Dancers sway on to stage
How does a Russian girl end up performing in a Cook Island dance group?
Dasha Tarasova grew up in Rarotonga, where her parents have several businesses, before moving to Auckland to complete her secondary schooling at St Cuthbert's College.
She wanted to create a small, contemporary dance group inspired by the exuberant Cook Island dance style, but not limited by the boundaries of tradition.
Three years ago she created Ariki Vaine.
The group includes young women aged between 21 and 30 with Fijian, Samoan and Tahitian connections.
Some were born in the Pacific, some in Auckland, and their performances reflect all of these cultures.
"A lot of us have been dancing since we were really young. It's our passion and it makes us feel closer to home.
"We represent the new generation of Pacific Island kids who have grown up in Auckland."
The group is often booked for corporate events, weddings and birthdays.
While many of the songs they dance to will be well known to Pacific Island audiences, they have also been known to throw in something by a pop artist like Beyonce to mix things up.
The name Ariki Vaine refers to a strong female leader and the group of eight are all strong characters.
They all have their degrees, some are masters graduates, some have children and some work full-time.
Through their weekly rehearsals at Tapac in Western Springs and the hours they spend together creating their costumes, the women have become good friends.
"We all learn from each other, we all have different styles . . . we enjoy learning each others' culture too," she says.
And it has also become a thriving business venture.
"We've had to learn how to market ourselves, how to deal with invoices . . . these are all good skills to learn," Miss Tarasova, 26, says.
A recent highlight was being invited to perform at the Rugby World Cup.
"We were dancing in the street outside Eden Park.
"It was quite different to performing on a stage, it was a really good buzz.
"At the final we performed just outside the gate of Eden Park, on top of a [shipping] container.
"It was an amazing experience."
Ariki Vaine will perform at Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park this Saturday. The free concert in Auckland Domain starts at 7.30pm.
Proceeds from collections taken up during the evening will go to Surf Life Saving New Zealand.
Suburban Newspapers, publisher of the Auckland City Harbour News, and part of the Fairfax media Mighty A Network, is the major print media sponsor.
See cookislandsdance.com for more information on the group.
Auckland City Harbour News