Beauty for ashes

AS NIGHT FALLS: Dance company Black Grace performs artistic director Neil Ieremia’s “poetic ode to our troubled world”. Picture supplied

THE beauty, physical vitality and hope of dance company Black Grace’s new work contrasts with fear of darkness in the world, in artistic director Neil Ieremia's vision.

As Night Falls is bold and bright like the colourful muumuu dresses worn by my mother without shame or ceremony,” he says.

“It is my offer of beauty for ashes.”

Described as a “poetic ode to our troubled world”, As Night Falls is not political or culturally defined but a universal work that presents ideas about what is happening in the world, says long-standing company member Sean MacDonald.

Having spent a year reading newspapers from around the world, Ieremia felt the value of human life and equality was eroding. He struggled to fathom the Syrian crisis and other nations’ rejection of refugees; Donald Trump, the state of the global economy; growing homelessness and the widening gap between rich and poor in New Zealand.

“This is where the work started. But instead of wanting to present all this bleakness he asked ‘what can I do?’,” says MacDonald.

“So he decided to do the opposite and make a work that has hope and a physical vitality.”

Ieremia and a lot of the company’s dancers come from sporting backgrounds. That is embedded in the work but Black Grace’s language is rooted in New Zealand, he says.

Black Grace dancers are athletic, but the challenge is to tell South Pacific stories in a purely physical way. Having recently toured the US with the company, MacDonald was interested to see if people would relate to those stories.

They did.

“They could identify with what we were saying, which was affirming for us.”

He cites American dance-maker Martha Graham whose oft-used phrase was “movement never lies”.

“Dance is a social interaction, it’s symbolism, it’s adrenaline, it’s gestural and it’s cultural.”

Work by New Zealand composers were among musical choices Ieremia considered while looking for accompaniment for the performance but he kept returning to Vivaldi. The 18th century Italian composer’s Four Seasons particularly resonated with him.

Vivaldi became the only choice, says MacDonald.

“These pieces, to me, evoke human fragility and vitality, despair, passion, sensitivity and finally a whiff of hope.”

Founded in 1995 by Neil Ieremia, Black Grace is a modern dance company. Ieremia draws on Maori and Pacific Island dance, modern dance and hip hop to create innovative dance works that cross social, cultural and generational barriers.

THE beauty, physical vitality and hope of dance company Black Grace’s new work contrasts with fear of darkness in the world, in artistic director Neil Ieremia's vision.

As Night Falls is bold and bright like the colourful muumuu dresses worn by my mother without shame or ceremony,” he says.

“It is my offer of beauty for ashes.”

Described as a “poetic ode to our troubled world”, As Night Falls is not political or culturally defined but a universal work that presents ideas about what is happening in the world, says long-standing company member Sean MacDonald.

Having spent a year reading newspapers from around the world, Ieremia felt the value of human life and equality was eroding. He struggled to fathom the Syrian crisis and other nations’ rejection of refugees; Donald Trump, the state of the global economy; growing homelessness and the widening gap between rich and poor in New Zealand.

“This is where the work started. But instead of wanting to present all this bleakness he asked ‘what can I do?’,” says MacDonald.

“So he decided to do the opposite and make a work that has hope and a physical vitality.”

Ieremia and a lot of the company’s dancers come from sporting backgrounds. That is embedded in the work but Black Grace’s language is rooted in New Zealand, he says.

Black Grace dancers are athletic, but the challenge is to tell South Pacific stories in a purely physical way. Having recently toured the US with the company, MacDonald was interested to see if people would relate to those stories.

They did.

“They could identify with what we were saying, which was affirming for us.”

He cites American dance-maker Martha Graham whose oft-used phrase was “movement never lies”.

“Dance is a social interaction, it’s symbolism, it’s adrenaline, it’s gestural and it’s cultural.”

Work by New Zealand composers were among musical choices Ieremia considered while looking for accompaniment for the performance but he kept returning to Vivaldi. The 18th century Italian composer’s Four Seasons particularly resonated with him.

Vivaldi became the only choice, says MacDonald.

“These pieces, to me, evoke human fragility and vitality, despair, passion, sensitivity and finally a whiff of hope.”

Founded in 1995 by Neil Ieremia, Black Grace is a modern dance company. Ieremia draws on Maori and Pacific Island dance, modern dance and hip hop to create innovative dance works that cross social, cultural and generational barriers.

Black Grace performs As Night Falls at the War Memorial Theatre, at 7.30pm July 4. Tickets available at Stephen Jones Photography or TicketDirect.

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