He’s coming down hard after a record number of incidents on Tuesday night involving exhausted performers collapsing while either coming off the stage, or on the grounds outside the building.
“The injuries tonight could have been fatal,” Turua says of two cases where performers dropped down once the lights faded and teams began herding off the stage.
Standby medical emergency personnel are part of the support crew to the auditorium. Called on last night, they were unable to move their first patient quickly because a vehicle had parked in the stand-by ambulance parking space.
At the late night meeting after Tuesday’s events, both Turua and events manager Robert Ioaba told stage support crew to enforce rules on banning performers who looked visibly unwell or faint.
It's a deja vu moment for Turua. The same situation faced organisers during the 2015 Te Maeva Nui and again last year.
“We have a lot of student performers, younger people who are just so excited, so excited that they just can’t wait to get on stage and get it over with. They want to feel lighter on the stage and think they will eat once they come off, but they are practising all day, sometimes until late. What the audience sees is a few minutes of performing, but they have spent long hours bringing it all together. They are not all professional dancers who do this for a living.”
As a former Te Maeva Nui performer, he says the festival brings new pressures on team leaders who may pick up on new changes and trends seen from other delegations, and want to make last minute changes to routines. These changes can take hours, right up until the day of the performance, to bring in.
“The young ones at risk need to look after themselves, and their leaders need to look out for them. There are four eskies of water in the back changing areas. The leaders need to educate the dancers that they need something to eat and drink to give them stamina in their bodies. They are so excited...but please, yes, the competition is there. But it will be there the rest of their lives. They need to look after themselves.”
Turua says the mix of adrenaline, nerves and exhaustion can overcome performers more than in previous decades. The routines and moves are more physical, the emotions are higher, the standards are competitive and there’s so much at stake.
Wednesday and Friday nights were expected to be longer too, with more on the programme to ensure each of the 14 teams fits in their entries across the four categories for the weeknight schedules. The most strenuous is always the hugely popular ura pa’u (drum dance), but the ute, reo tupuna and even kapa rima sections have also increased in pace and raised audience heartbeats as well.
For ministry officials and their boss, the key goal is to ensure no one is injured in a festival that always brings out the joy.
“We’ve experienced it before and we’ve stressed it before to the leaders,” says Turua,
“Please look after our performers.”