The concept behind 2016 Māori Television talent show The Stage: Haka Fusion was to combine traditional kapa haka with contemporay dance disciplines like hip hop and ballet. Contestants competed for a prize purse of $50,000. Produced in-house by Māori TV, Haka Fusion was fronted by Rotorua actor and teacher Kimo Houltham. The first series was won by World Champion hip hop dance crew Identity Dance Company. They were given a wild card lifeline into the finals by the four judges, after their initial routine failed to meet the show’s criteria: it didn’t feature enough kapa haka!
Television talent show franchises like Got Talent and X Factor won huge global popularity in the first two decades of the 21st Century. In 2016 the format got an Aotearoa twist with this Māori Television series: each contestant’s routine had to include kapa haka. Hosted by Kimo Houltham, this first episode sees Norris Studios (jazz ballet), Mana Wairua (contemporary), and Sovreign (hip hop) compete to see who has "haka flair". Manu Wairua’s World War II-inspired act and Sovreign’s rākau (Māori weaponry) skills saw the judges send them to the quarter finals.