The Haka

One of the most enduring images from New Zealand is the sight of Maori tribespeople performing the intimidating Haka war-dance of New Zealand. The Haka has become such an integral part of Kiwi culture and has permeated itself in all forms of modern Kiwi life.

The characteristic foot-stamping, tongue protrusion and rhythmic body slapping have even found their way into the national obsession that is the All Blacks rugby team. It is usually performed during ceremonial occasions like birthdays, to celebrate achievements, to honour guests, or to challenge opponents on a field.

There are various forms of the Haka and the famous one that we see is known as the Kama Te Haka.

Ka Mate is composed by Te Rauparaha, who was the leader of Ngati Toa which was the tribe of the North Islands of New Zealand. It is a celebration of life over death after he escaped from pursuing Ngati Maniapoto and Waikato enemies. The performance involves chanting and movements without a need for synchronization.

It is mostly performed by the All Blacks. The most common Haka is the Haka Taparahi which is a ceremonial dance performance where the performers stand in lines involving intricate movements.

The All Blacks Performing the Haka

Originally the Haka dance was restricted to the men of the tribe but the modern Haka is performed by both men and women. You can witness the Haka dance at Auckland, Christchurch-canterbury, Northland, apart from the rugby fields where the Haka Dance would be performed live.

Kapa Haka is very common in schools and is also being offered as a subject in universities. Every two years a national competition is held at Te Matatini where people around New Zealand compete against one another. Polyfest is also held at the ASB Bank Auckland Secondary School and Pacific Islands Cultural Festival every year.

There are three types of Haka which are Peruperu, involving high leaps off the ground with legs tucked under the body, Tutu Ngaraha involving jumping from side to side, Whakatu Waewae, although does not involve any kinds of jumping is similar to the other types of Haka. The best of the Maori culture can be witnessed at Rotorua in North Island and many centuries like Te Puia, Tamaki Maori Village, or at the Mitai Maori Village.

Poi Dance

While the Haka might be the most famous dance to come out of New Zealand, it is not the only one. New Zealand is famously rich in terms of tribal tradition and the Maori are also known for being the originators of the Poi Dance as well.

The Poi Ball Dance is usually performed by women, although it is also said that it was originated from the men of the tribe who used this to strengthen their wrists for helping them in handling their weapons.

In the Maori language, the word poi has many meanings, it could mean the choreography, dancers or the music. The dance performance includes swinging weights attached to strings in a variety of rhythmic patterns, fire can also be used in this dance.


There are two types of Poi Dances, the short one, with strings at the length of the fingertips to wrists, and the long one, with the strings at the length from fingertips to shoulders. This performance is storytelling and is performed along with Haka, Titi Torea and Waitata, a ring.

Originally the Poi was made from harakeke and raupo, but these days, it is made of plastic, paper, or loomed fabrics. These days there are different variations like the Glow Poi (the ones that are made of LEDS or glowsticks), Meteor Poi (made of the meteor hammer), Fire Poi (using wicks made of kevlar) to make the performance more visually appealing.

Dances Of New Zealand

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