Black Grace

New Zealand dance company fuses contemporary with traditional Pacfic dance

Forty-year-old Sean MacDonald has been dancing with Black Grace on and off since 1995.

New Zealand’s leading contemporary dance company, Black Grace is making its Victoria debut this weekend at the Royal Theatre, presented by Dance Victoria.

Fusing traditional Pacific and contemporary dance in a unique way, Black Grace delivers a taste of Pacific culture, presented in a universally appealing way.

“We’re presenting Pacific ideas, but we try to make them have universal resonances,” says dancer Sean MacDonald, 40, who’s been with the company off and on since its inception in 1995.

Audiences will be amazed by the powerhouse company’s physicality and athleticism.

“It’s very physical,” says MacDonald. “It’s very percussive, with lots of speed . . . we’re athletes really. We do a half-marathon with every show.”

The program is a mixed repertoire, featuring two shorter length works beginning with Pati Pati, a mixture of excerpts from older repertoire that utlizes body percussion influenced by Samoan Sasa (seated dance) and Fa’ataupati (slap dance).

“Pati Pati is all about rhythm,” says MacDonald. “It’s loosely based on children’s hand games.”

Amata — Act 3 is more of a lyrical nature. The piece premiered in 2007 featuring a cast of 12 women exploring the theme of change.

“It loosely means a new beginning,” says MacDonald. “It’s also based around weaving, mats and patterning.”

Closing the evening is the full-length work Vaka, meaning “canoe or raft.” The hour-long work features electrifying duets and complex ensemble passages at break-neck speeds.

“New Zealand is very sportive, it’s very athletic,” says MacDonald.  “New Zealand dance stands out a bit that way as opposed to styles from other countries.”

“It’s very exciting, accessible work, that is great for  people who haven’t seen lots of contemporary dance, which can be inaccessible for a lot of people.”

Black Grace performs Fri., March 15 and Sat., March 16 at 7:30pm at the Royal Theatre.

Tickets start at $29 and are available at rmts.bc.ca, 250-386-6121 or in person at the Royal McPherson box offices. M

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