Fans rub shoulders with Born to Dance film stars

By Wepiha Te Kanawa

New Zealand's newest hip-hop film Born to Dance hit cinemas today following its premiere in Auckland last night.

It's already received positive feedback from film critics at the Toronto Film Festival last week and the movie has a particularly Māori feel to it.

Honouring one of their own in true Waikato-Tainui style.

Tia-Taharoa Maipi says, “I'm just lost for words.  I'm excited because my family and friend are here to watch my movie.  I'm just happy.”

Other cast members were left speechless.

Stan Walker says, “It's made me get off my game.  I thought I was coming in here ready to say my questions and do my answers.  Now I'm kind of stunned by that, the wero was the best thing for me, and to be with my Born to Dance whānau, Tia (Tia-Taharoa Maipi) with Jordan my best mate, there's nothing better to be welcomed back home.”

Stan Walker plays Benjy, lead actor Tia's best friend. He says they have a strong connection.

“He's annoying, he's a little egg. No to be honest he's my little brother from day dot. From the day I met him it was like this instant thing because he didn't know how I was going to be, I didn't know how I was going to be but it just worked.”

With a title like Born to Dance, you'd expect some good dancing.

Jordan Vaha'akolo-Cruickshank says, “Hip-hop dance in this country is a serious thing, it's not some throw away, oh you're a dancer and that's fun. Some of our cast have spent 10,000 hours on their craft, they are professionals at what they do. Like two of our cast members at the moment are dancing for Janet (Jackson) and Chris Brown.”

At the centre of the story is one girl, Californian dancer Kherington Payne.

She says, “My character, her name is Sasha, she's kind of like that between all the guys character, she's trying to stick up for her ladies.

Sasha and Tū (Tūmanako Kaea) end up helping each other grown at the end of the movie and I think you see that we both kind of blossom as characters.”

Director Tammy Davis says, “Seldom do we really encourage our kids to become singers, dancers, artists you know so I want to create an environment where they feel safe to do that.”

Born to Dance is now playing in cinemas around the country.