WHEN Michael Parmenter took his first dance class at the ripe old age of 22, he couldn’t have foreseen the career that would unfold.
Now, he is one of the country’s most prolific dancers and choreographers, and will be recognised today with one of Auckland University’s distinguished alumni awards.
Mr Parmenter has just returned from Paris where he has spent five months working on his doctorate as a joint project between the Sorbonne and Auckland University.
The late bloomer says growing up in Invercargill in the 1960s, dancing was never really an option.
“There weren’t many mothers sending their boys to dance class,” he says.
“Studying philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris wasn’t high on the list.”
His return to academic study comes after more than 30 years of performance and choreography in international dance companies.
At home he has choreographed works for the Footnote Dance Company and the Royal New Zealand Ballet, collaborating with the country’s best composers.
Now, he says, he is taking the time to look more philosophically at things.
His 200,000 word thesis, Gestures of Aliveness, looks at dance from a different perspective.
“I’ve always had this feeling that dance is very much about aliveness and our animal being,” he says.
As part of the project he is working with French philosopher Renaud Barbaras, examining his ideas about the living and non-living.
Mr Parmenter says taking an academic approach to dance is a natural conclusion to what he’s been doing his whole life.
“I’ve always been a reader and a thinker.
“Questioning has always been part of my choreographic practice.”
But he says he’ll never stop practising his craft in one way or another, whether in the studio or dancing with the waves in a kayak near his home in Pt Chevalier.
He still dances every day while teaching at Unitec’s performing arts school and spends the rest of his time working on his thesis.
“I have a really great combination of being in the studio and at home on my computer.
“I feel a little bit disconnected to my thoughts if I haven’t put some of my ideas into practise.”
And he says navigating the streets of Paris on a push-bike was a lesson in choreography itself.
“That was probably my most satisfying dance experience in Paris.”
Tonight Mr Parmenter will receive his alumni award at a gala dinner and tomorrow will give an address at the university’s distinguished alumni speaker day. The awards are for graduates who have made outstanding contributions to their professions, their communities and the nation.
Mr Parmenter says to receive the award is a milestone for dance within the university.
“The special significance is just to see dance recognised in an academic environment.”
He will be speaking at noon at the Owen G Glenn Building, 12 Grafton Rd.
Everyone is welcome at the free lectures. For more information visit www. alumni.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/ home/alumni/events.
Life of dance: Michael Parmenter is receiving a distinguished alumni award from Auckland University for his outstanding contribution to his profession.