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About Black Grace

"If I were talking about a rugby team, we'd be champions of the world."
—Neil Ieremia, founder of Black Grace

About Neil Ieremia and Black Grace (1995-2005)

Neil Ieremia began dancing after years of rheumatic fever left him weak and homebound. Studying dance while growing up in a time when second-generation Samoans were raised with “a rugby ball in one hand and a beer can in another,” says Ieremia, wasn’t easy but he persevered.

“Staying at dancing school was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” he says. “It was just soul-destroying for a young proud Samoan/New Zealand Creek boy to be chuckled at and not quite get it. . . this ballet. My body wasn’t built to do that. I can’t put my thighs together. Have you seen the size of them? I dare you to find a Samoan man that can.”

So Ieremia set out to develop a dance style that took advantage of his dancers’ special talents: dynamic athleticism, physical strength and stamina, and yet, amazing precision and grace. He choreographed dances that drew from his native land and from the uniqueness of New Zealanders.

The all male dance company Black Grace boasts some of New Zealand's finest and most respected contemporary dancers. Predominantly Pacific Island and Maori, this company is renowned for their unique ability to combine their traditional and contemporary dance forms. These few aspects alone set this innovative company apart from any other professional dance company in New Zealand.

Based in Auckland, this relatively young company has developed a cross over audience from the Pacific Island, Maori and European communities in New Zealand. Their tours to Sydney and New Caledonia in recent years have demonstrated that the company's appeal can also cross international boundaries.

Neil Ieremia, founder, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Black Grace, is unquestionably one of New Zealand's most accomplished and hard working choreographers. Following his graduation from the Auckland Performing Arts School Neil joined the acclaimed Douglas Wright Dance Company and subsequently worked with many of New Zealand's leading choreographers. In 1995, Neil formed Black Grace Dance Company, debuting with a record-breaking season at Auckland's Maidment Theatre.

Over the past decade, Neil has also choreographed work for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Opera New Zealand, New Zealand Wearable Arts, the New Zealand School of Dance and the Rotterdam Dance Academy. He has extensively toured his company, Black Grace, throughout the main centers and regional New Zealand, including sold out performances at New Zealand International Festival of the Arts. They have performed right across Australia including the Festival of Dreaming, Sydney and UWA Perth International Arts Festival.

In 2003, Neil and the Company toured the Netherlands, performing at the Holland Dance Festival. During this year, Neil received a nomination for the prestigious international Rolex Mentor Programme. The following year, Black Grace debuted in the USA, to audience and critical acclaim, at the world renowned Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.

"He has spread his artistic roots in several rich pasts and grown up and out into a sunlight of his own making." The New York Times, 2004

In 2005, Black Grace's two Auckland seasons, - New Works 2005 and 10 - A Decade of Works by Neil Ieremia sold out. The Company performed Neil's works at the World Expo, Aichi and Tokyo, Japan, returned to Jacobs Pillow to perform on the main stage, achieved a four-week season in New York's New Victory Theatre, a week at the prestigious Cervantino Festival, Mexico followed by a tour the islands of Hawai'i.


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