The Young Dancer Working His Way to the Top

Hemana Hodge is finding his way through dance and performance, and was accepted into the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts for 2018

Hemana Hodge was just accepted into the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts for 2018. Picture / Babiche Martens

Auckland-based 16-year-old Hemana Hodge is a promising dancer and performer who got his start in the Nga Rangatahi Toa programme, a creative arts initiative for young people with challenging backgrounds. He has been mentored throughout the year by actor Jess Holly Bates, and was just accepted into the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts for 2018.

When did you realise you wanted to perform?
I’m not sure exactly when it was. When I was in school I wanted to do kapa haka, but I was kicked out of school so couldn’t be part of that.

When I first started with NRT [Nga Rangatahi Toa], I was into graphic design but there was something in me that wanted to try dancing.

Then I met Thomas, one of our teaching-artists and my mentor, and asked him if he could teach me to dance. That was about a year ago and I haven’t really stopped since then.

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What’s your favourite way of expressing yourself?
Definitely through dancing.

You recently took part in the NRT annual showcase Manawa Ora — what was that like?
Fun, heaps of fun and also tiring and challenging. It’s an intense week — we are all trying to create our pieces. I think I’m still tired from it. But more than anything, it is worth it when the performances happen.

How do you feel when you’re performing?
I feel like I can be myself. I can express what I’ve been through at a young age. It’s a cleansing process for me; after I dance I feel lighter, like a weight has been taken off me.

How do you prepare to be in front of an audience?
I get really nervous before I perform. To ready myself I use the stress breath technique we learnt in yoga and mindfulness, thanks to our teacher Steph.

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I make sure I have practiced my performance and I motivate myself — I do the stuff normal people do, like tell myself I can do it.

Who, or what, inspires you?
A dancer called Jahra. I went to her recent performance. I love the way she performs contemporary dance. It’s not always to the beat, you can’t always make sense of it but you can feel it.

NRT and my mentors inspire me too. The fact that I want to get my story out, that inspires me heaps.

What’s it like being a young performer in New Zealand?
It feels good. Performing keeps me creative and that is important for me. I don’t feel that there is enough support for young performers however. That makes me kind of sad. Creativity is really important.

In what ways would you say your generation thinks differently to the older generation?
I reckon it’s different. My generation is more pumped up, we want to have fun and be present. Adults are more controlled than us. I feel sorry for adults. At NRT we learn about things that they should, like how to calm ourselves, and conflict resolution.

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What are your goals for the next year or two?
To become a better performer, to be the best that I can be. I auditioned for the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts about a month ago and got in.

I want to learn as much as I can from this awesome performing arts school in West Auckland. I’ll be doing acting, dancing and Pacific dance.

Right now I’m . . .
Listening to: prblm by 6lack, I danced to that song in Manawa Ora.
Watching: Nothing, I prefer video games over TV.
Reading: I am sad to say it was Health and Safety in the Workplace. It was so boring! I had to read it for the course I am doing.
Enjoying: Hanging out with my bros.
Looking forward to: Being an artist and performer.

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