A Kapa Haka Tale – the man bringing Kiwi culture to the Rugby World Cup

Corey Baker squareCredit: Chris Scott by Tim Cross 

New Zealander Corey Baker is bringing Kiwi culture and kapa haka to Britain’s shores and people –all wrapped up in the excitement of the Rugby World Cup. Kapa Haka Tale and Haka Day Out will tour UK-wide during the world cup, showing the locals that there’s more to Haka and New Zealand than the All Blacks.

Originally from a drama background, Corey Baker has been a dancer and choreographer for some time – forging a reputation for making accessible and engaging productions. “I don’t do dance for dance’s sake,” he explains. “Our shows are put on mainly outdoors. National theatres are expensive, whereas I make great art more accessible by putting things outside.”

Having been in the UK for four years, Baker was starting to realise that he was becoming more stereotypically “British”. He wanted to connect more with his New Zealand roots, so he proactively sought out the New Zealand community in the UK.  “The UK doesn’t really celebrate culture,” Baker remarked, “so it was refreshing to see this amazing group of New Zealanders celebrating kapa haka. We have an amazing culture.  I’m from New Zealand, and I don’t know a huge amount about New Zealand culture – so what about people in the UK? I did some research about what people know, and it’s really only the Lord of the Rings and the All Blacks. And the All Blacks is what they know of the Haka”.

“I asked myself, why am I not taking responsibility to do this?” There was the opportunity to create a show. The British already know something of the haka through the All Blacks, so the Rugby World Cup seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring New Zealand culture to England.

Baker then returned to New Zealand for a period of research, and to train in kapa haka and find a story or narrative. “Just having a medley of kapa haka on stage is not that exciting,” he explains, “and other people are already doing that anyway. I wanted to create something where the audience can follow and understand the art form – and engage with it.”

He travelled all around New Zealand, and it was in Rotorua that he came across an animation of the Maori tale of Hinemoa and Tutanekai, by Andy Shaw. “The animation was so beautifully done,” Baker reflects, “I then learnt the story and fell in love with it. I cancelled everything else to really explore the story, their marae, the rock where Hinemoa sat, I met and spoke with direct descendents, and explored loads of different versions of the tale.”

And so, Kapa Haka Tale was born. It has developed into a theatre show, just over an hour long, and will tour art festivals as well as theatres all around to UK – in addition to staging the free outdoor 20 minute performance called Haka Day Out in Rugby World Cup Fan Zones in 11 host cities. It’s a unique opportunity to share New Zealand and Maori culture with rugby and sports fans, and it’s Baker’s hope that they will be intrigued enough to want to experience more – with tickets to the longer show that same evening or matinee being available. Each theatre will individually determine the cost Kapa Haka Tale tickets, but the price range will be between £6 to £12 – making theatre more accessible and appealing to people who are maybe put off by the higher prices theatre is typically known for. “In the Fan Zones it will already be a populated crowd,” Baker says, “and these are perhaps not the same crowds that come to see shows, dance or theatre – so I’m very excited to engage with them, and hopefully make the art more accessible to them. The whole idea is to excite and engage with these sports fans.”

“And I’m really excited about the geographical spread of this going so wide. We’re taking this to areas where people usually miss out. Not just London! I’m really looking forward to it.”

The theatre show has a central cast of 8, forging a powerful connection with the audience and the performer.  Kapa Haka Tale aspires to engage with the local community and rugby groups, using haka to open the show, and incorporating a plenty of rugby moves into the production. Cameo appearances will be made by important players in host cities.

Haka Day Out tours have already commenced and will continue until November, with Kapa Haka Tale premiering on the same day that the Rugby World Cup opens. A behind-the-scenes of Kapa Haka Tale and Maori culture is planned for UK broadcast, and Baker hopes to take the production on a tour of New Zealand at a later date – once rest, timing and funding allows.

The productions are still not entirely funded, and Corey Baker Dance has set up a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise the last 10% of funding – with only a few days to go. If you’d like to get involved and contribute to the Kapa Haka story, visit the Kickstarter campaign here.

kapa haka tale leadCredit: Ria Uttridge by Andrew Fox for Birmingham Weekender

Article by Charlotte Everett, originally featured in NZ News UK. May only be re-used with permission.