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The kids at school might have sniggered at former Te Puke High School student Shane Tofaeono’s decision to become a professional dancer – but no one is laughing now as he travels the world with internationally-acclaimed New Zealand theatre company Black Grace.
Shane will be returning to the Bay on July 6 when he takes to the stage at Baycourt Theatre with Black Grace for its performance of ‘As Night Falls’.
The New Zealand-born Samoan, 22, was raised in Te Puke and discovered his passion for dance at Te Puke High School.
“My school had a strong performing arts department that included drama, dance and music. Throughout my years at high school I took drama and dance as subjects and enjoyed every bit of it.”
Shane went on to gain a Bachelor in Performing and Screen Arts majoring in Contemporary Dance at Unitec in Auckland in 2015 and joined Black Grace in 2016, making his professional debut on an international tour to France and the Netherlands.
He also performed in artistic director Neil Ieremia’s ‘Another Letter from Earth’ as part of the Auckland Arts Festival, as well as the premiere season of ‘As Night Falls’.
While dance is becoming an increasingly popular subject choice at school, not all teenagers think it’s cool and Shane had to put up with his fair share of jokes.
“I was into more ‘manly’ sports and hunting as well … which saved me a bit!”
Shane’s family also had his back, “especially my grandfather as he would always push me to follow my passion.”
Dance as a career has been “eye-opening” for Shane.
“I would never have thought it possible to travel overseas as part of a job, or just even in general. I've seen so many places around the world throughout my career already and the coolest thing is that there is so much more to see – and I have the opportunity to see it with Black Grace. Learning from professional artists and experienced dancers is great and it has broadened my thinking around the art form.”
Having a job that you are passionate about helps. “It's an incredible feeling being able to wake up every morning and want to go to work. It’s so enjoyable to feel inspired and to be so committed to something.”
For other young people wanting to follow a career in dance, Shane has the following advice:
“If you truly love something, no matter how far-fetched it is, chase it and work at it no matter how hard it is, or unlikely it feels that you’ll make it.”
Following a sold-out Auckland season in 2016 and a 10-centre tour of the United States, Black Grace is currently touring seven national centres with ‘As Night Falls’.
Described as “a poetic ode to our troubled world” the show is set to the timeless and passionate sound of Antonio Vivaldi. Shane has to portray many different feelings/personas/ways of moving.
“The audience can look forward to the rollercoaster the work takes you on and I think the choreography will keep them on the edge of their seats!”
Shane Tofaeono performs with Black Grace at the Baycourt Theatre on Thursday, July 6 at 7.30pm. For more information visit blackgrace.co.nz
The Weekend Sun has one double pass to ‘As Night Falls’ at the Baycourt Theatre on Thursday, July 6 at 7.30pm for one lucky reader who can tell us which school Shane Tofaeono went to.
Enter online at www.sunlive.co.nz under the competition section. Entries must be received by midday, Tuesday, July 4.