Masi's story: Performer, Business Owner and Māori and Pacific Performing Arts graduate

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Masi Smith - Performer and owner of Anamua Fou Dance

Graduate of Māori and Pacific Performing Arts

Why did you decide to start your dance group, Anamua Fou Dance? 

I didn't have anywhere to showcase Siva Samoa (Samoan Dance) except church and family functions. At school, there weren’t any classes focused on performing arts or dance. I asked a close group of friends from church if they wanted to create a dance group and they were keen! Now, seven years later, there are eleven of us, and next year we’re off to Hawai’i to perform at a festival. 

Where did your passion for performing start?  

It was on a field trip during high school, when we were taken to a Pacific dance performance at Whitireia. The performers gracefully used dance to tell the story of the tsunami that had happened in Samoa, and I think from there I just fell in love. 

What do you love about your work? 

I love seeing how far we can go in this industry. When I was in high school, we were told you couldn’t go far in this industry, but dance has taken me across the world. Seeing so many Polynesians succeed in this industry makes me proud to be Polynesian. 

What was your favourite part of the programme? 

Definitely performing. We toured a lot of schools which gave us practice performing in front of crowds, and it was always incredible to see the looks on people's faces. 

Some of the most fun we had in class was when our tutors would let us create our own pieces. They would play music we’d never heard before, and we’d blend Samoan, Māori, and contemporary Pacific styles in whatever way felt right to us. 

Have there been any tools you gained during your time studying that have been particularly useful to you now? 

The knowledge we gained about the business side of the industry, and how to navigate work in it has been invaluable. We learnt how to create work, manage that work, how to showcase your skills and promote yourself, and how to do a performance CV. 

What other work are you doing in the industry? 

I’m part of a couple of other Māori and Pacific dance groups and I also teach kapa haka and Polynesian dance at schools around Wellington.  

Last year I had the opportunity to attend an international dance festival in the Netherlands with one of the groups, Nga Uri. Seven other countries joined, and for a week we danced just about every day. It was such an honour to showcase kapa haka, siva Samoan and Cook Islands dance to audiences halfway across the world. With another dance group, Hiwa Performance Crew, I went to Korea, for the annual Seoul Friendship Festival, where we were able to perform and parade every day too.  

I’ve also got my small side hustle called Masi’ Measina, where I create and design traditional Samoan Taupou (daughters of a high chief) and Manaia (son of a high chief) attire. I love channeling my creative energy through a different medium.  

What would you say to someone considering studying Māori and Pacific Performing Arts? 

If you have the passion and the love for it, go for it. It’s hard work, you’re dancing almost every day, but it’s worth it. 

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