Black Grace is an internationally touring modern dance company, formed in Auckland, New Zealand in 1995. Neil Ieremia, the group's founder and choreographer, draws on Māori and Pacific Islander indigenous dance, as well as modern dance and hip hop. Ieremia graduated from the Auckland Performing Arts School and joined the Douglas Wright Dance Company, the leading New Zealand contemporary-dance company at the time. However, the founding members, such as Sam Fuataga and Sean MacDonald, initially had more experience with sports such as rugby, basketball and running than with dance. Performances remain infused with athleticism and may occasionally include a bit of whimsy that is less common in those of other troupes. In Human Language, as the female dancers dance before them, the male dancers inflate toy balloons and look upward in mimicry of courting behavior of certain bird species.
Coming from a story-telling tradition called slap dancing that includes speaking, singing and slapping their bodies, Ieremia incorporates these elements in his choreography. Musical accompaniment includes Samoan indigenous music, Bach and hip hop.
As the foremost contemporary dance company in New Zealand, the company has toured extensively in that country, as well as the Netherlands, and North America. Their first appearance in the United States in August 2004 at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in New York was well received. By the end of a week of performances, they were performing before "vociferously enthusiastic, soldout houses." In 2005, Black Grace performed at the World Expo, Aichi and Tokyo. A documentary on the group, Black Grace: From Cannon's Creek to Jacob's Pillow, premiered 21 June 2007 on PBS.
In March 2008, Black Grace gave two forty-minute performances before more than 10,000 people at WOMADelaide in southern Australia. An all-male company, four guest female dancers performed with six males in its eleven city 2008 tour of North America. As of 2008, the members are variously of Māori, Pacific Island, New Zealand and Australian descent. MacDonald and Ieremia are the only founding members that remain in the troupe.
According to Ieremia, a New Zealander of Samoan ancestry, the term black in the company name refers to courage in the New Zealand Māori/Pacific Islander argot of the 1980s. Grace is a quality that he admires and to which he aspires.
- Temin, Christine (12 August 2004). "Black Grace troupe melds Maori culture and modern dance". The Boston Globe (Globe Newspaper Company). Retrieved 2008-04-05.
- LA ROCCO, CLAUDIA (20 September 2005). "Muscular Men With Balloons and a Bunny". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2008-04-05.
- O’Sullivan, Aileen; Toby Mills (21 June 2007). "Black Grace: From Cannon’s Creek to Jacob’s Pillow". Seannachie Productions and Tawera Productions. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
- DUNNING, JENNIFER (15 September 2005). "A Maori-Modern Fusion Takes a New York Stage". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2008-04-05.
- Smith, Craig (2008-03-27). "Black Grace notes". The Santa Fe New Mexican (The New Mexican, Inc.). Retrieved 2008-04-05.