Black Grace works are ‘grounded and percussive’

Oct 30, 2019

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Black Grace's "Crying Men" Black Grace's "Crying Men"
Photo by Adam Kissick/APAP

Artistic Director Ieremia describes pieces

Neil Ieremia and his New Zealand dance company, Black Grace, make their Northrop debut on Thu, Nov 7. They are coming to Minnesota from New York City, where they perform Oct 29-Nov 3 at The Joyce Theater. Ieremia answered these questions for The Joyce, and the company has shared that exchange with us.

Q: Your work is infused with Maori and Pacific Islander indigenous dance. What are some characteristic elements of these dance forms, and how do you incorporate them into your work?
The work is very grounded and percussive. The traditions also have a very ritualistic and spiritual nature about them which is evident in the works that we are presenting on this tour.

Q: Crying Men explores masculinity through a Pacific lens. Could you talk about the aspects of masculinity you were interested in looking at and why?

It’s about the impact of cultural and societal expectations of masculine behavior. I have a son who is now 14, and I am really conscious of raising him in a different way to how my father raised me, and his father before him. I feel strongly that within my Pacific culture, there are unhealthy patterns and cycles that need to be disrupted – and the best way I can discuss this is through my art.

Q: You collaborated with acclaimed Pacific playwright Victor Rodger in Crying Men. What led you to want to work with text in this piece, and what can you tell us about the collaboration?

Victor is a good friend of mine and we had both wanted to work together for a long time. In my own creative process, I often incorporate words and text as a source of inspiration for movement, so it was a fairly natural transition to include audible text as the backbone to this narrative piece of dance. Victor and I spent hours talking about our personal stories, which resurfaced memories and experiences that I thought I had well and truly buried.

Q: Where do you find hope when in doubt?

I do find hope in my family, and I think as humans we have a real responsibility to remain positive and hopeful for the future generations. I’m also a great believer in the human spirit and think that we are all here for a divine purpose.

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