Celebrating Dance in New Zealand

By Diane McAllen (Digital Programme Developer – Medianet, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)


New Zealanders have always been dancing! From learning folk dances in stuffy school halls, to taking to the stage for awesome choreographed kapa haka or ballet, to just letting our hair down, trying a breakdance move or boogying with some mates, we have all taken part in some form of dance and no doubt enjoyed it.

This week (23-30 April) is New Zealand Dance Week, a national event that aims to celebrate and elevate the awareness of all forms of dance. Check out the DANZ website for dance events in your area. As part of Dance Week, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision are holding special film screenings in Wellington.

Within Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s collections, there are numerous films of New Zealanders tripping the light fantastic. Included are performances at community events such as fairs, galas, parades, and anniversaries, where children dance in formation, highland swing to bagpipes, dress in fairy costumes and twirl in rings. There are also a wealth of stage presentations, including by the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Limbs Dance Company, and Black Grace. Alongside these are television interviews with some of our most influential choreographers, such as Douglas Wright and Mary Jane O’Reilly. There are also short films were dance is a central artistic component – for example Len Lye’s Rainbow Dance (1936), and Phil Dadson’s Footstep Hocket(1990).

You can view these films and more at our Wellington or Auckland medialibraries or at our medianet sites around the country.


Here’s a fun selection of films to help you get into the swing of it.

Serpentine Dance (1895)
A “Skirt Dance,” a popular vaudeville attraction, performed by Annabelle Moore. This film was shown at Wellington’s first public screening of motion pictures, held at the Exchange Hall, 28 October 1896.

Children’s Annual Gala Day at Progressive Nelson (1926)
This film of the 1926 Children’s Annual Gala Day in Nelson shows just some of the dancing that children would have been learning in primary schools at the time – e.g. Scottish dancing, square dancing, and a delightful “fairy dance.”


Tina Cross – Everybody Let’s Dance (1979)
Tina Cross sings under a mirror ball, in front of a dancing crowd at the discotheque.

Bata Bullets Shoes – Steal The Scene (1983)
This advert shows young people in a warehouse, and is made up of dance routines, alongside close-ups on dancers’ faces and stepping shoes.


Patea Māori Club – Poi E (1983)
Any New Zealander growing up in the 1980s will remember the classic kiwi music video for the Patea Māori Club, Poi E. This song was number one on the charts for 22 weeks. In addition, the song returned to the music charts after being used in the Taika Waititi movie, Boy (2010). Learn more at nzhistory.net.nz

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