Black Grace, a dance troupe of Pacific Islander and Maori performers, mixes traditional and contemporary dance styles to dazzle audiences with unexpected fluidity and elegance. What started as a male-only group founded and directed by Neil Ieremia, Black Grace has become a well traveled company that performs all over the world. Meet Neil and his dancers, who have moved beyond their roots to explore the traditions of New Zealand culture in a modern and ever-changing landscape.
For more on Black Grace:
Neil Ieremia, Artistic Director of New Zealand’s Black Grace Dance Company ‘Talks About The Work’.
‘When I went back to the old studio in 2006 . . . there was no-one there. Everyone had left including the board. So it was a very lonely place to walk back into and so … I had to make some choices at that point whether to keep going or whether to wrap it all up. And I had a talk to my parents, had a talk to my family and decided to keep going.’
In this Interview, Neil Ieremia talks about the disintegration and resurrection of New Zealand’s leading and internationally acclaimed dance company, Black Grace.
Film Makers Aileen O’Sullivan and Toby Mills made the award winning documentary Black Grace - From Cannons Creek to Jacob Pillow, first broadcast on PBS in 2005. This documentary tells the story of the then ten year history of Black Grace - the boys from Cannon’s Creek, New Zealand, who under the direction of Neil Ieremia, formed a dance company. This venture culminated in Black Grace’s ground breaking and acclaimed appearance at Jacob’s Pillow, Massachusetts, USA, the “home” of Modern Dance.
After the success at Jacob’s Pillow and the celebration of Black Grace’s 10th Birthday, the company began to disintegrate. In this personal interview, Neil Ieremia talks about what drove him to continue Black Grace, how he re-structured it and what drives him now. As he highlights and discusses his work as a choreographer, Neil talks about the challenges and successes he’s faced in this latest chapter as the Artistic Director of Black Grace.
With the re-launch of Black Grace in 2007 Neil rocked the boat with his first production ‘Amata’, meaning “Begin” in Samoan. The Work featured white female dancers and, while celebrated, was criticized for not being the old Black Grace and sent Neil on his quest to identify who is Black Grace.
What has followed has been an amazing selection of new works and re-worked favourites from the Black Grace repertoire featuring New Zealand dancers of all races and works that challenge both the accepted image of the company and, perhaps more importantly, works that challenge the way we see ourselves as New Zealanders.