Seamus Fitzgerald, the Polynesian Cultural Center's former Maori cultural ambassador, explained there are six categories in which each group participating in the annual competitions will be judged in aggregate.
"We call them aggregate, because they go to determining the overall winners," Fitzgerald said. "And there are four components that are non-aggregate, or in other words, they do not count toward choosing the overall champions."
He added in addition to the overall winners, there will be category winners in both the junior (up to age 13) and senior divisions.
The aggregate categories of judging include:
- Whakaeke (entrance).
- Moteatea , an ancient chant "or what we call a waiata tawhito," Fitzgerald said," a song that's chanted. There are no guitars."
- Waiata-a-ringa or "a hand action song where the hands follow the words of a story."
- Poi where "the women get to show their skills with the poi balls in a variety of motions and rhythms."
- Haka (war dance)
- Whakawatea (exit)
Non-aggregate categories include:
- Manukura wahine (the female leader)
- ...and the manukura tane (the male leader). "The judges observe how well they control the group, their charisma, their volume, their authority on the stage," Fitzgerald said.
- Kakahu (costumes). "They're looking at the appearance of the costume and if it fits the groups style and era. Most groups will actually write in their fact sheets why they chose their particular costume and what it means, or the symbolism and different designs and patterns on it."
Fitzgerald explained his Te Hokioi group's costume contains three designs. "One of them on the backs and sides of our women's costumes, for example, is called potama-ki-te-rangi, which is the 'stairway to heaven.' That refers to the progression in life, that we take it one step at a time. We're always striving to be better. The journey in life is upwards, but knowledge is always passed down from one generation to the next. There's all that symbolism and more that comes into that one design. There's also an old legend about one of our ancestors climbing the Twelve Heavens, which is where this design comes from. Every other design also has its own background as well."
- Te Reo or the expressive use of Maori language
- Waiata tira or optional choral music. "It's typically a hymn," Fitzgerald said, "that you sing before you actually perform. There are many practices in Maori culture where we acknowledge God first. For example, when you do a speech, you always acknowledge God the Creator of all things. Maori performing groups also acknowledge God first by singing this hymn."