Wallis and Futuna dancer takes up NZ residency


A Wallis and Futuna master dancer in New Zealand hopes to broaden people’s perspectives on traditional Uvean dance.

Steev Laufilitoga Maka is midway through the Pacific Dance Artist residency at Auckland’s Te Oro in Glen Innes.

“It’s not hard,” he said smiling.

“But it’s really a surprise when you do movement and immediately, a Pacific Islander captures it really fast. Maybe we have the same movement but we talk a different story.”

He grew up dancing with family members and quickly realised that he could make money from his talent.

Steev Maka is also a new dad, with his Tongan New Zealand wife and baby in tow at the free dance classes that he currently runs.

Getting this dance residency that is supported by Pacific Dance NZ and Creative NZ, was timely for him and the family.

Pacific Dance NZ director Iosefa Enari said that Steev Maka represents a tiny island nation not many people would have heard of.

“Uvea is mentioned in the dance history of the Pacific, as the dances travelled and were borrowed by Tongans, who still practice the form in the modern repertoire,” he said.

Iosefa Enari said he first met Steev Maka in 1998 at a dance workshop by a Senegal dance master.

“I first met him when we attended that master dance workshop in New Caledonia,” said Mr Enari.

His first impression of Uvean dance movements was that it reminds him of Tonga dance.

“The top body is fluid and the bottom half requires such strength as the dancers get lower with each verse.” said Mr Enari.

“The clapping is quick, rythmic and has a sharp sound as opposed to the cupped clapping in Polynesia.”

Steev Maka has a background in theatre but has over a quarter of a century’s experience in the Pacific region, including New Caledonia and Tonga.

“There is a big talent behind Pacific dancers.They come across shy, but you put them on stage they are different people,” said Mr Maka.

“Their energy comes up, their movement comes up, their eyes sparkle like the stars in their eyes and it is just magic,” he said.

Allowing people to make the moves their own makes learning it more accessible and inclusive, but this is not usual practice.

“That is what I discovered. It is rare to see dancer in a class from other company helping each other. This is the first time I see that.”

Steev Laufilitoga Maka, 2018 Pacific Dance Artist residency

Steev Maka teaches the basics and asks people to repeat the movements.

The participants in this class learnt quickly.

“Uvean Futuna dance it always evolves and doesn’t stay the same because 21st Century is different in energy and our tradition has to move on with the time. ”

Youth co-ordinator Ann Makea, is in the class and brings youth along from the local marae, Ruapotaka.

“We want to eventually merge Maori dance moves with Uvean. But for now we are just learning the basics.”

Steev Maka said he’s happiest when there’s a strong spiritual connection within the dance group.

“Before we connect by the air or cross the ocean to join another country. And so the link of each country in the Pacific is the ocean and the Pacific means peace. ”

The 2018 Pacific Dance Residency ends on October.