This collection shines a spotlight on all things dance-related. On pointe are ballet gems from the 1960s, 80s and the 90s, and ballroom dancing from Dancing with the Stars and Top Dance. Hip hop busts out some moves in The Palace, led by choreography sensation Parris Goebel. Also featured are contemporary dancers Douglas Wright (who turns up in multiple titles), Black Grace, Mary Jane O'Reilly, Taiaroa Royal and Michael Parmenter. And on the not so serious front, Suzanne Paul gets funky doing the 'Blue Monkey'.
Based on a UK reality format, Dancing with the Stars sees a line-up of celebrities paired with a professional dance partner, and put through ballroom dance routines. Judges and a public vote eliminate a pair each week. A five time winner of best programme in its category, the show played for five hit seasons on TVNZ, hosted by Jason Gunn and Candy Lane. In 2015 it was relaunched by Great Southern TV for TV3; Dominic Bowden and Sharyn Casey hosted. Dai Henwood and Casey presented the seventh series in 2018. Winners have included Norm Hewitt and and Suzanne Paul.
This Māori Television series follows South Auckland dance crew The Palace as they prepare for the World Hip Hop Dance Championships, and a shot at their fourth title. This first episode films open auditions where dancers, including two gay brothers from Tokoroa, hope to join 'The Royal Family'. Led by choreographer Parris Goebel — who talks here about her method and early days — the crew have won global fame, including bringing its 'Polyswagg' to the hit video for Justin Bieber’s Sorry. There are also scenes of Goebel choreographing 2015 Kiwi movie Born to Dance.
Arts magazine series For Arts Sake screened on TV ONE for two hours on Sunday mornings for 22 weeks in 1996. This segment on dancer and choreographer Michael Parmenter features an in-depth interview with Parmenter (by series presenter Alison Parr) and excerpts from his dance works. Parmenter talks about his creative influences, his tough upbringing in conservative Invercargill, the tensions caused by being gay and in the Brethren Church when he was younger, and the impact of his illnesses (HIV and cancer) on his life and dance career.
Aileen O'Sullivan's and Toby Mills' documentary follows Black Grace as they prepare for an appearance at premier dance festival Jacob's Pillow, in Massachusetts. The film also charts the personal journey of the dance group's founder, choreographer Neil Ieremia, from the community halls of Porirua to the global stage, powered by an unrelenting perfectionism that makes for some heated rehearsal footage. Shortly after the performances shown here, Ieremia fired the entire touring company, rebuilding his vision from scratch. Ken Sparks' editing won an NZ Screen Award.
Television talent show franchises like Got Talent and X Factor won huge global popularity in the first two decades of the 21st Century. In 2016 the format got an Aotearoa twist with this Māori Television series: each contestant’s routine had to include kapa haka. Hosted by Kimo Houltham, this first episode sees Norris Studios (jazz ballet), Mana Wairua (contemporary), and Sovreign (hip hop) compete to see who has "haka flair". Manu Wairua’s World War II-inspired act and Sovreign’s rākau (Māori weaponry) skills saw the judges send them to the quarter finals.
This National Film Unit doco illustrates the early days of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Performances from the company’s touring program include Bournonville’s Napoli, kiwi Arthur Turnbull’s Do-Wack-A-Do, a quirky 1930s flapper themed production (also with a NZ composer, Dorothea Franchi) and the tulle and poise of Fokine’s Les Sylphides. Prismatic Variations, choreographed by ballet company founder Poul Gnatt, and produced by another dance icon Russell Kerr, is the finale for this tribute to those who have made New Zealanders “ballet conscious.”
Celebrating the “transformative power of dance”, Dancing in the Dark centres on Peter Vosper, an inventor who has designed his own custom light suit as an outlet for his creativity. It also makes the perfect addition to No Lights No Lycra, an event where participants spend an hour dancing to upbeat music in the dark. While most dancers can’t be seen (as is the appeal of the event — dance like no one’s watching), Peter’s glowing suit takes centre stage and makes for quite the spectacle. The film is part of the Loading Docs series of shorts, made for exhibition online.
This 80s precursor to Dancing with the Stars took the competitive community spirit of Top Town to the dance floor, with dancers twirling and dipping in sequinned spandex for the ‘Top Dance City’ trophy. Hosted by radio personality Lindsay Yeo, this 1982 final follows the foxtrot and samba at Wellington’s Majestic Cabaret. Beside regional bragging rights, winners take home a Pye Vidmatic 10 inch TV. The Northern Ballet Company (the one from Auckland, not the company from Leeds) interrupt proceedings for a Venusian space travel interlude that won't soon be forgotten.
Arts magazine series For Arts Sake screened on TV ONE for two hours on Sunday mornings for 22 weeks in 1996. This segment on dancer/choreographer Mary Jane O'Reilly marks the launch of her new company Auckland Ballet. The founder of the celebrated Limbs Dance Company talks about still being involved in dance in her mid-40s, the formation of her new company, the similarities and differences between ballet and contemporary dance, and her move into making dance films. The item also features excerpts from some of O'Reilly's dance works.
In this film, late choreographer Douglas Wright's work Gloria is captured on camera by Alun Bollinger, in a rare directorial effort from the legendary Kiwi cinematographer. Antonio Vivaldi's Gloria RV589, a hymn praising the birth of Christ, plays behind a yellow and black flurry of limbs and gestures. The journey from gymnastic leaps to rest, marks the cycle of life. The work was shot soon after Wright returned from his dance OE and formed the Douglas Wright Dance Company. The screening attracted attention from morals groups worried about nudity on television.
In 1989 dancer Douglas Wright returned home to choreograph and form his own company. This half-hour TV documentary, marking the launch of his work Gloria, looks back on a blossoming career that began at 21 — when he took up ballet to overcome a heroin addiction. After becoming a star with Limbs, Wright joined prestigious troupes in London and New York. Now, as opening night looms, he is acutely aware of the danger of pushing his dancers too hard as he fights to get the best out of them on an ambitious, demanding piece. Douglas passed away in November 2018.
This live TV spectacular documents an 18 October 1981 Royal Variety performance in front of the touring Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh. Performers in St James Theatre included Ray Columbus (in That's Country mode), Sir Howard Morrison and John Rowles. Dance is represented by Limbs and the Royal New Zealand Ballet, while McPhail and Gadsby and Billy T James deliver pre-PC gags. There’s a show stopping all-singing all-dancing finale, and what seems like the entire roster of NZ showbiz of the time lines up to greet the Queen, including Lyn of Tawa.
The career of TV infomercial queen Suzanne Paul took an unlikely turn in 1994 when she reinvented herself as a dance music diva (although the steps in question seem to be more inspired by line dancing). Paul told Metro magazine she did it to demonstrate she was more than "the intense over the top woman who sold things on television". Audio samples of her TV sales pitches — "1000s of luminous spheres" — blend in surprisingly well with Pitch Black member Paddy Free’s music (Boh Runga contributes vocals). The video was shot at the Staircase Nightclub on K Road.
This Royal New Zealand Ballet performance of Stravinsky’s Petrouchka stays true to the original 1911 version by legendary ballet company Ballet Russes, in more than just spelling. As tormented puppet Petrouchka, Douglas Wright pays tribute to legendary performer Vaslav Nijinsky. Designer Raymond Boyce channels Alexandre Benois, while Russell Kerr's choreography evokes Mikhail Fokine. The sellout season was reviewed as "phenomenal" and "a visual feast… exploding with colour and shifting image". Future TV executive Andrew Shaw directed coverage of the ballet.
This episode from series five of Kete Aronui, a documentary series featuring Aotearoa's artists that screened on Māori Television, follows the careers of iconic contemporary dancers Taane Mete and Taiaroa Royal. For both, training at Te Whaea propelled them into their art, teaching them not only technique but also a way of life. Featuring footage of Royal dancing in Douglas Wright's Forever (1993), the excerpt also includes a dance class with Michael Parmenter, another dance great, and discussion of dance companies Limbs and Black Grace.
Fresh-up in the Deep End saw sportsmen turned TV larrikins Marc Ellis and Matthew Ridge facing challenges far outside their comfort zones. This episode has the pair taking on dancing, from ballroom and latin styles, through to cabaret, contemporary and Irish. En route they try some body percussion with Black Grace Dance Company, and do the can-can under the watchful eye of cabaret legend Debbie Dorday. Then they must put their new found skills to the test in full on competition. Ridge and Ellis' skills with a rugby ball in hand don't always translate onto the dancefloor.
Our Stars of Ballet, a short documentary from ballet teacher turned NFU director Kathleen O'Brien, tracks the careers of New Zealand ballet icons Rowena Jackson and Alexander Grant, who both achieved success as principal dancers for major ballet companies in England. The film follows their visit to Wellington with the Royal Ballet in 1959; Jackson picnics by the harbour with dancer husband Philip Chatfield, while Grant visits Mt Victoria. The film ends with Jackson performing her famed multiple fouttés en tournant, for which she held the world record in 1959.
Future film producer Fiona Copland (The Price of Milk) is the reporter for this September 1984 piece on the New Zealand School of Dance in Wellington. Flashdance (1983) is in the air and Lionel Ritchie hit 'Running with the Night' is the soundtrack, as the wannabes aim to impress the likes of Limbs director Mary Jane O'Reilly. The students include Taiaroa Royal and Fenella Bathfield. Bathfield would shortly find local fame as host of after school programmes 3:45 LIVE! and The Bugs Bunny Show. The report screened on long-running arts programme Kaleidoscope.
TVNZ’s 80s arts programme follows a Royal NZ Ballet visit to China in this documentary directed by Keith Hunter. The trip is billed as a cultural exchange but the term belies the stresses of missing equipment, a director who has lost his voice, language barriers, incorporating a local seven-year-old girl into their performance and, for some, the dishes at a banquet. On a rare day off, there’s a chance to marvel at the scale of the The Great Wall; and there are insights into the everyday lives of the Chinese people as the country begins to open itself up to the world.
Haunting Douglas is a documentary portrait of dancer and choreographer Douglas Wright. It weaves interviews with footage of past performances, and extracts from his autobiography; from drug addiction and illness, to determination and triumph on the New York stage with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Award-winning director Leanne Pooley captures Wright's resilience: "I need to make things to feel that I can cope with whatever reality is. For me, dancing, performing for people, is the ultimate mystery and the ultimate joy." Wright passed away in November 2018.
This documentary sees Dean Spanley director Toa Fraser and producer Matthew Metcalfe swap dialogue for dance. Based on The Royal NZ Ballet's acclaimed 2012 production of Giselle, the movie features American Ballet Theatre star Gillian Murphy as the dance-mad villager, wooed by a prince in disguise. Inspired by concert film The Last Waltz, a Leon Narbey-led camera team filmed the performance, with scenes of the lead dancers in Shanghai and New York counterpointing the onstage action. Following its Kiwi festival debut, Giselle screened at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival.
Tu (real-life hip hop champ Tia Maipi) has six weeks to show the talent that will win him a spot in an international dance group. As the high octane trailer for Born to Dance makes clear, that doesn’t leave much time to muck around. The first movie directed by actor Tammy Davis (Outrageous Fortune) features music by P-Money, and choreography by Manurewa’s own world champ hip hop sensation Parris Goebel (who helped choreograph J. Lo’s 2012 tour). The cast includes Stan Walker and American Kherington Payne (Fame). Playwright Hone Kouka is one of the writing team.
In March and April 2001 slippers met gumboots when The Royal New Zealand Ballet went on a five-week long heartland tour. The ballerinas performed in community theatres and halls in places like Twizel, Putaruru, Taihape, and Alexandra. This Gibson Group TV One documentary chronicles the challenges – injuries, fatigue, motel life, provincial performance diets (junk food, baking), dodgy stages and wiring, romance on the road – and receptive locals. The programme includes work from local choreographers to famous ballets, with music from classical to Head Like a Hole.
Point Your Toes, Cushla! captures a girl's eye view of the final minutes before she goes on stage in a ballet contest — where one wrong move could be a short cut to humiliation. In this case the danger is heightened thanks to a stage mother whose idea of encouragement is constant meddling (played in scene-stealing brilliance by Alison Wall). Low on dialogue but rich in detail, this film by Simon Marler was invited to a number of overseas festivals, where it won a jury diploma in St Petersburg. It also got general release in Kiwi cinemas.
Dancer and performer Mika (Neil Gudsell) introduces his urban Māori, Pacific dance troupe Torotoro in this episode from a series made for secondary school music students. He formed the group after seeing an opportunity for a big, young, funky Māori show during his own overseas performances. Torotoro fuses breakdance, kapa haka, hip hop and Pasifika influences, and its members have graduated from Gudsell’s Mika Haka youth programme. They talk about how the opportunity to travel and perform internationally has changed their lives.
This documentary reviews that 1983 Royal Tour downunder by Prince Charles and Princess Diana. The tour was notable for the presence of royal baby William; images of the son and heir playing with a Buzzy Bee on the lawn of Government House in Auckland were published around the world. The royals also visit the ballet, banquet, waka, hongi, plant kauri, and see Red Checkers and firemen’s displays. Prince Charles’s duties include announcing an extra holiday for school kids and he meets younger bro Edward on his gap year (tutoring at Wanganui Collegiate).
Created for television by author Maurice Gee, The Fire-Raiser pits a quartet of smalltown school kids against a balaclava-clad figure with fire on the brain. In this episode, the children sneak onto the property of the man they suspect of terrorising their town. The police arrive after Kitty is trapped inside a room that has tragic memories for the suspect’s mother, the memorably moody Mrs Marwick. This WWI-era gothic adventure went on to score four Listener TV awards, including best drama; and Gee’s accompanying novel was published both here and overseas.