By Lisa Potter  |  Photos Nikola Mitchell  |  Hair and Makeup Brydie Donaldson

There are a host of reasons to get youngsters involved in sports, clubs and activities; from overall mental wellbeing and building resilience and determination, through to encouraging invaluable life skills like being able to successfully work in a group.

Hamilton teenager Waimarama Potae-Tamatea is an excellent example of a well rounded youngster; achieving in her chosen fields and, just as importantly, banking some serious life skills.

Well known and respected in both dance and gymnastics, the 15-year-old has already enjoyed impressive success and is now a mentor for other young performers coming up through the ranks.

Having started both gymnastics and dancing at the age of three, she already has more than a decade of training and competitive experience behind her, and has notched up solid achievements both here and in Australia.

Among her string of successes, the agile teenager represented New Zealand in rhythmic gymnastics at the Australian Gymnastic Nationals, as well as scoring the highest mark in New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong for her Urban Ignition Level 7 hiphop exam, and the highest mark in New Zealand New Zealand for her AJDA jazz dance exam.

Waimarama’s ability and attitude make her hotly sought after as a rising star, seeing her accepted into New Zealand School of Dance Associates programme as a contemporary major, and winning a swag of titles and awards.

Family Focus

Having also competed in trampolining, touch rugby, netball and basketball; some of her love of sport has perhaps been passed on through the generations from her Maori All Black grandfather Bill Potae.

The entire family has a keen focus on sports, with three siblings fitting in everything from gym, dance, trampoline, tumbling, swimming and rugby.

It’s fair to say that it’s a busy household, with mum Rachel and Dad Ditre investing significant time and effort to support their children’s interests.

“I think it’s important for kids to have activities to focus on as it teaches them a good work ethic and time management,” says Rachel.

While she readily admits to being pretty much a full-time taxi driver and organisor in order to get everyone where they need to be, it’s clear that this family is highly self motivated, working together to make the busy timetable run smoothly.

“I have the diary pretty well memorised in my head so I know what commitments there are every weekend between now and Christmas,” says Rachel.

The side benefits

As well as the obvious benefits of competing and training, Rachel points out that any level of participation in any sports or activity helps teach great social skills like learning how to be a gracious loser and how to acknowledge a great performance even when they are your competition.

“When Waimarama was younger she had some older girls at the dance studio who took an interest in her and were great role models. Waimarama tries to do the same for the younger girls now that she is older.”

Pay it Forward

Dance Effects (DFX) Dance School owner Louise Tenhove is quick to agree. Having taught Waimarama since she first started as a pre-schooler, she says it is always hugely rewarding to see her students succeed – in life as well as on the dance stage.

“She is an amazing role model for the younger ones and they adore her,” says Louise. “It’s great for kids of all ages to see those they look up to being well mannered, polite and courteous towards others and Waimarama embodies everything that is great about dancing.

“Dance is great for confidence, time management, body awareness, learning to be resilient, working as a team and expressing yourself. It also introduces children from a young age to life lessons like working with others, being coachable and taking criticism.”

Justifiably proud of her student’s progress, Louise says that as well as being a natural talent, it is the fact that Waimarama is such a hard worker that is also key to her success.

“She has a strong ability to be resilient; she picks herself up if she doesn’t do well, she is very versatile, her gymnastics skills are definitely an asset and she also does jazz, hiphop, ballet, contemporary and acro in the dance studio.

“It’s been really rewarding to see her progress over the years and celebrate her success here and in Australia.”

Such is the high esteem  in which Waimarama is held, this year she has also taken on a role as assistant teacher at DFX, while continuing her studies at Te Kura o te Aho Pounamu (formerly known as The Correspondence School).

Making it work

With so much on her plate, undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges is juggling such a busy schedule and fitting in school work. However Waimarama is a dab hand at keeping on top of her workload, thriving on the sense of achievement in ticking off accomplishments.

With plans to pursue a career as a professional dancer and to study dance full-time, Waimarama’s list of goals also includes owning her own dance studio.

At the moment she is focused on continuing to improve, with an eye to international scholarship opportunities.

Alongside her family, Waimarama’s dance friends are a crucial part of her support team, and any rare spare time is spent hanging out with friends – ideally at the beach.

For any lapses of motivation, Waimaramara refocuses on her goal of being a professional dancer – in keeping with the best advice she has ever received: “When you feel like giving up, think about your goal. If you want it, you must work for it.”


The Vital Stats:

Belongs to Dance Effects (DFX) dance school and Counties Manukau Gymnastics

Trains and competes in ballet, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, hiphop, acro and rhythmic gymnastics

Involved in trampolining (aged 10-13) and competed at three Nationals, as well as artistic gymnastics (aged 3-9), and in her younger days touch rugby, netball and basketball

Accepted into New Zealand School of Dance Associates programme as contemporary major 2018/2019

Accepted into Elite Training Extension Program 2018/2019

Invited to Lucy Ellis boot camp in Sydney Australia 2018

Scholarship winner for summer school 2019 at Dynamite Studios Australia

Get the Beat Regional Competition Gympie Australia Feb 2019 – 5x top three placings

Follow Your Dreams Nationals January 2019 – 4th lyrical (out of field of 46), 2nd jazz duo and 1st own choreography trio

Rhythmic Gymnastics – selected to represent NZ at Australian Gymnastic Nationals 2018/2019

Top three placings x3 at NZ Gymnastic Nationals 2018