Xavier on lockdown: "I was grateful to have a roof over my head, food on the table, a close family, work and a time to stop and reflect on life up till then."
What was your lockdown experience like?
My lockdown experience involved being at home with my two younger brothers, my mother and my father.
We moved from West Auckland to Manukau, South Auckland, in the past few months and so it was a great period of time to settle into our new home. Lockdown was a rollercoaster of emotions and feelings.
I was grateful to have a roof over my head, food on the table, a close family, work and a time to stop and reflect on life up till then.
During lockdown, I truly struggled to stay motivated. I find motivation and inspiration from interactions with family, friends and new people I meet every week and from the students that I teach.
Not being able to share space with people outside of my immediate family meant finding motivation in other projects, reading, exercise and fitness as well as music.
Did you come up with any new plans for Manu Collective or work on any other projects during lockdown?
In November 2019, I decided to disband MANU. It was time to refocus my energy, time and skills into existing organisations, community initiatives and projects as well as self-development.
Xavier with Auckland Girls Grammar Year 12 dance class
A lot of my thoughts and my energy during lockdown went towards teaching dance classes online for high schools, serving our community through lockdown – particularly Māori and Pasifika through an online initiative called ‘Calm our Community’ – and on my family.
What are you up to at the moment?
Currently I am taking a break from full-time work and am tutoring Pacific and contemporary dance at various high schools in Tamaki Makaurau, in addition to developing some artistic work and community projects.
Alongside starting my role as an advisory board member with the Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network, I will also begin my term as a new advisory board member for the New Zealand Dance Advancement Trust, which administers the NZ Dance Company.
What inspired you to tutor dance?
After studying/working full time alongside being in leadership roles and being a part of numerous extracurricular and community activities, 2020 for me was about re-centering myself and prioritising my health, particularly my mental health.
The decision to teach this year while I figure out the next stage in my career journey was to connect with young people within schools to pass on the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired from my time studying, creating and performing dance with young dance students and to provide safe cultural spaces for students to push their physical and creative boundaries in the classroom.
Unfortunately, COVID and the lockdown period resulted in a move from the physical space to a digital space to teach Pacific dance.
In lockdown especially, the learning of dance choreography, the history of Sāmoan dance and the significance of Pacific choreography was important to provide students with more options to occupy their time and learn something new.
What would you like to see develop from this work?
The processes involved within the creative arts – creating, conceptualising, researching and exploring through movement, music, writing, sound, acting, painting, sculpting and drawing, to name a few – have the capacity to aid one's mental wellbeing.
I only hope that more schools will provide support for their creative arts departments to serve more students within their schools and create well rounded young people who are not afraid to use their creativity, test their ideas, learn off different cultures and collaboration.
What do you see as the role of the Leadership Network talanoa/fono?
New Zealand is significant because it lies within the Pacific, Māori hold ancestral ties with the Pacific Islands, and Aotearoa is also home to some of the largest Pacific populations in the world (Sāmoan, for example, is the third most spoken language).
New Zealanders need to first and foremost understand and be honourable partners with Māori but also understand the Pacific and its diversity.
We believe that this space for indigenous Pacific peoples in the Leadership Network will be able to provide cultural support and tools for the organisation and its leadership network to understand more about the Pacific – its indigenous methodologies, ways of doing, culture and diversity.
A commonly used Sāmoan proverb/whakatauki/alaga’upu goes ‘O le ala i le pule o le tautua’ - the pathway to leadership is through service. Service is a common value that underpins Pacific cultures from across the moana/Pacific ocean.
Our Pacific whānau collectively want to be of service to the Asia New Zealand Foundation and the Leadership Network – using our Pacific whakapapa and stories to empower Leadership Network members as we know many are and will engage with Asia and the Pacific, as representatives of Aotearoa and the Pacific.