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Dedicated to dance


Former Cantabrian Malia Johnston has been wowing audiences throughout New Zealand for years. She talks to Lynda Papesch about dance moves from tippy toes to WOW shows.


2018 World of WearableArt Awards Show – Avant-garde Section


Teaching children’s dance classes first showed Malia Johnston that her true career lay not in science and animals, but dance. As the creative director at WOW, she is now fully embracing her artistic talents.
“When I was 22, I was studying zoology and environmental science at Canterbury University. On the side, I was running a dance school for children, which I loved. I was teaching and managing 13 classes a week, making shows and putting the kids through exams, yet in my mind this was my hobby, my fun time. What was supposed to be more important were all the university classes that I was actively avoiding. When I accidentally came across a full-time dance programme that I could audition for, it was like finding gold. I had never thought training full time in something that I loved was possible.

Malia took the plunge, left university and never looked back.

Malia Johnston

Working with WOW

After training, she worked with a variety of companies in Auckland and in 2001 secured a role working on WOW in Nelson as an assistant choreographer.
“I found an affinity with the organisation and took on the choreographer role in 2002 and after that became the artistic director.”

Since then Malia has worked on more than 18 WOW shows, with dance and theatre companies, institutions and organisations across New Zealand and internationally. Dance has set her huge challenges and obstacles but mostly it has provided extremely rewarding opportunities.

“It has become a way of living that I have fallen in love with.”

She finds that her inspiration comes about when things fall into place, when she comes across a new creative partnership or opportunity that helps to grow the work she is creating or investing in.

2012 World of WearableArt Awards Show 


“Dancers and movement practitioners are an inspiration for the work that I do. There are often large groups of dancers involved in WOW, which means there is diversity and representation from many physicalities, experiences and disciplines.

“I enjoy working with serious movers from multiple backgrounds because no matter their discipline or training – whether hip hop, integrated, contemporary, ballet, cultural movement, kapa haka or movement forms beyond the arts – they all use their body as their creative tool.

“Dancers are like beautiful harmonious bees: they’re coordinating thousands of individual parts as well as working with other bodies, with space, finding rhythm and expressing ideas. It is such a complex art form that resonates on so many invisible levels through the complexity and fragility of the human that is operating it.”

2012 World of WearableArt Awards Show

Sound advice

Her advice to young dancers dreaming of following in her footsteps is to trust their gut.

“Your instincts are a beautiful navigator, leading you towards the best results for you and those around you. Invest in the things that naturally drive you, engage you, be present and focus on what interests you, challenge yourself and put yourself out there.

“Dance is innately a collaboration with other people, music, light and space – so invest in people. Who the people are really matters – strong lasting relationships help you build skills. Develop relationships with people who work smartly to build strong and sustainable processes. Invest in those people who are keen to develop with you towards the future.”



Pointe in time

Christchurch-raised ballet dancer, Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson, has returned
from ten years dancing in the US due to Covid-19 and taken up a position with the Royal New Zealand Ballet. He tells Morgan Tait what it’s like to be a performer amidst a pandemic.


PHOTO: Emily Lockard-Furry


“The biggest way that Covid-19 has affected me is that it has brought me home. It has always been hard to be away from my family, so once Covid-19 hit I got on a plane to come back very quickly.

“The impact of losing shows this year has been really hard. I joined the Royal New Zealand Ballet for the rescheduled season of Venus Rising. The show was ready to open. It was gut-wrenching to have it cancelled and slip from our grasp like that.

Some of the dancers had been working on it for nine months.

“A ballet can quickly become a part of you. When you learn a ballet you spend 40 hours a week working on it, and often take it home with you to study at night, you condition your body to be ready for the most difficult steps — it becomes your world.

“There’s also a really big physical and emotional release you get when you finally open a show, it’s like the dance has been bottled up inside you for months and then you finally share it with an audience and the experience is no longer just yours, it’s electric. It is funny because I usually forget the steps of many ballets soon after we finish performing them, but with Venus Rising, I still feel like I could do that program right now if I was asked to perform it tonight. It’s unfinished business.

“It’s my fourth time performing the iconic ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, and each time I’ve gotten to tackle different roles, so it is fun to keep coming back to it from different angles.”


Dancing home, from afar

Forced to reimage dance in a contactless, Covid-19 world, Switzerland-based Sumner-raised contemporary dancer Emma Murray has been selected for Christchurch-based Movement Art Practice (MAP)’s residency, which will be run and shown digitally for the first time at the end of this month.



Emma found her feet as a dancer at six-years-old and went on to study at the New Zealand School of Dance, later earning a place at the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company.

She left New Zealand in her early 20s to dance across Europe.

She’s recently completed a Masters in Contemporary Art Practice at the Hochschule der Künste in Bern, Switzerland and was selected for the MAP residency by an impressive lineup of Kiwi judges including Cat Ruka, Paul Young and Pelenakeke Brown.

She tells Metropol about her journey as a dancer.

I was attracted early on to the work being made in Europe and the strong traditions of contemporary dance and theater there, despite having a strong classical training.

I left New Zealand in 1997, making my way around Europe auditioning for dance companies in France, Germany, Great Britain, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Holland and Montreal, Canada.

Eventually I found work in a city theater in Innsbruck, Austria and from there, moved to Switzerland where I was engaged as a soloist at the Stadt Theater Bern (now Konzert Theater Bern). That work was some of the most demanding and exciting of my career – not least because during this time I became a mother juggling fulltime dance and childcare.

Developing my own projects has allowed me to diversify my skills in and out of the studio, on and off the stage, as well as straddle various artistic disciplines and work with other artists across cultural divides. I left the Konzert Theater Bern in 2008, and I’ve continued to travel for performing, residencies or workshops, festivals and teaching engagements.

Probably what I’m most proud of – and in all honesty a little amazed by – is that I’m still doing it! Still performing and making work, still engaged on projects – my own and with others – and still finding the funding to do it.

Because of Covid-19, artists have been quick to look for alternatives or solutions. For me, a drop in productivity (the closure of theaters, postponement or cancellation of festivals and performances) has meant more time for reflection and practice.

The MAP Research Exchange programme offers me an opportunity to re-think performance in the digital sphere and explore tactile possibilities for working with multi-media. I’ll be doing this alongside the critical theorist Giulia Palladini. I am looking to bring alive a conversation between written text and the body, the body and digital technology, digital technology and performing an archive.

Watch the three winning residencies broadcast their projects at


Entertainment Company

Making musical magic: the Entertainment Company

As the name suggests, the Entertainment Company is able to knock your socks off, providing your function with the most awe-inspiring choreographed music and dance extravaganzas in town.


Entertainment Company


Director/Choreographer Sandy Gray has years of experience putting on the most magical and spell-bounding performances, thanks to her team of Christchurch’s most talented dancers, musicians, singers and cabaret companions.
The Entertainment Company also invite you to ‘A Night with the Stars’ on 30 November 7:30pm at Chateau on the Park Double Tree by Hilton.

You will be treated to two hours of music from icons like David Bowie, Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse, Freddie Mercury and many more, all performed by the newly formed Entertainment Company House Band. Delicious platter food will be on offer too.


With loads of dancers, backing vocalists, costumes and effects, this is one event all music lovers will not want to miss. Tickets are $50 at Eventbrite.

For more information, visit


Evolution School of Dance

Evolution of a dream: Evolution School of Dance

For Nicky Falloon, Evolution School of Dance was the realisation of a dream and the blossoming of a life-long love affair with dance, which continues today.


Evolution School of Dance


Evolution School of Dance was created by Nicky to give children and young adults throughout Christchurch and beyond a unique chance to realise their dreams of learning and performing ballet, jazz and contemporary dance, and above all, having fun. The company runs a wide range of ballet, jazz and contemporary classes to suit all levels, from beginners to experienced, out of locations in Cashmere and Papanui. Nicky and fellow teachers Azariah Heswall and part-time teacher Angie Longman, have been trained by The Royal Academy of Dance, one of the most prestigious ballet organisations in the world. The level of experience shared between them results in a very professional teaching environment.


It is through this combination of knowledge and experience that thousands of students have passed through Evolution over the years; many have gone on to perform with some of the world’s leading ballet and dance companies. “Many of our students have grown up through the school, starting as young as four or five and emerging as young adults,” Nicky says. “They are able to learn and grow their love of dance, something they can take with them throughout their lives.” Every year, students also have the unique opportunity to showcase what they have learned in Evolution’s Annual Dance Show. “The show takes place at the Aurora Centre of Performing Arts in Burnside at the end of the term two school holidays. Students love it because it gives them the rare chance to perform on stage in front of family and friends, making the highlight of their year,” Nicky says.


Therefore, if you, or your child has the burning desire to learn, or perfect the elegance and grace of ballet, the swing and frivolity of jazz, or the modern and upbeat style of contemporary dancing, Nicky, Azariah and Angie invite all new comers to join in, make new friends, have fun and shine as an integral part of the legacy of Evolution School of Dance.


For more information, find Evolution School of Dance Christchurch on Facebook or call Nicky on 021 244 4131.



Shake it off: get moving with these five music or dance based workouts that are so much fun it will make you forget you’re exercising

Whether you’ve got fantastic rhythm, or two left feet, we’re going to help you find your groove. Balboat, ballet, ballroom and other traditional forms of toe-tapping fitness have received a major facelift with a new generation of dance taking the world by storm.


We’ve got the rundown on the moves you need to make your own with some fabulous dance fusions.

Bollywood Kathak Fusion Dance: Pioneered in New Plymouth, this new flavour of Indian dance sees traditional Indian choreography paired with contemporary, upbeat tunes with a good dose of Bollywood thrown into the mix for eclectic measure. It involves plenty of over the top animated movements and works everything from the face to the feet.

Lyrical Dance: This is all about expressing yourself. Resembling ballet and honouring the technical elements of classical ballet, it loses its conservative streak by paying homage to the fluid and freedom focused aspects of jazz, comtemporary and modern dance. It’s based on choregraphy as well as self-interpretation of a musical beat with emotion leading the way.

Zumba: Perhaps one of the most famous exports of the 90s, Zumba blends hip-hop, soca, samba, salsa, merengue and mambo. It remains a viral fitness programme with approximately 15 million people taking classes across the world every week. Capable of helping participants burn up to 600 calories per session, it targets the abs, thighs, arms and muscles throughout the body.

Clubbing collectives: Inspired by the nightclub scene, people throughout the world are taking their cues from sweaty dance parties to meet their fitness needs. Live DJs and disco lights inspire you to dip a little lower and bring those knees just that little bit higher for those who want to seriously let loose without having to stay out quite so late on a school night.

Hula hoop dancing: A total body workout that offers a great level of fitness, hula hooping is as much fun as it is a recreational option. Set to music, hula hooping is a complete core workout (cue the killer abs!), activating some 30 muscles in and around your body’s core, but the best part about this is the fun factor, with hooping classes offered at many gyms and dance fitness studios.

Molls Dolls

The dames of dance: how the award winning dance group ‘Molls Dolls’ got their collective groove on

Molly Chapman was four years old when she donned her first pair of tap shoes and clicked her way across the floorboards. Born and raised in Dunedin, Molly grew up in a family that was, and still is, very involved in musical theatre. “My sister plays leading roles and directs musicals in Dunedin, and my brother acts and directs too.”

Molls Dolls

Molly taught tap in Dunedin and continued to teach it when she moved to Christchurch, aged 22. Her love of dance was passed onto her son, Hayden Withers, who graduated from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in 2014, and is now New York based, and wowing audiences at Off Broadway. “Hayden’s my
inspiration,” Molly says.
The birth of Molls Dolls came about when the mother of a young girl she taught suggested Molly take a class for adults, as well as preschoolers. The same mother also suggested the name Molls Dolls.
It was while attending a Masters Games event with a softball team, which Molly says was enormous fun, that she became aware that the Masters had a Dancesports category.
She returned home with a plan in mind and wasted no time in putting out the word she was looking to teach tap to adult women. She set up a dance studio in her home and in 2015, Molls Dolls were up and tapping.
In 2016 they competed in their first Masters Games in Dunedin. “Our team comprised six ex-tap dancers. We were in the Formation Team section of the Dancesports and the crowds loved us so much that we returned home wearing silver medals!”
Fired with such a win, Molls Dolls headed to the Masters at Wanganui in January 2017. “But this time there were 11 of us (three teams) and we came away with Gold and Silver.”
On Waitangi weekend of this year, Molls Dolls competed at the Masters, again; by now the three teams had grown to 21 dancers, aged from 37 to 69. They made a clean sweep, with the red and silver team winning the gold medal, the blue team taking out the silver, and the black and gold team getting bronze. They also got the silver medal in Show Dance.
The girls are super industrious when it comes to fundraising. “From May to August we make up to 300 dozen cheese rolls, per run – we’ve even made over 1,200 dozen!”
Next up for these indefatigable dames of dance is the Masters Games in October at Timaru and Wanganui in February, 2019. “We’ve also been invited to an Australasian Competition called Follow Your Dreams, with a qualifying competition in Christchurch in August. If we qualify then we’ll be heading to Melbourne in January 2019.”
Molly says her dancers inspire her and have brought so much fun into her life. “The girls give me so much joy. I don’t think I would have survived the hard times without them; they make Molls Dolls!”
For more information, email