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Celebration of the spiritual power of Maori women coming to Victoria

All-female infusion of culture fills McPherson stage March 27
The spirtiual power of women will be on display as The Okareka Dance Company grace the stage at McPherson Playhouse on March 27. (Courtesy Okareka Dance Company)

A dance show celebrating Maori women in Aotearoa (the Indigenous name for New Zealand) is coming to Victoria.

Taiaroa Royal, artistic director of the Okareka Dance Company, brings his performance of Mana Wahine (the spiritual power of women) to Victoria on March 27

Mana Wahine is an all-female performance designed and influenced by Taiaroa Royal. The inspiration for the dancing comes from his Wahine tupana (female ancestors), who, without Royal, would not be in the position he finds himself in today.

“Two of my ancestors were incredible women. Without their bravery, tenacity, and kind of lateral thinking, I may not be here today.”

Mana Wahine is a crucial concept in kaupapa (knowledge) Maori, as women are considered sacred.

“In Maori, women are considered sacred because they are the bearers of the future generations. They are very revered in our culture.”

It will be the second time Royal has taken a dance company to Canada, visiting in 2014, but is the first time this performance of Mana Washine appears in Victoria and Canada.

“I feel very proud that I can create a vehicle for our reo (language) and our tikanga (customs). Our stories, our waiata (song). Our essence is being given the opportunity to be on the international stage.”

Mana Wahine uses Te Reo as its primary language, and Royal is aware that people in the audience might not completely understand what is being said.

“People don’t have to understand the work, how I understand it, how we understand it, or even how the company does. But if they connect with it in whatever form, shape, or form, that’s the main thing for me. It’s about communicating.”

Audience members will be treated to an infusion of Maori culture and to the bird song of Aotearoa (New Zealand), one of the most beautiful and unique sounds there are, Royal said.

“The soundtrack is all our native birds. The tui, the fantail, the kiwi, all of them are there…And the audience will be transported to Aoteraoa.”

Mana Wahine incorporates traditional Kapa Haka movements often seen when people visit New Zealand. It will also have its own feel and movements, creating a unique experience.

“We incorporate the essence of Kapa Haka, you know when you watch a Kapa Haka group, you feel something, you feel the energy. So we take that essence and fuse it into contemporary movement.”

The group will practice in Auckland, New Zealand, before they make the journey across the Pacific Ocean with shows in the U.S. before coming to Vancouver Island.

The show had been planned for 2020, but the pandemic stopped the tour. Mana Wahine will be on tour for a few weeks before Royal and the company return to New Zealand.

“I didn’t want to be away from home for more than six or seven weeks, eight weeks, or two months. I couldn’t do it, so we split the tour up. So in October and November this year, we’re returning and doing a few other venues in the States.”

Deep knowledge of Maori is not required for audiences to enjoy Mana Wahine, said Royal, but there are concepts that people can learn before the show opens so they might understand the important themes in Tikanga Maori.

“The phrase one could learn is whanau, which is family. Whanau is something that’s very much infused in the work as well. Not only in the production on stage but also backstage, in how we rehearse. It is very, very family-orientated.”

Aroha (love), whanau, and mana wahine are concepts that will help audiences connect with the show even more, but it is not a requirement.

“We can all be in touch with our mana wahine within ourselves. Even as men, there’s a way of tapping into that essence.”

Royal is aware of the relationship that other Indigenous cultures around the world view Maori as a group of native people who have upheld their cultures and traditions.

“They kind of look up to us as a people, as an indigenous people and see how the Maori people have been, have struggled yet and have turned their culture around.”

Tickets for Mana Wahine can be purchased at

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About the Author: Thomas Eley

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