Sir Tīmoti Karetū, New Zealand’s first Māori Language Commissioner and a respected exponent of the spoken and performing arts, has gifted the New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) the phrase ‘Kia kōrero te katoa o te tinana’. Sir Tīmoti’s words, translated by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, the Māori Language Commission, as ‘Let the body do all of the talking’, embodies the philosophy of the School and recognises its commitment to honouring Te Ao Māori as a central tenet in educating young dancers.

Chair of the NZSD Board of Trustees, Peter Mersi feels strongly that the School needs to wear proudly its commitment to Māori kaupapa, explaining, “As New Zealand’s national dance school, we want all our students to feel they can bring their whole selves to the School, to recognise where we have come from, and to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Sir Tīmoti’s gift to the School speaks to the heart of what our students strive for.”

The School will incorporate this taonga into its identity as it enters a new era. In 2021 NZSD students will be among the first to study towards the NZ Diploma in Dance. This new qualification includes credits covering Tikanga Māori, Māori history, language and culture, and Haka Pōwhiri, complimenting the practical training in ballet and contemporary dance that the School excels in.

The NZSD has a strong tradition of embracing tikanga Māori, with all students learning Kapa Haka and welcoming guests with powhiri. For NZSD Director Garry Trinder this is important; “The School’s Board, staff, students and alumni are ready to ensure their kaupapa has depth and integrity. The weight is considerable, with everyone assuming responsibility in every breath and every step to represent history, lore, culture and tradition”.