Tongan teens take to folk dancing in new play

CULTURAL CONCOCTION: From left: Lolo Fonua, Lavinia ‘Uhila and Loma Teisi star in the play Tongan Morris Men.
CULTURAL CONCOCTION: From left: Lolo Fonua, Lavinia ‘Uhila and Loma Teisi star in the play Tongan Morris Men.

English folk dancing isn't commonly associated with Tongan teenagers.

But audiences will get the chance to see just that in a play looking at the relationship between the two cultures and the pressure for Tongan students to succeed at high school.

Three West Auckland women star in the production Tongan Morris Men written, directed and performed by the Tongan Creatives Collective.

It follows a group of Tongan high school students learning morris dancing in order to pass NCEA level 3. Morris dancing is a type of 15th century English folk dance traditionally done by men. It involves dancers skipping to folk music, often waving handkerchiefs as they dance.

Actress Lolo Fonua says it looks at the issue of Tongan teenagers having to live up to their parents' educational expectations.

"In our culture, it is a huge deal for the children to succeed at high school for their parents because they have moved here for us to do well.

"A big theme we look at as well is the pride of fathers and their sons who have to do this unusual dance to pass level three."

Cast member Lavinia ‘Uhila believes the characters learn to embrace a new culture in a funny way thanks to the introduction to the folk dance.

"This is the journey of these students to success, and it is through morris dancing that they are able to express themselves and find new ways to get to their goal."

The Ranui resident says an unusual aspect is that the play is performed in Tongan and English language.

"It's pretty much half and half so that is our point of difference using a lot of our language. Basically we want to show audiences our culture," Miss ‘Uhila says.

The Tongan Creatives Collective is a group of Tongan stage and screen actors who come together to tell their stories through the art of theatre.

"Our people are still emerging in New Zealand. It's time for us to voice our stories, embrace performing arts and better our work here in New Zealand," Miss ‘Uhila says.

Tongan Morris Men is on at the Maidment Theatre's Musgrove Studio, 8 Alfred St, Auckland from March 6 to 9 at 7.30pm. Tickets are $25.

Visit to purchase tickets.

Western Leader