There were six days between my two visitors. The evening of Thursday, June 2, was the performance by the Kapa Haka classes. The course description: “An introductory course for beginners or others who have only a minimal knowledge of traditional and contemporary Māori performing arts. The course is strongly practical. It will stress the fundamentals of performance and the various social, cultural and political settings that give it meaning.” There were two sections, each meeting once a week for three hours. Unfortunately, I was not in the course like a large portion of my American friends. But I was able to attend the performance. After verbal welcomings in Maori and English, the students went to get ready to officially welcome the audience. While we waited, one of the main professors spoke to us about how proud she was of all 160 students. It was the largest class she had ever taught and she was especially pleased with all the American exchange students that were very respectful of all they were taught and how they were instructed to perform the traditional dances. As the audience seated themselves, the students were performing to welcome us. They then broke into their separate classes, both performed the same dances/songs, and then each student introduced themselves. The majority of both classes were American students, but they had the Maori art of song and dance down extremely well. An interesting part was at the very end, when the professor asked the audience to say any comments. A lot of middle aged to elderly people of Maori descent spoke about how much pride they felt seeing such a multicultural group perform the art of their ancestors, knowing that Maori culture would be spread to all different corners of the world.
Two days later, Phill had a friend come to stay with us for a couple weeks. The first day here, she just got settled. The second day, we made a trip to the zoo. The Auckland Zoo is comparable to zoos I’ve visited back home (Detroit Zoo in its hayday, Cleveland Zoo, or Binder Park), but with a kiwi bird section. We did get to see the zoo keepers take an elephant for a walk through the park center. But there was the usual African Safari animal section, swamp animal section, Tropical birds, etc. The gift store provided me with my first duck purchase: a duck rubber (they call erasers rubbers here. I did not get a duck condom).
Tuesday afternoon was another performance. This one was for the Pacific 110 course (Short definition: Practical and theoretical introduction to performing cultures of the Pacific with emphasis on Cook Islands, Samoan and Tongan cultures). Phill was the only male American enrolled in this class and it was a bit more showy than the first student performance I saw. The students were dressed in traditional outfits and there was a more varied set list with fast paced dances. Most of the students were Dance majors, so there was a more professional element to it that added to the experience as an audience member. All involved were extremely talented and it deepened my appreciation for and understanding of the arts in those cultures. (For those who are Facebook friends with me, check out the video Emily took of Phill doing part of the last dance. I’m tagged in it, but not actually in it)