By MANDY TE.

On the 13th March, Rotunda will launch a nine-centre Australasian tour. Rotunda is a dance work created in honour of the Gallipoli Landings and performed by The New Zealand Dance Company (NZDC). Maverick ERICA McQUEEN got a chance to interview Chris Ofanoa, an apprentice at NZDC, about Rotunda and also about his career as a dancer.

When Chris was younger, he would often dance along to videos by Michael Jackson and Usher. He then started randomly dancing in shops, before his Mum decided to put him in lessons.

Although he didn’t enjoy going to dance classes at first, he successfully auditioned for a hip hop group called Triple A Funk. For two years, Chris would compete in dance competitions and perform in shows.

During high school, he participated in Bring It On, a competition where he met a few other guys who were starting up a crew at Massey. He became a member of Limit Break and found himself competing in Brisbane and Melbourne.

In Year 12, the young dancer was introduced to the Urban Youth Movement program, where he was given his first taste of contemporary dance. He then attended Unitec and completed a Performing Arts degree. At Unitec he furthered his education in contemporary and ballet, was given professional development, and occasionally collaborated with actors for different workshops.

While at Unitec, Chris also trained with a group called Fresh Movement. Last year, they flew to Las Vegas, where they competed at the World Hip Hop Dance Championships.

Even though it sounds like Chris has a balance of both hip hop and contemporary, it hasn’t always been easy: “When I started in my first year [at Unitec], it was the hardest thing in the world. I had to kick back off hip hop… to allow the new movement and vocabulary of contemporary [and ballet] to be in my body. In contemporary, I would be soft and pliable, with ballet I was up high on my feet, and with hip hop, I would still have a groove. It was a constant journey throughout my three years, to jump in between [those] worlds.”

Chris first decided to pursue dance professionally when he was around fifteen. Although heavily involved in both basketball and dancing, it was dancing that ignited his passion. “I’ve continued dancing and dancing and dancing,” he says. “And it wasn’t like it was a chore; I just wanted to keep doing it.”

Dance is not only movement, but also a discipline. It requires concentration and practice, and Chris tries to achieve this by setting goals for himself. For contemporary dance and ballet, he works on his flexibility, softness and continuity with movement. “I constantly have those goals in my head,” he says. “I’ll also repeat a phrase after class multiple ways, so I’m experiencing what could possibly be correct and what isn’t. It’s always about learning; I’m probably not going to get there straight away, but it’s progression. For hip hop, it’s trying to find a groove and the power behind the movement, which is kind of the opposite of contemporary.”

Even though it sounds like Chris has a balance of both hip hop and contemporary, it hasn’t always been easy: “When I started in my first year [at Unitec], it was the hardest thing in the world. I had to kick back off hip hop… to allow the new movement and vocabulary of contemporary [and ballet] to be in my body. In contemporary, I would be soft and pliable, with ballet I was up high on my feet, and with hip hop, I would still have a groove. It was a constant journey throughout my three years, to jump in between [those] worlds.”

Chris first decided to pursue dance professionally when he was around fifteen. Although heavily involved in both basketball and dancing, it was dancing that ignited his passion. “I’ve continued dancing and dancing and dancing,” he says. “And it wasn’t like it was a chore; I just wanted to keep doing it.”

Dance is not only movement, but also a discipline. It requires concentration and practice, and Chris tries to achieve this by setting goals for himself. For contemporary dance and ballet, he works on his flexibility, softness and continuity with movement. “I constantly have those goals in my head,” he says. “I’ll also repeat a phrase after class multiple ways, so I’m experiencing what could possibly be correct and what isn’t. It’s always about learning; I’m probably not going to get there straight away, but it’s progression. For hip hop, it’s trying to find a groove and the power behind the movement, which is kind of the opposite of contemporary.”

If you’re interested in dancing, Chris highly recommends gaining a tertiary education in the art form. “Find out where to go and just go. If you like it, go hard, and if you don’t, you’ll find something else that you like and you’ll continue to keep growing and growing. I don’t think there’s an end spot. It’s finding what you like and if you don’t like something, how can you turn it into something you like.”

Rotunda will have its first NZ tour show in Tauranga before heading across to Australia in May. Make sure you head to the NZDC website for more information and grab a ticket so you can see Chris Ofanoa and the rest of the cast in action!

 

NZ Tour Schedule

Tauranga: 
Baycourt Community & Arts Centre, Friday 13 March, 7.30pm.
 Click here for tickets
Wellington:
 Soundings Theatre, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
, Thursday 19 March, 7.30pm
; Friday 20 March, 7.30pm; 
Saturday 21 March, 7.30pm; 
Sunday 22 March, 3pm
. Click here for tickets
Christchurch
: Airforce Museum of New Zealand, 
Friday 27 March, 7.30pm
. Click here for tickets
Dunedin
: Regent Theatre, 
Wednesday 01 April, 7.30pm. 
Click here for tickets
Auckland: 
ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre
, Thursday 23 April, 7.30pm; 
Friday 24 April, 7.30pm; 
Saturday 25 April, 3pm. 
Click here for tickets

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