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Growing opportunities for contemporary dance

5 November 2002

Growing opportunities for contemporary dance

Contemporary dance in New Zealand is burgeoning, reflected in successful seasons and standing ovations, increased funding from Creative New Zealand for individual choreographers and dance companies, and growing international opportunities for New Zealand companies and dance films.

Choreographer Raewyn Hill’s two works, White and When Love Comes Calling, recently attracted sellout seasons and rave reviews in Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin; Touch Compass Dance Trust’s performances of Lighthouse received standing ovations in Auckland; and Michael Parmenter’s Wilderness/Weather had an extended season in Christchurch following his performances at the Body Festival.

Auckland’s Black Grace Dance Company will undertake its first extensive international tour in May 2003 with a six-week, eight-centre tour to Australia. This is a direct result of its spotlight performance at the 5th Australian International Performing Arts Market in Adelaide in February 2002 and other international possibilities are also being negotiated.

Also attracting international attention are a number of dance films, including 2002 Arts Laureate Shona McCullagh’s fly, which have won awards and been selected to screen at international film festivals.

Creative New Zealand Chief Executive Elizabeth Kerr says the dance sector appears to be entering a huge developmental phase. “It’s great to see individuals and companies initiating a range of innovative projects and building audiences for their work.”

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It was vital that the future of New Zealand’s dance sector was secure and strong, she said. In the past two years, Creative New Zealand had made a significant investment (an additional $663,000 through the Government’s Cultural Recovery Package funding) in contemporary dance through special initiatives and its funding programmes. This included a national dance conference, Future Moves, in 2001; its national dance strategy published in 2002; and increased funding through both its annual and project funding programmes.

The bourgeoning contemporary dance sector is reflected in Creative New Zealand’s recent project funding round, announced this week, where a number of choreographers and dance companies were offered significant grants.

Raewyn Hill, for instance, was awarded the 2002 Tup Lang Scholarship aimed at encouraging choreography in New Zealand contemporary dance. This Scholarship is included in a $25,461 grant to the Wellington choreographer towards research and development of a new work. She was also offered a $3000 grant to travel to Germany where she hopes to attend classes with Pina Bausch’s Tanztheatre Wuppertal, Germany.

“Since my return to New Zealand in late 1999 I’ve had an intensive and incredibly rewarding creative time,” Hill says. “This year, I was also named one of 10 AMP Scholarship winners, which was an honour and a great confidence boost.”

A grant of $28,598 was offered to Atamira Dance Collective of Sandringham, Auckland towards the creation and presentation of two new works. These works will be performed from 2-5 April 2003, alongside a new work by leading Maori choreographer Stephen Bradshaw.

“This is an exciting new development in contemporary Maori dance in Auckland,” Elizabeth Kerr says. “Dealing with bicultural issues, these works meet one of the objectives for Maori dance laid out in our contemporary dance strategy.”

Other major grants supporting the dance sector in this round include:

- $85,000 to MAU of Point Chevalier, Auckland towards the development and an Auckland premiere in 2003 of a new work entitled Paradise. This follows on from successful seasons at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Noumea in 2001 and the 2002 Adelaide Arts Festival

- $46,198 to Ann Dewey of Onehunga, Auckland towards the development and performance of a new work for five dancers, to be performed in Auckland in May 2003

- $15,176 to Touch Compass Dance Trust of Auckland towards research and development of a site-specific work in a swimming pool

- $39,569 to Touch Compass Dance Trust towards presenting a new works season in Auckland

- $16,176 to Auckland Dance Festival Trust towards Platform 2003, which supports emerging choreographers and provides professional employment for dancers

- $20,000 to Spacific Films of Auckland towards a 70-minute documentary about the life and work of Douglas Wright. This is a significant audience development project, promoting a leading figure in New Zealand contemporary dance on our television screens and at international festivals. The documentary has also received major funding from NZ on Air.

Increasingly, New Zealand choreographers and dancers are winning awards and being invited to take part in international events.

- Auckland choreographer Shona McCullagh was recently recognised in the Arts Foundation of New Zealand’s 2002 Arts Laureates. And her short film, fly, supported by Creative New Zealand, won first prize and the People’s Choice Award at the Reel Dance Awards in Australia. Fly was one of 13 international dance short films selected to screen at Britain’s premier dance film festival, Dance on Screen 2002.

- Two dance films, Henge and Lumin, by Daniel Belton and Good Company of Dunedin, have screened at festivals in Europe.

- Auckland choreographer Mary Jane O’Reilly’s short dance film, Canopy, recently won an award at the River City Short Film Festival.

Along with its project funding, Creative New Zealand supports Black Grace Dance Company, Footnote Dance Company, Kahurangi New Zealand Maori Dance Trust and Dance Aotearoa New Zealand (DANZ) on an annual basis. Black Grace Dance Company received annual funding for the first time in 2001 while the three other companies received substantial increases in their annual funding as a result of the Government’s Cultural Recovery Package, announced in May 2000.

DANZ Executive Director Philip Tremewan says the organisation is working in partnership with others to support creative and professional development opportunities, audience development and touring activities. For example, DANZ is organising two workshops over the next two weeks - in Auckland and Dunedin - and will also be publishing a resource guide for the sector, The Dancers’ Survival Guide, in 2003.

In partnership with the Auckland City Council and Northern Dance Network, DANZ has appointed Sonja Bright as Auckland dance co-ordinator. Working out of Kingsland Central, she has initiated professional contemporary dance classes three times a week, and monthly performances and workshops called FatDance. These are aimed at expanding paid employment opportunities for dance and putting some “fat” into the industry.

“Contemporary dance is on the edge of a wonderful explosion of creative development and the quality of the work being produced is superb,” Sonja Bright says. “I think the sector is beginning to feel collectively responsible for the future of contemporary dance. It’s particularly exciting to see new graduates initiating projects, touring their work and actively building new audiences for dance.”


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