Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

What entertainment can we expect at Expo 2020? NZ will host kapa haka and Rihanna-approved dancers

Renowned choreographer Parris Goebel has been announced as the 'creative director' for New Zealand's Expo 2020 entertainment and cultural programme – but what does that mean?

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had a "sneak peek" at Parris Goebel's plans for New Zealand's entertainment programme. Courtesy New Zealand at Expo 2020. 
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had a "sneak peek" at Parris Goebel's plans for New Zealand's entertainment programme. Courtesy New Zealand at Expo 2020. 

She's helped Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj find their rhythm – and now Parris Goebel will be lending her star power to New Zealand's Expo 2020 Dubai campaign.

The Kiwi choreographer was recently announced as the creative director for New Zealand's Expo 2020 entertainment and cultural programme, and has given The National an idea as to what she will be bringing to the UAE in October next year.

"We will showcase New Zealand’s finest talent from music, dance, drama, street art and show the world what makes us special. Culture and heart will be at the forefront of our programme and all the other things us Kiwis take pride in," Goebel said.

Parris Goebel will be New Zealand's creative director of the country's entertainment programme. Courtesy NZ at Expo2020.
Parris Goebel will be New Zealand's creative director of the country's entertainment programme. Courtesy NZ at Expo2020.

Who is Parris Goebel?

To put it plainly, Goebel is one of New Zealand's biggest exports in choreography, and in turn, in contemporary entertainment.

Her big break came when she was 15, when Jennifer Lopez's management saw some of her videos on YouTube and asked her to work on Lopez's 2012 world tour.

She's since worked with Ciara, Little Mix, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj, Big Bang, Taeyang and Black Pink.

If this video is anything to go by, we can certainly expect the NZ pavilion to be lively:

She's the creative director of the Royal Family Dance Crew and founder of The Palace Dance Studio in Auckland, New Zealand – which has produced five other famed dance groups.

The Royal Family has won the World Hip Hop Dance Championship three times.

Goebel directed Justin Bieber's Sorry music video, which featured members of her ReQuest and The Royal Family dance crews. As of August 2019, the video has had 3.1 billion views on YouTube, making it the site's eighth most-viewed video.

Her most recent choreography work can be seen on Sam Smith’s How Do You Sleep?, which has been viewed 96 million times in the six weeks since its release.

She also runs charitable organisation Sisters United with her sisters, which provides programmes and services to young Pacific and Maori women in Auckland.

What will New Zealand's Expo 2020 entertainment programme look like?

Well, we don't know for sure what the exact details are yet – but it seems New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern does, and it sounds like there will be a number of performances from NZ stars held across the Expo site.

“I’ve had a sneak preview of Parris’ plans and it is going to be spectacular and something New Zealanders will be very proud to have representing them,” Ardern said in a statement.

“Importantly it will also show the special role arts and culture play not only in our national identity but in boosting our economy and helping strengthen international relationships.”

Goebel herself has shared a few clues, but doesn't seem to be giving the specifics away just yet.

New Zealand’s Commissioner-General to Expo 2020 Clayton Kimpton, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Parris Goebel and NZTE hief executive Peter Chrisp. Courtesy NZ at Expo2020.
New Zealand’s Commissioner-General to Expo 2020 Clayton Kimpton, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Parris Goebel and NZTE hief executive Peter Chrisp. Courtesy NZ at Expo2020.

What we do know is that Goebel’s programme will feature a focus on youth, and will reflect New Zealand’s Expo 2020 theme "Care for People and Place", which revolves around sustainability and stresses the importance of looking out for future generations. We also know that The Royal Family Dance Crew will be there, and several leading New Zealand performing and musicians will be making the trip to Dubai for the event.

"It’s about our culture, about the art and really showing the world what makes us New Zealanders unique," Goebel says.

"We have got some amazing entertainers; our best musicians are going to be performing, we have got The Royal Family Dance Crew performing, we are doing an amazing street art installation at Expo 2020 and obviously putting our culture at the forefront with our kapa haka talent performing as well. For us it’s about our people and sharing our stories and showcasing what makes New Zealand beautiful."

Kapa haka is the term used to describe Maori performing arts, and translates to "group" (kapa) "dance" (haka). It covers everything from the haka (ceremonial Maori dance), poi (a dance usually performed by women using a ball attached to a string), mau rakau (weaponry) and traditional Maori songs, or waiata.

As an example, here is a high school kapa haka, performed at a championships last year:

Goebel's events will be held throughout the 438-hectare Expo 2020 park, as well as at the New Zealand Pavilion.

The choreographer says her programme will put New Zealand on the world stage, and will highlight the diversity of the country.

"We have so many ethnicities and cultures here and we celebrate everyone. The programme I’m developing is about sharing New Zealand’s culture and accepting everyone for who they are."

Updated: September 4, 2019 12:30 PM

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