Pittsburgh Dance Council, a division of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, presents New Zealand dance company, Black Grace, under the direction of choreographer and founder Neil Ieremia, on Saturday, March 2, 2013, at 8:00 p.m., at the Byham Theater. Black Grace will present several works on this tour including Pati Pati, Objects and Amata. The program also includes a piece from Ieremia's new full length work, VVaka*.
Neil Ieremia grew up studying dance, which was not the preferred subject of boys in a society that favored athleticism as masculinity. He pursued his dreams and graduated from Auckland Performing Arts School in New Zealand. There he learned various styles of dance as well as a sense of which genres were more challenging for his Samoan build, lIke Ballet. After working under some of New Zealand's top choreographers, Ieremia created his own all-male dance company, Black Grace, in 1995. As the name alludes, the company showcases unique works where dancers combine elements of sleek hard presence and remarkable elegance.
Ieremia's unique choreography blends traditional Samoan dance with modern and classical dance forms and paints a picture of his cultural values and personal history. Neil comments, "I build simple movements into phrases and patterns that I can then communicate to the company. Dance is intuitive, but it's organized intuition. The movements make sense to me, and I have to trust that they'll connect with the company, and that together, we can make it connect with audiences."
Over the past seventeen years, Ieremia has gathered inspirations from his culture and traditions to create choreography that focuses on traditions of the Pacific Islands. For example, with the Samoan tradition of tatau (tattoo, body art), where the skin and mark are one, Ieremia compares the dancers and the space in which they dance. "Sometimes the thing that interests me is the space between the dancers rather than the dancers themselves," says Neil.
High energy movements, clapping, singing, chanting, and graceful dance are used by Ieremia in his work that uniquely contrasts, as well as closes the gap, between past and present dance heritage. "In a memorable performance, the thrilling and brilliantly executed New Zealand company," the Broad Street Review exclaimed, "Black Grace integrated many aspects of modern dance with Samoan and South Pacific indigenous dance forms. The result was no cut-and-paste assemblage, but a new art form."
Recognized by the Arts Foundation of New Zealand, Ieremia is the recipient of the Laureate Award (2005) for outstanding creative achievements and contributions to dance. In 2009, Ieremia was honored with a Resolution from the Government of Guam for his choreographic works; and that same year received the Paul D. Fleck Fellowship in the Arts Award from The Banff Centre in Canada. In honor of Iermia's work that celebrates Pacific dance heritage, Hawaii's capital city, Honolulu, named February 6 (2010) as Black Grace Day.
*About Vaka: In the native language of the Maori people, vaka means canoe. Ieremia's choreography of the same name is based on a famous painting The Arrival of the Moaris in New Zealand (1898) by artists Louis J. Steele and Charles F. Goldie. The artwork represents the hardships faced by the Maori people on an immigration voyage. Ieremia's work is based on navigation and migration, and their impacts, both personally and culturally, on a society.
Each year the Pittsburgh Dance Council, a division of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, showcases a world-class season of dance. As the largest presenter of international performances in the city, the Dance Council continues to help make our Cultural District one of the country's leading arts and entertainment centers.
Tickets ($19-$48) may be purchased at the Box Office at Theater Square, 655 Penn Avenue, online atwww.trustarts.org, or by calling (412) 456-6666. For subscriptions to Pittsburgh Dance Council, please call (412) 456-1390 or subscribe online at www.trustarts.org/dance. Pittsburgh Dance Council's media partner is Essential Public Radio 90.5FM.