Neil Ieremia

Neil Ieremia ONZM is a choreographer and dancer in New Zealand. He is the founder and artistic director of Black Grace, a modern dance company formed in 1995. Black Grace has toured extensively in New Zealand and internationally including Australia, USA and The Netherlands. Ieremia has also 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.[1] Born in New Zealand, Ieremia is of Samoan heritage.

Awards and honours

In 2005, Ieremia received the prestigious Laureate Award from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand for outstanding creative achievement.

In 2015 he was awarded the Senior Pacific Artist Award at the Creative New Zealand Arts Pasifka Awards.[2]

In the 2016 Queen's Birthday Honours, Ieremia was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to dance.[3]


Born in Cannons Creek, Porirua, Wellington, Ieremia graduated from the Auckland Performing Arts School, before joining the acclaimed Douglas Wright Dance Company, performing in the major works Gloria, A Far Cry, Forever, How on Earth and Buried Venus. He subsequently worked with other leading choreographers in New Zealand. After forming Black Grace in 1995, he choreographed all of the company's major full-length works and created the concepts behind New Works and UrbanYOUTHMovement. Black Grace was made up predominantly of male Pacific Island and Māori dancers.[4] Black Grace has toured extensively throughout the main centres and regional New Zealand, including sold out performances at the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts. They have performed right across Australia including the Festival of Dreaming, Sydney and UWA Perth International Arts Festival. In 2003, Black Grace toured The Netherlands, performing at the Holland Dance Festival.[5] In the same year, Ieremia received a nomination for the prestigious international Rolex Mentor Programme.[6] In 2004, Black Grace debuted in the USA, at the world-renowned dance festival at Jacob's Pillow.

"He has spread his artistic roots in several rich pasts and grown up and out into a sunlight of his own making." The New York Times, 2004[4]

In 2005, Black Grace's two Auckland seasons, New Works 2005 and 10 – A Decade of Works by Neil Ieremia sold out. The company performed Ieremia's works at the World Expo, Aichi and Tokyo, Japan; returned to Jacob's Pillow to perform on the main stage; a four-week season in New York's New Victory Theater; a week at the prestigious Cervantino Festival, Mexico and a tour of Hawai'i. In 2007, The Grass Roots Tour took the company to regional centres in the North Island. In 2008, the company performed at WOMAD as well as Ieremia presenting a short works programme in North America and Canada.[7]

In 2009, a major new work Gathering Clouds choreographed by Ieremia, premiered at the Auckland Festival.[8] Gathering Clouds was a response to controversial claims made in 2008 by Massey University lecturer Dr Greg Clydesdale.[9] The Dominion Post newspaper falsely reported that Dr Clydesdale said Pacific Island immigrants are a "drain on the economy".

Samoan heritage

Born in New Zealand and of Samoan heritage, Ieremia's work embodies three important Samoan principles: Fa'amaoni (integrity, honesty and pride), Fa'amalosi/Loto Tele (perseverance and determination) and Fa'aaloalo (humility and respect).[10] Ieremia's father, a Samoan, is the cultural adviser for Black Grace.


A documentary Black Grace: From Cannons Creek to Jacob's Pillow (2005) was made by director Aileen Sullivan and Māori actor and director Toby Mills.[11] The documentary was broadcast on TVNZ and has also been broadcast by PBS, USA.


  1. "::Holding Page". Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  2. "Arts Pasifika Awards". Creative New Zealand. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  3. "Queen's 90th birthday honours list 2016". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 6 June 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  4. "Black Grace: From Cannon's Creek to Jacob's Pillow . Credits – PBS". Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  5. "Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative". Archived from the original on 11 May 2012. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  6. "Black Grace". Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  7. "Black Grace documentary to air on PBS". Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  8. TVNZ. "Programme Sales". Retrieved 5 June 2016.
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