Meet our students

Meet some of our current Dance Studies students. 


Villa Lemanu

Villa Lemanu 

"I’ve always had a passion for dance, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to pursue it. When I came for the audition, it was very relaxed, not as stressful as I thought it would be. I thought I was going to be surrounded by ballet dancers who had been practicing for years, but all of us are in the same place, experimenting and learning together.

"Studying has opened my mind to different sorts of dance and the possible career options. I enjoy the theory side of the degree. I didn’t think that it would help with how I move, but it’s really shaping me as a dancer, helping understand how I dance and how others do as well.

"I have had so many opportunities this year. I have performed in Short+Sweet and Tempo festivals in pieces choreographed by postgraduate students, which introduced me to people I know I will work with in the future. I’m part of the NICAI Tuākana group and I’m also doing a music paper for my General Education, which has complimented my dance degree quite well.

"I would recommend coming along and having a look at University life for yourself. Come to open days and performances, get a feel of what Dance Studies has to offer. I really love it here, it was the best decision I could’ve made."

Villa Lemanu is in his final year of the Bachelor of Dance Studies (BDanceSt) degree. 

Leticia Fortes

Leticia Fortes 

"I’ve never been a studio-based dancer, I just picked up moves from television really. At high school, I was introduced to contemporary dance and I fell in love with it. I knew I wanted to know more about dance, and I found that the University of Auckland offered me the chance to get to know dance in my brain as well as my body.

"There’s so much more to dance than just physical movement. We have learned about dance history, ways of teaching and learning and how to write academically. Our conditioning course has us learning to take care of our body and nurture it. I found as well as learning about dance, I’m learning about myself, which has been really interesting.

"This year, the third year class is traveling to China to perform in a festival. It will be a chance to apply what we’ve learned so far; community dance methods, how to teach and educate people about dance, and professional practices, and apply that to a real life situation.

"I want to be a dancer when I finish studying, but I do feel like I will be doing some form of postgraduate study. I’d be interested in exploring Pacific Island dance stereotypes. The dance industry in New Zealand is getting bigger, and more opportunities will arise from that. In the future, I’d like to help others find their passion in dance by teaching, and this programme has set me up for all of those options."

Leticia is in her third year of the Bachelor of Dance Studies. 

Leighton jumping.

Leighton Rangi

"I chose the University of Auckland because it is one of the most well established universities, and I also have friends who studied here in the past and gave me great feedback.  The highlight of the programme is that everyone becomes familiar with each other, which has enabled us to grow closer and treat each other like family. Everyone is really helpful, especially the lecturers. As an undergraduate dance student you get amazing opportunities to travel overseas and experience other dance cultures, and show off your own as well which I find very exciting. 

"My dance background is hiphop but since I've been studying here, I've learnt to expand and try new things which has been an amazing experience. There are so many career paths to choose from after this degree and I have three options in mind: becoming a secondary school dance teacher, a professional dancer or a choreographer."

Leighton has just completed his Bachelor of Dance Studies (Honours).

Kendall Jones

Kendall Jones

“As my undergraduate study progressed, I discovered my passion for writing and realised how much I love researching. During my bachelor’s degree, I toured Singapore, spoke at a conference in China and also went on exchange to UCLA. These international experiences helped develop my interest in ethnographic research. I was a summer research scholar and travelled to Greece to see how the economic and political turmoil there was influencing dance. This field work informed my honours dissertation, where I looked at strategies dancers were implementing through the crisis and why they were still dancing.

“I really enjoyed the self-directed aspect of postgrad research. My supervisor has similar interests as me, so she was able to support and guide me, whilst encouraging me to discover my own focus and create a unique path.

“I knew when I came into the Dance Studies programme, I’d be left with a lot of options and be capable of doing a variety of things. At the moment I’m heading towards academia and continuing to research, but I never thought I’d be doing my PhD, so I’m very open minded to any opportunity which may come my way. I feel both my undergraduate and postgraduate study has equipped me to be successful and satisfied in my chosen career.”

Kendall has just started her PhD in Dance Studies. 

Tia Reihana

Tia Reihana

“When I was looking for a place to study, it was the staff in the Dance Studies Programme that attracted me. They each have their distinct interests and expertise. They have some amazing projects in Aotearoa and around the world; they’re a group of inspirational doers. I’ve been able to explore what it means to be a Māori woman in the Dance Studies department, and be around women who are succeeding in academia.

“My research looks at intercultural creative arts practice, facilitated through an indigenous perspective. Dance is my medium, but land-based pedagogy moves beyond disciplines. My two supervisors, one from the Dance Studies Programme and the other from Te Puna Wānanga, are incredible with their academic and personal support. There’s a healthy respect among the three of us, and it is safe to bring up anything in this environment.

“Postgraduate study is personal. The support from my whanau is essential. You also need to have the passion; you can learn how to write an academic paper, but passion can’t be taught. It’s important, particularly for Māori and Pacific students, that you are able to be yourself. Postgraduate study is not unattainable – what’s important to you and your communities is absolutely relevant and appropriate.”

Tia Reihana is a doctoral candidate in the Dance Studies Programme. She is pictured here with her supervisors, Associate Professor Nicholas Rowe and Dr Mera Penehira. 


Kristie Mortimer

"I continued to postgraduate level because I saw great opportunities to delve deeper into the world of dance and start to specialise. You can truly develop your understanding of what you’ve already learned and begin to tailor your speciality towards a specific focus. 

"I managed to go to the University of Roehampton in London through 360 Auckland Abroad. Spending three months there enabled me to build international networks and learn directly from lecturers who had featured in our readings here. I gained plenty of experience to bring back to New Zealand and build upon.

"The lecturers and supervisors here are really great, always willing to answer questions and help develop your ideas so your research can be the best it can be. There are lots of other postgraduate students so we have a good support network within the department.

"I am considering my PhD so I can become a university lecturer and continue my research. I like providing the opportunity to perform, giving others the platform to express themselves in that way, as it is a positive experience and way of moving the body. I would also like to have my own business in the area of community dance, taking dance to people who don’t usually have access to it. There are so many different opportunities you can take from dance.

Kristie is completing her PhD in Dance Studies. 


Alfdaniels Mabingo

"I can’t tell you when I started to dance. I found myself dancing the way you find yourself breathing. I come from a big family and community, and dance was part of our day to day life.

"After completing my undergraduate and masters degrees in dance in Uganda, and a second masters degree in the United States, extensive research revealed that the University of Auckland was one of very few institutions in the world to offer a PhD in Dance Studies and it was a combination of scholarship, education, research and practice that brought me here. There is a global focus in the University of Auckland programme, research done by academics goes far beyond New Zealand, and that is the type of environment and support I needed.

"The University supported me to attend a conference in Brisbane, Australia, where I presented the pedagogies and teaching methodologies that I use to teach Ugandan dance in formal education. I spoke, but also learned and interacted with other scholars who challenged my assumptions, interrogated my philosophies and questioned my theories. The University also offered me a teaching opportunity, which is a way to share my dance heritage, skills and knowledge of Ugandan cultures, which has advanced my pedagogic practices.

"I am now a board member of the Postgraduate Student Association, which arranges events for students outside of the University to engage with other experiences – doctorate study can sometimes seclude you! The people I meet and support I receive at all levels of the University have made me comfortable to call New Zealand my second home.

"My plan is return to Uganda and fully engage in research and scholarship. I will be the first Ugandan with a PhD in Dance Studies, I don’t know of anyone from my country who has pursued dance at this level. Therefore I have the responsibility to provide leadership by mentoring other scholars, researchers and educators in the field of dance. Research and scholarship in our dances is inadequate, and we have a wealth of knowledge existing in different communities. I look forward to collaborating with academic and practitioners I have met here on research, education and practice-based projects in East Africa – dance can narrow the distance between NZ and East Africa.”

Mabingo is currently working towards his PhD in Dance Studies, and teaching East African Dance to undergraduate students.