I am a dancer.
Ni sa bula maleka, my name is Eleni Tabua and I hail from the beautiful Yasana of Tailevu.
In the year of 2011, I was enlightened to the VOU Music & Dance School which intrigued me to enroll into the third term of that year. It was there that I found the niche that I had always longed for; from here everything else falls into place. I was molded as a dancer, shared my knowledge as a choreographer and reformed my iTaukei traditional dance culture.
I am now proud to say that I have trained in ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, contemporary Fijian, Bollywood, pacific dance, and modern dance.
In July 2014, I was given the honor and privilege of representing Fiji to the Banff Centre on their 2014 Indigenous Dance Residency Program that was directed by Sandra Laronde.
The Banff Centre is the largest arts and creativity incubator on the planet; the Indigenous Dance Residency (IDR) is the only program in North America led by Indigenous faculty for Indigenous dancers.
It was a four-week intensive program that brought professional and emerging dancers together with outstanding instructors at The Banff Centre for an exceptional dance training program. Dancers came from six countries including Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, United States, and for the first time, Fiji.
We gathered to share, investigate, and strengthen contemporary Indigenous dance practice. The program included daily technique, improvisation classes, choreographic exploration, modern dance, ballet, contemporary, choreography classes as well as health and fitness and martial arts classes, and the creation of a new choreographic work that was performed in-studio and on-stage at The Banff Centre as part of the Banff Summer Arts Festival.
The program culminated in the creation of new choreographic work called Trace which was performed as part of the 2014 Banff Summer Arts Festival. I was fortunate to have performed in both the in-studio presentation and in the professional presentation.
LIFE LESSONS LEARNT
A word that comes to mind about this experience is ‘Oasis’.
Within this exchange I believe we are all inter-connected in this world, it might not be by blood but by cultural aspects that sprouts our diverse iTaukei heritage with the other western/ foreign culture. Our relation with the land, rivers and seas, and the people. We had guest speakers speaking on the values of keeping our cultures alive, not only alive but to be breathed by us. We witness this during the ‘World Indigenous Day’ in celebration at the Siksika Powow in Blackfoot within the Treaty 7 territory; there is not a word that could even describe this experience. I was an overwhelming power ball with tears blurring my sight on each turn of the dance and every melodically chant sang.
Every little child, men and women were impeccably immersed into this partake of their traditional dance from all different first nation tribes; all in their tradition attire with their beating drums ready for the sharing and exchange. This was their way of keeping their culture alive – they breathe it every beat and chants.
Apart from this, everything I have learnt was nurtured ten folds and more; such as team-work, time management, dedication, discipline, and most importantly determination. I got to experience first-hand living with artist from different background which at times precludes the language bearer; it’s all about our body language. The combination of our highly-level tutors with rigorous exploration, and power of place there in the mountains in the heart of Blackfoot and Stoney territories make this program truly transformative.
This experience has boosted my morality as an iTaukei contemporary dancer, it has created a space that allows me to incorporate all the learning tools and choreographic materials to my dance. The implication of teaching mechanism which will enable and helps the students to understand fully the meaning of the choreography which will be based around our iTaukei culture and heritage. It is a way to help keep our identity as a Fijian growing up in this modern society.
My participation as a iTaukei dancer for Fiji in the 2014 Indigenous Dance Residency, I have gained plethora of new skills and contemporary dance knowledge, as well as networks and contacts to fuel Fiji’s efforts in the advancement of our local arts industry as a secure and sustainable career path.
DEVELOPMENT IN FIJI
I would love to run workshops on Contemporary dance in Fiji, especially in Primary and Secondary schools. I believe that cultivating passion and talent at a young age will allow the child to flourish more immaculately on their ability which will enable them to have a comprehensive understand between the relationship of the movements and their body and the implements of our iTaukei culture. This is the breeding steps to future talented and matured Fijian contemporary dancers.
Now with all this said and done, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Ministry of Culture and Heritage for all the support that gained me this wonderful and marvelous heartfelt experience. My sincere gratitude in making this possible.
Vinaka, Vinaka vakalevu.
iTaukei contemporary dancer