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NEW ZEALAND DANCE TROUPE BLACK GRACE APPEARS AT GMU'S CENTER FOR THE ARTS

February 2, 2010
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GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY’S CENTER FOR THE ARTS

PRESENTS

NEW ZEALAND DANCE TROUPE

BLACK GRACE

Saturday, March 6, 2010 at 8 p.m.

 

 

FAIRFAX, Va., Jan. 28, 2010“One of the most riveting modern dance performances of the season.” (The Washington Post) For more than 14 years, this spectacular troupe of male dancers from New Zealand has delighted audiences across the globe with its joyous spirit, irresistible passion and unique point of view. A fusion of traditional Pacific cultures and contemporary dance, Black Grace rocks the house with thundering stomps and syncopated body slaps, and sings in beautiful three-part harmonies with movement that softly curves and sways. This sensational ensemble appears at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts Concert Hall on Saturday, March 6 at 8 p.m. A pre-performance discussion, free to ticket holders, begins 45 minutes prior to the performance on the Center’s Grand Tier III. Pre-performance discussions are sponsored by the Friends of the Center for the Arts.

Described by the Ottawa Citizen as “unabashedly virile, dangerous and terrifically exciting,” Black Grace performs an exceptional program that includes “Fa’a Ulutao,” a dance that represents the courage and bravery of a young warrior; “Minoi,” a fusion of traditional Samoan dance and western contemporary dance as means of exploring cultural identity issues; “Gathering Clouds,” a response to a claim about Pacific Island immigrants made in a leading New Zealand newspaper, which caused a national uproar and a great divide within the country; and “Exodus,” a dance that celebrates the artistic and cultural traditions of Pacific Islanders and denotes the beginning of an important journey; among others. The work is set to a unique soundtrack featuring everything from Samoan indigenous songs to classical music to hip hop.

Black Grace was founded in 1995 by choreographer Neil Ieremia, a New Zealander of Samoan descent. He created the ensemble in order to bring a Pacific Island presence to the dance being created in New Zealand, which at the time, was largely modern dance and ballet created and performed by European women and men living in the country. The term “black” in the company’s name was Pacific Islander slang in the 1980s that means “courageous” or “brave.”  “Grace” is a quality that Ieremia admires and to which he aspires. Composed of men of Pacific Islander and Maori descent, the ensemble features seven robust dancers (and often a few guest female dancers) who do not fit the American prototype of a dancer. Nevertheless, their movement is filled with incredible athleticism and awe-inspiring beauty.

Virtually unknown in North America, the Auckland-based group made its United States debut in 2004 at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in the Berkshires, and by the end of the week, was performing to “vociferously enthusiastic, soldout houses.” (The New York Times) Black Grace’s appearance at the festival was also the subject of the PBS documentary “From Cannon’s Creek to Jacob’s Pillow.” The company has performed in New Zealand, Australia, Asia, Europe and North America to audience and critical acclaim.

 Originally from New Zealand’s Cannon’s Creek in Porirua, Wellington, Ieremia began martial arts training at age 11 as a way to keep fit and stay out of trouble, and at age 19, began training in modern dance and ballet at Auckland’s Performing Arts School. Shortly after he began his training, Ieremia was offered a job with the Douglas Wright Dance Company, which was the leading contemporary dance ensemble in New Zealand at the time. In addition to his work with Black Grace, Ieremia has choreographed work for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Opera New Zealand, New Zealand Wearable Arts and the Holland Dance Festival. He is the recipient of the prestigious Laureate Award from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand for outstanding creative achievement, as well as the Paul D. Fleck Fellowship in the Arts from The Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada. “Ieremia’s choreography is complex and clever and demands an exceptional physicality from the dancers, which they deliver, inarguably, through every flex and spring, stamp and shudder, and toss of their long, untamed tresses.” (New Zealand Herald)

Tickets for BLACK GRACE are $42, $34, $21. Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit cfa.gmu.edu. The Center for the Arts complex is located on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University at the intersection of Braddock Road and Route 123. Paid parking is located in the deck adjacent to the mainstage Concert Hall and FREE parking is located in university lot K. Visit cfa.gmu.edu.

Great Performances at Mason is a program of George Mason University's Center for the Arts, the professional presentation and production arm of the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA). CVPA provides an academic environment in which the arts are explored as individual disciplines and interdisciplinary forms that strengthen one another. The college prepares students for careers as creators, performers, teachers, scholars, arts leaders and arts entrepreneurs. Understanding that an education in the arts is deepened by regular contact with the work of distinguished visiting artists, the Center for the Arts welcomes a variety of professional and world-renowned artists, musicians and actors to its stage. Students have the opportunity to perform, create and exhibit their work in a wide variety of public venues including a 2,000-seat Concert Hall. CVPA is home to the Departments of Music, Dance, Theater and Art and Visual Technology, as well as the Computer Game Design, Arts Management and Film and Video Studies programs.

About George Mason University

Named the #1 national university to watch in the 2009 rankings of U.S. News & World Report, George Mason University is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with global distinction in a range of academic fields. Located in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C., Mason provides students access to diverse cultural experiences and the most sought-after internships and employers in the country.  Mason offers strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering and information technology, organizational psychology, health care and visual and performing arts. With Mason professors conducting groundbreaking research in areas such as climate change, public policy and the biosciences, George Mason University is a leading example of the modern, public university.