French calling for Waikato Māori graduate

24 June 2010

Moko Smith

Parlez-vous Français?: Waikato University Māori and Theatre Studies graduate Moko Smith will study at the Jacques Lecoq international theatre school in Paris.

Kei ngā pukenga, kei ngā kaiako, kei ngā puna o te kī, otirā kei te Whare Wānanga o Waikato whānui, tēnei te mihi, tēnei te mihi, tēnei te mihi.

Waikato University Māori and Theatre Studies graduate Moko Smith has been accepted to study at the Jacques Lecoq international theatre school in Paris.

The 23-year-old, who also studied French at Waikato, went to France for a year to improve his language and cement what he had learnt at Waikato. After landing a position with Théâtre du Soleil in Paris, where he worked for a year, he decided to apply for the international school.

Smith was accepted into Lecoq after submitting his CV, but his first trimester there will be a form of trial period.

“The teachers assess your suitability for continuing the course and students can decide whether this form of physical theatre training is for them. The training is based on an exploration and refinement of movement, and has a large focus on improvisation and devising as well.”

Having already had a substantial taste of physical theatre at Théâtre du Soleil, Smith felt the need to delve further into theatre, to take on training to gain the tools, the skills and the space to develop his craft as an actor and director.

“It will also give me the chance to explore Māori material and begin an exploration of what could be a Māori theatre style. I see a huge wealth of richness in our culture that could lend itself so well to theatre; the stylised movements of whaikōrero and haka, the metaphoric and multilayered language of whaikōrero, the mythology surrounding the gods, the use of taonga pūoro (Māori traditional instruments) and karetao (Māori puppets) all hold within themselves a lot of potential, and I hope to use my training at Lecoq to explore this.”

Smith’s course will last two years, the French equivalent of a masters degree in performing arts, he says. He’s the 13th New Zealand and first Maori to study at Lecoq and has been applying for a variety of scholarships to cover his study fees and living expenses, including the AMP Do Your Thing Scholarship,, an Arts Waikato scholarship and iwi grants.

“Last year I lived in a theatre for three months, in the washing machine room, so you never know what Paris can throw at you.”

Théâtre du Soleil have offered him a position to work on set as a technician in their latest creation, Les Naufragés du Fol Espoir.

During the northern summer, Smith has been travelling to different parts of Europe to learn more about his craft. He performed in a site specific performance festival in Copenhagen, and took a movement class with a prominent Nordic performance artist.

“The Scandinavians are a very modern bunch,” he says. “The people I’ve been working with have been progressive and actively reconsider boundaries and established forms. These are qualities that I want to feed into theatre and especially Māori art. Working with these different artists has made me more aware of the importance of redeveloping and reconsidering given art forms.”

Smith will begin his studies at the Lecoq School in October 2010.

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