Polyfest 2024: Teens sacrifice Saturdays to defend their title

By 1news.co.nz

Polynesian groups have taken over the world’s biggest secondary school cultural dance festival in South Auckland.

Day three of Polyfest was packed as people arrived as early as 7am to the Manukau Sports Bowl, with the opening of the Samoa, Niue, Tonga, Cook Islands and Māori stages.

Hundreds packed the six stages as group after group of schools showcased their culture in their colourful costumes.

The Niuean group from Avondale College. (Source: Torika Tokalau / Stuff)

Kelston Boys’ High School (KBHS), out to defend their title on the Samoan stage, came with a well-choreographed 58-member group.

Teacher Nonumai Mauga Iasa Numia said it has been a very stressful five weeks of preparation.

“We had to beat our own expectations,” Numia said.

“It was a hard journey to get here, very stressful, we gave up our Saturdays, practising the whole day, just so we could be here.”

Kelston Boys’ High School Samoan group. (Source: Torika Tokalau / Stuff)

KBHS kept the crowd on its feet with their performance.

“I am very proud, we can only do what we can and the boys did outstanding.

“They really immersed themselves in their culture and this journey helped instil in them values that they will keep with them … 95% of these students were born in New Zealand.”

Massey High School's Tongan group returned to Polyfest after three years.
Massey High School’s Tongan group returned to Polyfest after three years. (Source: Torika Tokalau / Stuff)

Massey High School returned to the Tongan stage after three years, with a strong 30-member group.

Student leaders Lucy Aholelei and Jagger Katoa said they didn’t have the numbers to field a group before, but were determined to this year.

“It’s my first Polyfest and my last, but it was exciting to go out there and show off our culture,” Aholelei said.

“We put in a lot of work, we started practising right after school started this year and everyone pitched in to make it what it looked like today on stage.”

Auckland Grammar School’s Samoan group. (Source: Torika Tokalau / Stuff

Tonga stage coordinator Fane Fusipongi Kelu’u said she was expecting a tough competition on the last two days of Polyfest.

Kelu’u, a teacher at James Cook High School, has led the Tonga stage since 2005.

“I’m here at 5am every day, and the last one to leave, to make sure that everything is ready, and nothing goes wrong,” she said.

There would be 37 performances on the Tonga stage today and tomorrow.

“It’s a privilege to be a part of it all, I never dreamed that I would be running the Tonga stage.

“We do this for our children, we want them to be proud, to know that their culture is beautiful and it matters.”

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