New Zealand

The Haka Dance of War From New Zealand

Haka dance is a Maori war dance from New Zealand. Haka is a ceremonial dance said to be performed as a part of battle preparations. The Maoris are an indigenous community of New Zealand and this ‘war dance’ is said to have been essentially developed to be performed before a battle. There are different types of Haka, and they include ka mate, kapa o pango, whakatu waewae, tutu ngarahu and peruperu. This Maori dance style is renowned for energetic dance movements as well as for loud and aggressive chanting by the performers. The Haka is performed by a group and displays the ‘pride’ and ‘solidarity’ of the tribe. 

It is most commonly used by the All Blacks, the New Zealand national rugby team, before each match. The Haka is a fierce display of a tribe‘s pride, strength, and unity. It is a war dance that is used to intimidate opponents and rally the tribe together in preparation for battle. The popularity of the Haka has grown over the years and is now performed around the world by people of all ages. It has become a symbol of New Zealand‘s culture and identity and is often used to welcome visitors to the country.

What is the meaning of the haka dance?

The Haka dance is very peculiar in the way the group members chant loudly with aggressive body stances like foot stomping, chest beating, swaying and thigh slapping. The dancers literally stick out the tongues and make rhythmic shouts with wide bulging eyes. To the uninitiated, it may seem a bit daunting and intimidating.

The Haka of New Zealand is now performed in social events, felicitation ceremonies, sports, weddings and even funerals.

The Haka is an ancient type of Mori war dance which is traditionally used on the battlefield and when groups come together in peace.

The basic actions include foot-stamping, tongue protrusions, and rhythmic body movements to accompany a chant. The History of Haka poetically describes the ancestors in the tribe’s history. Performance requires strict discipline. It is a character-building exercise for the performers to connect themselves with their past and their present.

Video: Welcome to New Zealand | TIP 005: HAKA by YouTube channel ‘How To Dad

History/origin of the Haka Dance:

According to the cultural history of New Zealand and the Maori community, this dance was originally conceived to be performed before battle by warriors so as to essentially intimidate the enemy. However, over the years this dance has been performed mainly as a social dance in functions such as welcome ceremonies rather than before a war.

Today, Haka dance captures the power of the language, music, and wairua of te ao Māori. It’s an important component of the Māori world. Haka is more than a cultural performance; it is inked to the rituals that evolved out of the rituals that we have on marae, including pōwhiri, whaikorero, and waiata.”

Furthermore, this dance has also been popularized over the years by the New Zealand Rugby Union team known as the “All Blacks” who perform it prior to every international match they play. Apparently, the origin of this dance is closely linked to a Maori myth related to a sun god named Tama-nui-te-ra worshipped by the community. It is said that this sun god had a wife and son named Hine-raumati and Tane-rore respectively. Now, according to the Maori community, one day the son supposedly danced for his mother. It was this dance performed by Tan-rore that was then used by the community as a foundation to develop this dance now known as “Haka”.

Different forms of Haka dance

Some of the forms of Haka dance where the style is performed well with or without weapons are:

a. The Tutungaruhu (performed with long weapons by a war party who jumps from side to side)

b. Ngeri ( no moves performed without weapons to face the enemy)

c. Peruperu (performed with weapons, men leap off the ground up and down, face to-face with the enemy).

d. Haka Taparahi (performed without weapons)

These are a few examples of the different forms of Haka dance.

The Benefits Of Haka Dance

What should be pursued is the uniformity of movement and message. The message should be paramount, Haka dance was always connected with war, but in today’s world, physical war has become politically oriented.

This style has become a means to convey messages, whether they be social, political, or environmental issues, to have an audible voice which can be heard throughout the globe. This alerts people that there is an issue, which is also followed by a solution or thought of encouragement.

Nowadays, Haka is used for Mori ceremonies and celebrations as a way to honour guests and to show the importance of the occasion. This is almost seen in gatherings and occasions.

The head is alert like a tekoteko, the arms are stretched out like a maihi, and the chest is erect like a whare. 

The importance of Haka dance

The Maori use Haka to help their people find themselves, particularly those Maori who have grown up in cities and have lost touch with their traditional upbringing. Through Haka, they found a source to find the connection.

“I have had many youths come through my doors over the last 25 years.” Many of these kids are affiliated with gangs and kicked out of schools,” says the founder of The Haka Tapeta Wehi Experience. The change in these kids is quite unbelievable. “Haka is a tool. Kids get to learn about Whakapapa (genealogy), Tikanga (Maori lore), Tipuna (ancestors), Atua Maori (Maori gods) and most importantly, it reconnects them to themselves. Identity is the essence of any kid. It helps our youth throughout the right direction to face challenges that may lie ahead.

Video on Haka Dance History:


Costumes used in the Haka Dance

While the Haka dance is perceived as a ceremonial battle dance performed by men, it is actually performed by both men and women across a variety of ceremonies in the Maori culture. The traditional “Kapa Haka” costume is mainly used in this dance style. However, this costume varies according to the gender as follows:

For men:

The Kapa Haka costume may include a tāniko tātua (belt), Piupiu skirt (flax skirt) and a headband. Tāniko is a Maori weaving technique with coloured yarn involving ‘twinings’. The material used in the tāniko is muka fiber prepared using the New Zealand flax.

For women:

The Kapa Haka costume can include elastic shoulder straps, a Piupiu skirt (flax skirt), tāniko bodice (a top made of coloured yarn weaving) and a headband. Some women members may also wear the korowai (cloak).

Music involved in the Haka

No musical instrument or ensemble is actually used in this unique “war” dance. Usually, the performers make use of strong chanting while performing.

Training, availability and the technique involved in the Haka:

In terms of technique, this war dance basically involves the use of extremely vigorous body movements. Furthermore, the performers also stamp their feet in rhythm with the accompanying chanting. As for training centers/schools, there are practically none around the world since this “war” dance was mainly performed by the Maori community in New Zealand. In the past few decades, the dance has gained popularity due to the performance by the ‘All Blacks’ Rugby team of New Zealand. This has led to many well performed Haka dances recorded and put up on YouTube. If someone or a group wants to learn and perform the Haka, there are a few online videos available as tutorials.

Best Haka Dance Videos

The Greatest Haka ever
Original Maori Haka Dance
Kapa Haka | NPR
Māori All Blacks perform their haka against Ireland
The Best Haka of all time?! #RWC2021

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