Festival to start on a fiery note

Last updated 10:42 19/02/2014
TOM HUNT/FAIRFAX NZ

The first international performers to arrive at the New Zealand Festival in Wellington touched down this morning.

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The first international performers for the New Zealand Festival arrived in Wellington today, and while the formal welcome was well and good, the magic happened in baggage claim.

The festival kicks off on Friday and runs till March 16, with the first international performers - a 12-strong drumming group from the Cook Islands - being welcomed with a powhiri at Wellington Airport this morning.

Made up of 10 children, the youngest just five years old, and two adults, the Cook Island dancers will be part of the festival's free public opening at 8.30pm on Friday at Civic Square.

After a formal welcome on the tarmac, followed by more welcomes inside, the performers made their way downstairs at Wellington Airport to collect their baggage.Waiting at the bottom of the stairs was Porirua's Cook Island Mauke Enua Culture Group.

After a short speech, the drummers began drumming and shortly after the Cook Island drummers - aged as young as five and who turned out to be accomplished dancers - dropped their bags for an impromptu dance.

They will be performing in a more-planned setting as part of the Big Bang at Civic Square on Friday night. The event will also feature 200 child drummers led by percussion group Strike, a choir of 200, and local band Kora.

Festival artistic director Shelagh Magadza said the festival was for the ''whole community'' and kicked off with a public event for all ages.

The festival, which has run in Wellington every two years since 1986, will see more than 1000 performers descend on Wellington from around the world, including from Russia, Japan, Australia, Colombia, United Kingdom, Ireland, United States, Spain, Israel, and China.

There will be about 300 performances during the festival's 24 days.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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