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Senior dancers wow crowd at annual traditional dance comp

Saturday 6 May 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Entertainment, Features

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Senior dancers wow crowd at annual traditional dance comp
Celebrating Te Mire Ura 2023 Seniors dance champion competition. 23050573

Stunning performances from the 11 senior Te Mire Ura dancers battling on stage for the coveted title of champion dancer of the year, wowed the large crowd on Thursday night at the National Auditorium.

The Mateariki family – parents Lotiola and Casper and their children – once again celebrated, this time with the youngest son Ngatokotoru Mateariki taking home the Senior Male title, and sister Nicolea “Colea” placing second overall in the female section.

Their older siblings and the reigning international dance champions, brother Tamaiva and sister Ambushia, flew back from overseas to help their younger siblings with their choreography. Tamaiva also performed as a guest artist on the night showing the audience he still has what it takes to be a champion.

After the win, Ngatokorua said: “I love my culture and I’m proud of myself, this is my first time winning the seniors and I’d like to thank my supportive family.”

Cook Islands Television presenter Nicolea, a former Junior Girls champion, said she was “very happy and proud” to participate in the senior’s event again.

“I love my culture and I love the theme of Te Mire Ura this year.”

She said the theme “Te au Manu Puapinga o toku Matakeinanga/enua – The important animals and birds of my tribe/island” motivated her to enter the event again.

After the prizegiving their mother Lotiola was “over the moon” with the accomplishments of her children.

“I’m so proud of my kids, and of how they love our culture,” she said.

The graceful 17-year-old Tereora College student Tara Helen Williams, who joined Te Mire Ura for the first time, made a clean sweep winning all the top prizes in the female category with her spectacular routines and costumes.

“I joined mainly for the experience and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Williams.

Williams said she felt overwhelmed and shocked winning all the top awards.

“I’m happy for the challenge I set for myself. I love the gracefulness of our culture and it’s good to embrace it.

“I would like to encourage our young boys and girls to step out of their comfort zone and take up the challenge of Te Mire Ura.”

Cook Islands Television news presenter Tiana Haxton also joined in for the first time, placing third overall in the female section.

“I absolutely love Cook Islands dance, and I love watching Te Mire Atu competition, I had it earmarked as something I would one day do,” said Haxton.

“This year I was keen on capturing footage to showcase a behind the scenes of the Dancer of the Year Competition, and what goes into it.”

Her colleague Nicolea wasn't going to join at first so it was going to be a self-documentation instead. However she managed to convince Nicolea to join the competition too.

Haxton said she also loved the culture theme this year which ties in “perfectly” with her ongoing documentary project “Te Tauranga o te Kakerori”.

“My song on the night is the theme song for this documentary, so it was like a soft launch for that. It was also a dedication to our good friend (the late) Joseph Brider who introduced us to the story of the Kakerori in the first place, which thus led to the production of this documentary.”

Haxton did not expect to get an overall placing and was “genuinely surprised” when her name was announced.

“I was quite shocked when I was called up for third place, and I am really proud of that … it’s a testament to my little team of Nicolea, Jennifer (Henry), Vaineritua (Koteka) and Byron (Brown) who pushed me, supported me and drilled me with plenty of tips that helped me win third place. Couldn’t have done it without them.”

A highlight for Haxton was the experience of what it’s like backstage.

“Being on stage was one thing, but behind the scenes, that’s where everything came together.

“All the dancers were so supportive and encouraging one another, the costume teams were swapping materials, lending bobby pins and glue-guns for finishing touches. If you were backstage, you would have thought this was a group show or something, everyone was helping each other out to ensure we dancers did our best for our few minutes on stage.

“And once we were off that stage, your own team members would congratulate you, and so would other teams, and the dancers themselves. It was so encouraging to me to see everyone supporting one another in this event,” Haxton said.

On top of the successful evening, Tauranga Vananga (Ministry of Cultural Development) announced that all the dancers qualified to be part of the Cook Islands Cultural Preforming Arts group to attend the Pacific Arts Festival in Hawaii next year.

*Note the dancers will have to meet the age eligibility criteria of 18 years and confirm their availability for the tour.

Te Mire Ura 2023 Senior results are: 1st Placing Overall - Toru Mateariki (male), Tara Helen Williams (female); 2nd Overall - Edward Tepake Nga (male), Nicolea Mateariki (female); 3rd Overall - Ngatupuna Kae (male) and Tiana Haxton (female).

Tara Helen Williams took out the top first prizes for the Best Slow Beat, Best Fast beat and Best Costume in the female section.

For the male category: Best Slow Beat - Toru Mateariki, Best Fast Beat - Edward Tepake Nga, Best Costume - Ngatupuna Kae.

Consolation - Michael Akava Jnr, Vaeruarangi Papera, Raphael Simiona, Tehina Pennycook, Teura Gifford.

Te Mire Ura 2023 Senior contestants in order of appearance were: Michael Akava Jnr - Oire Nikao/Panama, Nicolea Mateariki - Atiu enua, Edward Tepake Nga - Tuakore/Piritau Nga, Tara Williams - Enuamanu/Pa Enua, Ngatupuna Kae - Atiu enua/Te Manava Nui, Tiana Haxton - Rarotonga, Raphael Simiona - Manihiki henua, Tehina Pennycook - Rakahanga henua/Vaka Puaikura, Ngatokotoru Mateariki - Mauke enua, Vaeruarangi Jnr Toro Papera - Rarotonga/Mangaia enua, Teura Gifford Mitiaro enua/Tongareva henua.

The Speech on behalf of Te Mire Ura 2023 Sponsors.

Kia Orana tatou katoatoa, On behalf of all of our supporting sponsors, it is my honour to extend our sincerest congratulations to everyone who has contributed to another remarkable and successful year of Te Mire Ura - an event that holds a special place in the hearts of all our Cook Islands people.

To Anthony (Secretary of Culture) and your hard-working team at the Ministry of Cultural Development, thank you for your efforts in bringing our people together and ensuring the last two nights of this event run smoothly and efficiently.

Te Mire Ura would not be the success that it is without the commitment of our dancers, drummers, orators of our culture and supporting families.

We thank you for taking us on another beautiful journey through your interpretations of dance and songs. We wish all of our dancers the very best tonight and you are already winners in our eyes.

As Platinum sponsors, we are very proud to have been able to contribute to the success of this highly prestigious cultural event. In particular I’d like to acknowledge all our sponsors for coming onboard once again to ensure our Cook Islands culture lives on.

May God bless you all. Kia Orana e kia manuia,