Can dance be empowering? Sure it can – at least as Ufitia Sagapolutele tells it.
Sagapolutele will be presenting her work Ave as part of Wahine Toa. The show, which celebrates the strength and diversity of Pasifika women, will take place from June 15-16 as part of the Pacific Dance Festival.
Villainesse recently spoke with Sagapolutele about the performance, the importance of dance, the struggle for equality, and more. Here’s what she had to say.
What can you tell us about your performance?
My piece is called “Ave” which means “Take” in Samoan. The main theme in the piece is about Samoan women and a timeline of how colonisation in Samoa came about and how they overcame the obstacles that came their way. The piece itself was inspired by the loss of my mother and wanting to research more about my culture and heritage. So I wanted to create a piece that pays tribute to my ancestors and elders.
What does your performance say about being a woman, and women in general?
It shows how vulnerable and powerful women are. Women in general have done so much, and I admire all women who are strong and able to do anything through hard work and determination.
Can dance be empowering? Why or why not?
Definitely. I’ve always struggled with my identity. Dance is such a great tool and outlet to express how you feel. I know some people aren’t able to express themselves through words, so they feel more comfortable expressing their emotions through movement.
What are some messages you’d like audiences to take away from your performance?
It would be to show what Samoan women went through and how they overcame obstacles. I think anyone who is indigenous can relate to my work.
What, to you, is the importance of dance?
I feel dance is not looked at as important as sport. I think anything to do with the arts is just as important as sport. Art creates a safe space for others to express themselves unapologetically.
What’s the importance of participating in an event like the Pacific Dance Festival?
Being able to be a part of this wonderful event is a great opportunity for my team and I. I am thankful we have a platform where we can showcase ourselves and not feel out of place. I feel the Pacific Dance Festival is a place where we can celebrate our indigenous cultures as well.
What do you see as some of the biggest challenges we face in the struggle for equality today? How do you think we can overcome them?
An example I have faced is being compared to a male while dancing and not looked at as strong or as capable as a male. I felt it was unfair. This made me want to work twice as hard which is why I am so determined and passionate in what I do, especially in an industry dominated by men.
What advice do you have for young women thinking about a career in dance?
Strive for greatness and do whatever you love through determination, passion and hard work. Never compare yourself to others. You are on your own journey so you have to trust in anything you do.
If there's one piece of advice you could give your younger self, what would it be?
Trust and believe in yourself. You will go through hard times and feel that you won’t be able to get through it, but it will only make you stronger.
The Pacific Dance Festival runs from Thursday, June 15 to Saturday, June 24 at the Mangere Arts Centre. The Ave performance by Ufitia Sagapolutele will run as part of the Wahine Toa show from June 15-16. Tickets are available here.