Manu Collective
wows Macau

New Leadership Network member Xavier Breed is something of a dance floor diplomat. He and his troupe of talented young dancers wowed crowds at an international dance festival in Macau last month.

Watch Manu Collective perform Le Vā – a dance Xavier choreographed that expresses the importance of the Pacific Ocean to Pacific people

Xavier directs Manu Collective, which brings together Māori and Pasifika students from the top dance institutions in New Zealand.

He founded the group last year and says it’s a place for collaboration and networking, allowing its members to navigate their cultural identity through contemporary choreography.

Plus, he wants to help Kiwi dancers perform on overseas stages, especially in Asia.

The 22-year-old University of Auckland Dance Studies Programme postgraduate student has travelled to South Korea and China to dance.

“I thought to myself, I’m really blessed to have these opportunities.

“But then I thought to myself, I’m sure there’s many Pasifika and Māori who don’t get to experience this, maybe because of financial constraints or maybe because the opportunity just isn’t there.

“So, I wanted to provide that opportunity to them.”

Xavier speaking to a reporter

Xavier fielding questions from media in Macau

 Xavier travelled to Macau with 16 of his dancers and four directors to take part in the biennial International Youth Dance Festival.

They joined approximately 600 dancers from more than 15 countries.

For three-quarters of the group, it was their first time in Asia. For some, their first time outside New Zealand, Xavier says.

“It was pretty life changing for a lot of them.

“I think their minds have been opened to a whole new world of what possibilities lie outside of New Zealand after graduation, especially in Asia.”

They performed three dances. One, Le Vā, was choreographed by Xavier.

“It was based on the significance of the Pacific Ocean and how it was used for cultural exchange, and discovery and journeys for Pacific ancestors. It gathered the biggest applause from the crowd.

“It was something very new . . . A lot of the countries there were from Asia, from Europe. For a lot of them it was their first exposure to Pacific culture and Pacific energy.

“There were a lot of people who came up to the group after and congratulated them and wanted to collaborate or look into New Zealand dance.”

Manu Collective in Macau at the ruins of Saint Paul, which was one of the locations where the group performed

Dance, and the arts in general, can be a great connector of people, Xavier says.

“It doesn’t matter what language you speak, it transcends that communication barrier.

“You could be performing a Māori contemporary piece within Asia but they don’t need to be able to speak Māori or English to understand the concepts or importance of that piece.”

While the other members of Manu Collective have jetted home, Xavier’s stayed on in Asia, setting himself up for several months in Taiwan, where he’s being hosted by the prestigious Taipei National University of Arts Department of Dance.

There, he’ll be facilitating dance workshops and knuckling down to his master’s research, which asks the question: How might a choreographic process empower cultural understanding by engaging creative-practice choreographic research in the context of international diplomacy?

His time in Taiwan also coincides with the local Harvest Festival, the most important festival for Taiwan’s indigenous tribes.

“It’s like their Matariki equivalent.”

It will be a chance to see and learn from their cultural dances, he says.