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Myths and Legends – Maui Snares the Sun (years 5–6)

Year 5–6 dance unit prepared by Catherine Kelly, Auckland College of Education.PK: In pairs and groups students weave pathways using large elastics to manipulate shapes, for example, create a rope-like web pattern to snare the sun. They experiment by stretching elastics into interesting floor and air patterns, using different levels, and isolating different parts of the body.DI: Students in pairs develop a dance sequence, using elastics. They teach their sequence to another pair and combine both sequences. The whole class weaves the sequences and the elastics to make a snare the sun dance. Half the class may be the sun, held prisoner yet still able to shoot out flames through the elastic-patterned web held by Maui's brothers.CI: Students perform the dance. Audience critiques it.UC: Students investigate, discuss and observe a related contemporary dance choreography in stills or on video: for example, The Royal New Zealand Ballet Company's Preying Mantis Duo: Mantodea, choreographed by Vassili Sulich, includes a battle for territorial dominance between two mantids. Another Royal New Zealand Ballet Company contemporary ballet, Hunter, choreographed by Chris Jannides, also focuses on the hunter, such as Maui, and the hunted, such as the sun in the legend Maui Snares the Sun.

Other ideas

Use the language and illustrations from stories, poems and other myths and legends to create sun, night, and day imagery in dance, for example, Greek legends, Knights of the Round Table and King Arthur Legends.Create a group dance inspired by the woven patterns, shapes and materials of weaving, for example, around the world tapa, displaying significant differences in other cultures' arts and crafts, talents, beliefs and heritage.Re-tell a Greek legend, for example, Medusa, in dance. Observe and learn a Greek folk dance, for example, the Farandole. Observe and learn a Māori poi or stick dance or a haka.

Myth: Maui Snares the Sun

Mataira, K. (1975). Māori legends for young New Zealanders. Auckland: Paul Hamlyn.Many years ago the sun travelled so fast across the sky that people had no time to tend to their gardens, or go about their daily business. They complained to Maui and asked him to do something about it.Maui called on his brothers to work with him to slow down the sun. They wove long ropes from the harekeke (flax) bushes growing near their village. When these were finished, the brothers carried the ropes up the highest mountain and laid in wait for the sun to appear in the morning sky.Throughout the cold night, Maui encouraged his brothers to have confidence in their strength. Soon, the sun's rays were seen shining over the peak of the mountain. Excitedly, the men threw the ropes over the sun and held on tightly while Maui beat it with a stick. The sun was very angry and struggled.Maui told the sun that if it did not slow down, the people would have no time to grow and prepare food and therefore die. Finally, Maui's strength and willpower prevailed and the sun hobbled slowly away from the net of ropes and across the sky. Down in the fields, the people celebrated and cheered for Maui and his brothers.

Dance activities related to a theme


Maui and his brothers make pathways and shapes individually, in pairs, then in groups of six, with a large elastic:

  • creating rope, web-like air, and ground floor patterns;
  • using large elastics to snare the sun in circular, spiral, and in-and-out patterns; and
  • using different levels and isolating parts of the body to make interesting non-locomotive shapes.

The sun makes individual air-to-ground pathways, then as a group, representing its flames:

  • rising and setting too fast for Maui and his people to have enough daylight hours;
  • being captured by Maui and his brothers, as the sun rises at dawn;
  • being woven and tied up with elastics, then told by Maui to slow down to yield longer daylight hours; and
  • rising and setting slowly because the sun was exhausted after Maui kept him prisoner in a woven web-like structure.
Developing ideas
  • Remember three non-locomotive movements using different levels and isolated parts of the body and two locomotive movements and combine these into a short sequence using a large elastic.
  • Teach your sequence to someone else and combine the two sequences.
  • Further development in later lessons could include combining sequences with another pair, and then another, to make a group of six.
Performing and interpreting
  • The sequences are performed 1–3 at a time.
  • The audience interprets and critiques.

Dance planner

For an example of Catherine Kelly's dance planners, download

The Cicada and the Ant (PDF 15 KB)

dance planner for years 1–2 (PDF 15kb) or the

Rona and the Moon (PDF 15 KB)

dance planner for years 3–4 (PDF 15kb).

Elements of Dance chart

When writing your own dance plan, use the

Elements of Dance (PDF 11 KB)

chart from Dancing the Long White Cloud: Teaching dance in years 1-10 (reprinted with permission from the publisher, Learning Media Ltd http://www.learningmedia.co.nz ) to inform your learning outcomes – PDF (11kb). Back to top

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