediate, the dancers enthusiastically joined the students to learn some Samoan dance moves and the drummers tried their hands on the Pātē – wooden drums from the Pacific Islands.

The Foundation’s Educators Network manager, Sean O’Connor says the schools visits are a great example of reciprocal learning or ako – a concept where both students and educators, in this case the dance troupe, teach and learn from each other.

“This is what taking Diwali groups to schools is all about. The students get to experience a part of Indian culture they might otherwise have little or no knowledge of, but also proudly share their own cultures.”

a shot from behind the performers who are sitting on a stage looking out at students doing a haka

Over the years the Foundation has brought many world-class performers from India in partnership with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations to perform at Diwali and share their culture with schools around New Zealand. Thousands of children have had the chance to meet performers face-to-face, learning traditional dance steps, hearing about Bollywood and Indian myths and legends and experiencing skilled musicians play a variety of traditional instruments.

The Foundation’s executive director Simon Draper says the Diwali schools programme is one way the Foundation helps young New Zealanders become more familiar and comfortable with the rich and complex Asian cultures in our midst.

“This in turn gives New Zealanders young and old a real edge in our engagement with countries in Asia – currently the most prosperous, exciting, and dynamic region in the world,” he says.

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26 October 2017