Cultures combine for tattoo

Marlborough dancers take NZ to world stage

Last updated 05:00 08/08/2014
Marlborough highland dancers

SHOWING THEIR TALENT: Marlborough highland dancers, from left, Rebecca Healy, 15, Kelsey Smith, 16, Grace Owen, 15, Georgia Marshall, 16, and Morgan Vile, 16, are taking part in the The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Scotland. SVEN HERSELMAN

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The union of two cultures from opposite sides of the world is being celebrated in dance and kapa haka for a potential global audience of billions.

Kapa haka and highland dancing groups from New Zealand have collaborated to create and perform a piece for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Scotland this month.

Among them were Marlborough Girls' College dancers Rebecca Healy, Kelsey Smith, Grace Owen, Georgia Marshall, and Morgan Vile. Their dance teacher Robyn Simmons said it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

"The chance only comes around every third or fourth year so this is an once off experience. It also gives the young dancers something to aspire to," she said.

The tattoo is performed for 8000 people a night at a large open-air arena in front of Edinburgh Castle. At the end of the 23 evening performances it will have been seen by 220,000 people.

The tattoo, which brings together military marching bands and dancers from across the world, will be viewed by a television audience of 100 million people, which could become billions if the show is sold to networks in India or China.

About 32 highland dancers from across New Zealand perform a piece in the tattoo with two kapa haka groups, Te Waka Huia and Te Whanau a Apanui.

New Zealand Highland Dancers director Shirley-Anne Thomson said the piece told a distinctly Kiwi story.

"It is about two cultures coming together. It tells a story of Scottish settlers coming to New Zealand and the Maori greeting them," she said.

Te Matatini board member Annette Wehi said she felt proud to bring her culture to the world.

"It is incredible to be on the biggest world stage like this," she said. "It is important that we tell our stories and that our stories are heard."

Kapa haka performer Tawhiri Ruru, who grew up in Christchurch, said it felt "amazing" to perform in front of 8,000 people.

"I have never performed for so many people. Every time I see that crowd it gets me going. I'm just excited and want to get out there and do a good show."

Tattoo producer and chief executive David Allfrey said the New Zealand piece was "stunning." "The theme of this year's tattoo is home, friends and family and if any act is symbolic of that it is the New Zealand act."

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- The Marlborough Express

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