New Zealand dance company graces State Theatre's stage


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Photo by Jeffrey Gomez |

On the evening of April 21, the State Theatre New Jersey presented one of New Zealand’s leading contemporary dancing companies Black Grace.

Choreographed by Neil Iremia, the show consisted of a collection of short and full length works to celebrate the storytelling traditions of the South Pacific.

The program included: "Minoi," a traditional Samoan dance style (referred to as Slap Dance), "Pati Pati," a ritualistic dance dating back to the origins of Black Grace, "Crying Men," exploring the challenges of what it means to be a “real man,” "Mother Mother,a tribute to Iremia’s mother, and "As Night Falls," a dance about hope.

The entire show was a celebration of movement, as there never was hesitation or pause. The audience’s eyes were constantly following the dancers as they darted, leaped and ran across the stage.

Situated in a “V” formation on a nearly darkened stage, the five male dancers began the show with powerful and forceful movement, donning simple, understated clothing that is reminiscent of a tribal and more primitive feel.

The choreography was perfectly timed to the music. As the intensity of the pounding of the drums built, the tension was released through the erratic and powerful movement of the dancers.

All of the choreography had elements of a ballet style interwoven in a much more aggressive and dominant dancing style. A personal favorite was after the intermission, the style completely transformed, as dancers ditched such tribal outfits, for much more elegant ensembles. The music was now much more upbeat, and the stage was instantly flooded with light to showcase the beautiful and posed dance onstage.

State Theater and Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts partnered with Black Grace on hosting two master classes for students to have the opportunity to work with young professionals and choreographers from around the world.

“It was a really great experience to take class from the company members of Black Grace. I really liked their movement style. It was strong and athletic, but also technical and beautiful which I really appreciate when I watch dance as well as when I dance myself. I also found it very intriguing and beautiful how the choreographer incorporates the culture of New Zealand by including traditional dances,” said Christina Trautwein, a Mason Gross School of the Arts senior.

The company features some of New Zealand’s finest dancers and has toured internationally in Europe, Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Australia.

The show isn’t meant to be simply observed, but makes you question the meaning behind their movement and the emotion behind these dances. Don’t miss your chance to see it next time they visit Jersey!


Marissa Scognamiglio

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