Manaia: more than a song and dance routine   6 Dec 2005

Ellie van Baaren

When Kateia Burrows and her husband Karl came to London six years ago with their young daughter, they got in touch with the Maori cultural group Ngati Ranana.

"It’s where you go when you’ve been involved in kapa haka and you are so far from home," she says.

But after several years of involvement with Ngati Ranana, a small number of friends that had a strong passion for performing sensed a potential to fill a niche in the market and began working on their own initiative.

An idea that grew into Manaia Maori Performing Arts Company now involving Kateia Burrows, Ria Epiha-Anderson, Kylie Ngaropo and Karl Burrows. The new kid on the block in a thriving cultural area in the UK, first performed in 2004 and has grown quickly since then.

"We wanted to take a risk and see if it would work out," Burrows says. "And I guess it has."

Despite branching out into educational services and corporate workshops, Manaia’s strongest area is still its performances.

Burrows says the group perform at functions including birthdays, weddings and official events, but one of her personal highlights was performing at the 2005 Proms at the Royal Albert Hall with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Manaia’s performance was given the thumbs up from several sources, including English media.

"It was certainly a first for the Proms, but also for the Royal Albert Hall and the NZSO. So it was very special," she says.

But the group has also been involved with a schools initiative in Slough where they taught children from three primary schools traditional Maori Waiata and a haka to perform at a big open air dance festival held in Slough in July 2004.

"Ninety children from three different schools got up there in front of 2000 people and performed, and they stole the show," Burrows enthuses.

Burrows now has three children and although they attend English schools, they are still living a Maori life at home, meaning that they still sound like proper little Kiwis!

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