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Tongan group takes on Morris dancing

CATHERINE HEALY
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2013
Una Funaki
Catherine Healy

FANCY FOOTWORK: Una Funaki is learning Morris dancing.

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The last thing you'd expect a bunch of burly Tongan boys to be doing in their spare time is learning Morris dancing.

But that's what Una Funaki and his colleagues in the Tongan Creative Collective are doing for their upcoming play Tongan Morris Men.

The Morris dance is an English folk dance dating back to the 15th century.

It involves rhythmic stepping, usually to music. Dancers wear bells on their shins and brandish sticks, swords or handkerchiefs in the air.

Mr Funaki, 27, is a former Tamaki College student who studied at the Pacific Island Performing Arts Institute at Unitec in Mt Albert.

The Panmure resident dropped out of school at 14 and went to the United States for three years.

"I was sent there because I was a rebel child. I got my act together and came back.

" At first I studied radio and then decided I wanted to do more in the creative arts."

The collective started a couple of months ago as a way for Tongan artists from different genres to support each other. This is their first show.

Mr Funaki says he was surprised how much stamina Morris dancing requires.

"We watched it on TV and we said ‘We can do that.' But we're all big guys and we were all sweating.

"We've been focusing on our legs, now we have to get the hand movements too."

He says the show is humorous but also sad with some awkward moments.

"It's definitely fresh," he says.

Mr Funaki would like to teach performing arts but that might have to be a part-time occupation.

"My parents want me to do law. I'm going to put in an application for law school this year."

He encourages other young Pacific Islanders to try performing arts.

"It helps you keep in touch with your culture and you meet other like-minded people.

"It's definitely made me more confident than I was before."

See maidment.auckland.ac.nz or phone 308 2383 for tickets.

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- East And Bays Courier

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