Story: Cultural dance

Page 4. Asian and other cultural dance

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Non-European cultural dance forms were not widely known in New Zealand until the late 20th century. From the 1980s the public celebration of Chinese New Year and Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, the increasing number of tours by dance groups and the internationalisation of folk dance all expanded the cultural dance scene in New Zealand.

Balinese legong

Legong, a classical Balinese dance, was brought to New Zealand in 1960 by Liong Xi, a dancer, teacher, and choreographer. He organised classes at Auckland University, tours and festival performances, often combining other dance forms with legong. Liong’s experience in the European dance world drew other dancers to New Zealand, including Amala Devi, teacher of bharata natyam at the Paris Opera.

Indian dance

Bollywood dancing, like Irish dancing, became known well beyond its original community. Based on Indian classical and folk dance, an important element of the melodramatic musical films made in Mumbai, India, Bollywood dance became popular with Indian and non-Indian New Zealanders.

More demanding and complex forms of Indian dance were less widely practised. Classes in kathak, mohiniattyam, oddisi and bharata natyam were available in different locations across the country. Some forms were better known than others. Bharata natyam benefited from the presence of Vivek Kinra, an internationally known dancer and teacher, who set up the New Zealand Academy of Bharata Natyam and the Mudra Dance Company in Wellington in the early 1990s.

Chinese dance

In the later 20th and early 21st centuries national culture societies often taught dance. Wellington’s Chinese Social and Cultural Centre, for example, taught Chinese lion and dragon dancing, entering a team in the 2010 World Luminous Dragon Dancing Competition.

African dance

African dancing was most common in Auckland, where many of the African migrants who began to arrive in New Zealand in the 1990s settled, but classes could be found as far south as Dunedin.

Other forms

New forms of cultural dance developed in the 20th century became popular in New Zealand. Israeli folk dance was developed as part of the culture of the new state of Israel. It combined elements of Arabic (particularly Yemenite), Romanian, East European Hassidim and other forms of cultural dance. Salsa, one of the most popular dance forms in New Zealand, developed in the United States from a mix of Cuban, Puerto Rican and Latin American ballroom dancing.

How to cite this page:

Megan Cook, 'Cultural dance - Asian and other cultural dance', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 1 October 2022)

Story by Megan Cook, published 22 Oct 2014