Meet the Makers: Neil Ieremia
Published: Thrusday, 6th July 2023
Neil Ieremia - accomplished choreographer and Artistic Director of acclaimed dance company Black Grace - took time out of a busy rehearsal schedule ahead of Company B – “I Am A Renaissance” to tell us more about the new dance company created for a new generation of dancers.
Neil shared more about his creative process, the genesis of Company B and the importance of building relationships in the arts. Read more below and then get your tickets to the incredible new show Company B – “I Am A Renaissance” on at the Herald Theatre from Wednesday 19 – Sunday 23 July.
Image caption update: Black Grace Founding Artistic Director Neil Ieremia (ONZM). Photo: Jinki Cambronero
Neil, for all the aspiring dancers and artists reading this, tell us about how you became a dancer, a choreographer and eventually Artistic Director?
I was always a natural mover and from a young age I enjoyed the physicality of dance. I did my first proper dance class when I was 18 years old and my first ballet class when I was 19. It was a journey full of pain and ill-fitting tights and more mistakes and humiliation than I care to recall. Much to my surprise, I was offered a job before I graduated. I freelanced for nearly a decade, but I always wanted to choreograph and lead my own company. I founded Black Grace in 1995.
Black Grace has become a much-loved iconic New Zealand dance company. What is your favourite thing about now creating a new company of young dancers?
Besides the laughter...the potential for a positive future impact on dance in Aotearoa and beyond.
What’s the hardest part of creating a new dance work and what is your process for getting through it?
The creative process is always full of twists and turns with calamity hiding behind every corner. But perhaps the most challenging aspect is reconciling my expectations with the limits of human performance at varying levels of maturity, experience and professionalism. This coupled with the time pressure and my weakness for "the details" makes for a real humdinger of a thing! Needless to say, there is never a dull moment.
Tell us more about your upcoming project, Company B. How did Company B come about?
The idea for Company B started back in 2003/2004. I had been working alongside the late Sally Markham to develop a project called UrbanYOUTHMovement. Company B was going to be the next logical step - a professional company of new younger dancers cutting their teeth on domestic touring, school workshops and performances in smaller theatres. Ultimately acting as a feeder to the main Company. I thought it was a good way to introduce people to the profession without the huge amounts of pressure associated with major full-length works and international touring.
Tell us about your partnership with Auckland Live and why you believe relationships are so important for the arts to thrive.
We wouldn't have been able to deliver this project without Auckland Live. These types of partnerships, developed over a long period of time and where fundamental philosophies around the democratisation and equity of access to the arts are shared, are critical to the lifeblood of any society focussed on the wellbeing of its people.
Can you tell us more about the dancers in Company B? We understand they’re from all over Tāmaki Makaurau and from a real variety of dance backgrounds, can you tell us more about that?
I am inspired by people's attitudes and their spirit. Sure they've got to be able to string a few steps together but at the end of the day I'm more interested in what's going on inside them. The young people we've selected are as diverse as the day is long and I'm backing them to rise to challenges and experience their own personal renaissance that I hope will positively impact their futures.
For a sneak peek for our readers: What’s next for Black Grace?
I am directing my version of Orpheus, called (m)Orpheus for the NZ Opera touring in September to Auckland and Wellington, completing the next 2 instalments of "The Art of Black Grace", developing a digital touring project complete with a badass comic book aimed at reducing the number of rheumatic fever cases in Pacific and Māori communities, making an art book and planning my next full length work. I'm hoping to squeeze in some painting before rehearsals for our next US tour kicks off.