Dis­tin­guished dancer

Auckland City Harbour News - - Front Page - By Jo­ce­lyn Rein

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.

Photo: FIONA GOODALL

Life of dance: Michael Par­menter is re­ceiv­ing a dis­tin­guished alumni award from Auck­land Uni­ver­sity for his out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to his pro­fes­sion.

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