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Douglas Wright awarded Choreographic Fellowship

20 October 2004

Douglas Wright awarded Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellowship

Internationally acclaimed New Zealand choreographer Douglas Wright has been awarded the 2004 Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellowship to research and develop new work. Worth $65,000, it is the largest choreographic award or fellowship available in New Zealand.

Over his 25-year career, the Auckland choreographer has created more than 30 works. The project he'll be working on over the next year will involve seven dancers, a ventriloquist and film.

"It's wonderful to have the financial support so that I can work with dancers, my designer Michael Pearce and composer David Long," Wright says. "It's also a luxury to have unpressured time in my studio to explore ideas, take risks, and experiment with language and movement."

Alastair Carruthers, Chair of the Arts Board of Creative New Zealand, says Douglas Wright is one of New Zealand's pre-eminent choreographers with a large body of work acclaimed both in New Zealand and internationally.

"Awarding the fellowship to Douglas Wright recognises his rare talent," Mr Carruthers says. "It also offers him considerable creative freedom to explore änd make new work over a one-year period."

Earlier this year, Wright's first book, Ghost Dance, was published by Penguin Books. Described as "part love story, part memoir", the book has received glowing reviews commending his writing.

Last year, Wright was the subject of a documentary by Auckland director Leanne Pooley called Haunting Douglas, which recently won Best Dance Documentary at the ReelDance International Dance on Screen Festival in Sydney.

And in 2000, Wright was one of five inaugural Laureates of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand and was made an adjunct Professor of Dance by Unitec in Auckland.

The Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellowship was established last year in response to recommendations made in Creative New Zealand's dance strategy, Moving to the Future: Ngä Whakanekeneke atu ki te Ao o Apöpö. The inaugural 2003 recipient was Auckland choreographer Shona McCullagh.

In Moving to the Future, Wright contributed a paper on the state of contemporary dance in New Zealand. In the paper, he wrote: "I have come to believe that human beings need beauty and communication. They need dancers to leap FOR them."

Mr Carruthers says that the Arts Board was delighted with the calibre of applicants to the 2004 Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellowship. "The fellowship offers a tremendous opportunity to senior artists wishing to immerse themselves in a major project. It's also something to which other choreographers can aspire."

Douglas Wright: a snapshot

Douglas Wright grew up in South Auckland and began his dance career with Limbs Dance Company in 1980. In 1983, he joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company of New York where he remained until 1987.

In 1988, he returned to New Zealand and created his first full-length work for Limbs, called Now is the Hour, and a year later formed the New Zealand-based Douglas Wright Dance Company. Since then, he has created many works of dance theatre, including How on Earth (1989), Gloria (1990), As It Is (1991), Forever (1993) and Buried Venus (1996). When Forever had its European premiere in Switzerland, it was hailed as "an overwhelming contemporary contribution to the history of our life and times".

In 2002, he choreographed Inland, which premiered at the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts and then toured New Zealand. Evening Post reviewer Jennifer Shennan wrote of the work: "Douglas Wright's choreographic imagination, fed with superphosphate from down on the farm, has yielded a profound work of dark humour and breathtakingly brilliant dancing ... It's a work of genius. What else do you want to know?"

The Douglas Wright Dance Company has toured throughout New Zealand, and to Australia and Europe. His work has been performed by other dance companies, including The Australia Dance Theatre, Sydney Dance Company and the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Wright has also made several dance films in collaboration with Chris Graves and Grant Lahood.


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