Unitec grad moves up in dance world

From hip-hop dancer to a fulltime contract with the New Zealand Dance Company, Christopher Ofanoa’s rapid rise in the world of dance continues after been named a finalist for the prestigious 2016–17 Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. This recognises the 22 year-old Unitec dance graduate as one of the world’s rising stars in contemporary dance. Finalists are by invitation only and selected by independent influential artists and arts professionals. If chosen, Chris will have the opportunity to be mentored by world renowned choreographer Ohad Naharin. Their year of creative exchange and collaboration would begin in June. Chris will soon be off to Israel to meet him in person. The other finalists for the dance programme come from South Africa, Zimbabwe, and the Netherlands.

These doors would probably not have opened for Chris had he not made the decision to enrol in Unitec’s dance programme while a student at Massey High School. In his final year in 2011, he led the school to the Bring it On title. While he had a solid grounding in hip hop as a member of Fresh Movement and West Auckland Street dance crew Limit Break, contemporary dance was a new thing for the young man of Maori and Tongan heritage. “When I started in my first year at Unitec, it was the hardest thing in the world. I had to kick back off hip hop... to allow the new movement and vocabulary of contemporary and ballet to be in my body. In contemporary, I would be soft and pliable, with ballet I was up high on my feet, and with hip hop, I would still have a groove. It was a constant journey throughout my three years, to jump in between those worlds,” he said in an interview with Tearaway.

While at Unitec, Chris travelled to China and performed in front of representatives from the world’s top dance schools at the Beijing Dance Company’s 60th anniversary. He was identified by the NZ Dance Company while doing a secondment with them in his final year at Unitec in 2014.

“Chris was one of those rare students that had an incredible work ethic, an inquiring mind and a 'never say die' attitude. What sets Chris apart is not only his talent but his humility and amazing mana. The Unitec Dance Programme is extremely proud of Chris's achievements. We are honoured to have him in our alumni,” remarked Unitec’s head of dance, Charene Griggs.

Renowned New Zealand choreographer and Unitec dance tutor, Michael Parmenter added, “One of the things that is exciting about Chris is the way he has taken responsibility for his own dance education. I think Chris has something special that choreographers are really going to enjoy exploring the incredible dynamic range he has.”

To find out about Unitec’s dance programme, go to www.unitec.ac.nz/perform

More info 2016–17 Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative can be found at www.rolexmentorprotege.com

Watch Chris’ graduation from Unitec in April 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6J-dZRt1bYc