Porirua producer Ieremia recognised
Porirua’s only Queen’s Birthday Honour this year went to Neil Ieremia, the founder of Black Grace dance group.
Ieremia is both shocked and proud to be named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
"I found out in the form of an email, and I thought that someone was pulling my leg. I had to read it again to make sure,’’ he said.
Born in Cannons Creek, Ieremia was 19 when he left a banking job to pursue a dance career.
In 1995, he set up Black Grace with ten male dancers of Pacific, Maori and New Zealand heritage, a company that has toured powerful, ground-breaking works here and around the globe to critical acclaim.
For its 20th anniversary, Black Grace toured New Zealand from Kaitaia to Oamaru with ‘‘20 for 20’’, performing in 20 venues for $20 tickets at the door, which Ieremia said was a hark back to the company’s early days.
‘‘It’s been a long journey getting to 20 years. It’s been very colourful, and full of highs and lows and everything in between.’’
Last year he was one of 50 Porirua people or couples to receive a medal as part of the city’s 50th birthday. The citation said his creation of Black Grace brought ‘‘the very best of innovative and contemporary Pacific dance to local and inter- national audiences’’.
The choreographer was also acknowledged last year with a Creative New Zealand Senior Pacific Artist Award.
While he performed part of a dance last year in the United States, he has hung up his dancing shoes. ‘‘I’m too old and sore, and I can’t recover fast enough.’’
In his works Ieremia draws from his Samoan and New Zealand roots to create performances, which are extremely physical, and rich in the storytelling traditions of the South Pacific.
During his dance career, Ieremia has choreographed work for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, NZ Opera, New Zealand Wearable Arts and the Holland Dance Festival.
His recent work includes Passchendaele for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, part of the Salute season commemorating World War I.
Over the years, he has worked with about 100 dancers.
Neil Ieremia was named in the Queen’s Birthday honours list and last year received a Porirua 50th medal.