The door to Picton School hall is flung open amid a babble of excited chatter.
Wilting school bags are dragged across the floor behind excited children as they head to Pasifika Production practice, their smiles broad and voices high.
The bell has just rung to mark the end of the day and Susana Doris Evalu-Tyrell waits as she does every Friday and Wednesday for the students to arrive.
Originally from Samoa, Susana wanted to ensure her heritage remained part of their lives and with other Pacific Island families in the Picton community it seemed like a good fit.
The idea for the group was born and it proved so popular that soon children from all backgrounds were asking to join.
“I wanted it to be culturally inclusive,” she says.
The group has almost doubled in size and has around 40 members.
As the music begins, the children, aged from 5 to 10 years old, quickly take their places. Poised for action, small brows slightly furrowed in concentration, they begin to dance.
Faces light up and eyes cast quick glances around the room to reassure themselves they are keeping up. The smiles are infectious, and the sense of pride is palpable as they show-off their moves.
“Our children come from different backgrounds,” says Susana who is a regular volunteer at the school.
“I wanted to open the Pasifika Production group to everyone as there seemed to be a need for it, it is for everybody.
“It’s not just dance we do, next term the children are going to create designs from their imaginations of flowers or plants and print them on T-shirts.
“At the end of the project they will get to take their T-shirts home with them and be proud of what they have done,” she says.
The group has already performed in public and were captured on film as part of the Tuia 250 celebrations last year.
Picton School Principal Dave Sullivan says the school is lucky to have Susana, who also fundraises for the group and makes their costumes.
“The children are so excited about it.
“We are a culturally inclusive school and a lot of our children have dual heritage and it’s great that Susana does this.
‘This teaches them so much and the ability to perform in front of the public, their confidence has greatly improved.
Nine-year-old Anika Jones joined the group after lockdown as she had heard it was great fun.
“I really enjoy it the costumes and music are great and it’s something my crew and I can do together. It’s helped me feel more confident,” she says.
Friend Jayla Murrell, 10, says she wanted to be part of the group after watching them perform at the Picton Christmas parade last year.
“It looked like so much fun and it really is.”
For Susana, seeing the children smiling and having fun makes it all worthwhile.
“I want to thank Picton for their support because if it weren’t for them, I would not be able to come here and do this.”