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TBI Q&A: Stephen Bradshaw

Choreographer Stephen Bradshaw talks about reworking Mauri for the Atamira Maori contemp


Choreographer Stephen Bradshaw talks about reworking Mauri for the Atamira Maori contemporary dance company short works tour Whetu, during Matariki this June. “The dancers are superb and I feel great that Maori now have a recognised company with a reasonable level of funds to secure our art form.”

Whetu (Star) promotes the future of the company with it’s rising stars and emerging choreographers while bringing some of the collectives previous works to the forefront.

was created in 2003 with Atamira and commissioned by Toi Maori Aotearoa. It is a modern interpretation of traditional Maori themes dealing with life force.  Mixing elements of dance with kapa haka, the work has gone on to be part of the curriculum in NZ dance schools.

TBI Community Questions

What do you think Aotearoa could do to get more Maori into the arts, especially dance?
- Lyn Jarman

Funding and programming directly to schools utilizing the Nga Toi & Arts curriculum in dance, this could manifest in a number of ways; through resource people regionally based, wananga training for teachers, touring performing/teaching company, developing teaching resources.  Outside of the system some support to cover the costs of going to classes at the local dance school and having Maori teachers available when Maori youth are identified and at least could go onto a database to get promotion about specific hui and dance events that will retain them to go into further training and possibility of a professional career as a Maori contemporary dancer. There are enough Maori dancers around with careers that can be great models for a pathway, people like Taiaroa Royal who has danced for over 25 years now with no sign of slowing down either!

Any chance of a Northland tour? - Arts Promotion Trust (Northland)

Sorry not my department for Atamira but there is an audience for this kaupapa in Te Tai Tokerau.

What inspired you to work in the Dance field? - Jenny Baker

I was desperate to escape working at Northland Oil Refinery (1981) in Whangarei where I was born. Im a fairly quiet, non-extroverted person but onstage I am very much the opposite of my normal self. The Maori language of my mother that I did not have was learnt through my dance journey. Dancing is my way to transform myself and challenge what I seek to change, this is the inspiration.

If you were to be able to have an overseas guest for a production, ANYONE in the world!! Who would you choose? - Francesca

My good friend

When you are invited to rework a piece, how constrained are you by the original choreography? - Lyn Dallison

With the reworking of Mauri for this season the dance has changed in length from 25 to 12 minutes, so the constraints are different in that I had the liberty to use the parts I liked and edit out what I wanted to. I think a dance is only real when it can be done anywhere, anytime and in a variety of ways, when a work becomes so reliant on conventions and needs just to be able to perform it, then it becomes just one big constraint.


Iwi/Hapu: Ngati Maru ki Hauraki

During what hours of the day do you feel most inspired?

Late at night.

How would a good friend describe your aesthetic or style?

Contemporary action with traditional foundations.

What aspect of your creative practice gives you the biggest thrill?

Seeing the journey from studio to stage.

How does your environment affect your work?

100% effect without a planet we cannot dance…

Do you like to look at the big picture or focus on the details?

Global learner with a keen eye for details.

What's your number one business tip for surviving (and thriving) in the creative industries?

Patience & perseverance to your goal.

Which of your projects to date has given you the most satisfaction?

1998 Dance Oceania 2000, New Caledonia with other indigenous choreographers, African Germaine Acogny & Aboriginal Bernadette Walong & myself workshopping with 20 traditional dancers from Fiji, Papua, Samoa, Kanaky, Wallis and  Rarotonga for 2 weeks – heaven!

Who or what has inspired you recently?

Dolina Wehipeihana for her ability to dance amazingly, produce shows and have babies!

What does Matariki mean to you?

Everything, Matariki can relate to all aspects of Maori culture in some way or another. I have practiced the tikanga of Matariki for many years with whanau and rangatira like Pita Turei and Ngarimu Blair who have enabled an authentic kaupapa around Matariki. I was part of the beginning of the Matariki festival in Tamaki Makaurau and is great to see how people have responded to something that was outlawed under the Tohunga Suppression Act 1910 (repealed 1963) and we can once again commemorate our tupuna and lands in safety.

Tell us about your work for Whetu.

Mauri was created in 2003 with Atamira and commissioned by Toi Maori Aotearoa and is wonderful to have the unique opportunity to rework this piece. I have made the work 12 minutes long from an original 25 minutes and this has given a wonderful flow and continuum to the overall structure. The dancers are superb and I feel great that Maori now have a recognised company with a reasonable level of funds to secure our artform. Mauri is the life force and energy that resides in people, animals, forests and waterways.

If you could go back and choose a completely different career path to the one you've chosen, what would it be?

Environmental or healing people

What place is always with you, wherever you go?

Hauraki, Matai Whetu Marae

What's the best way to listen to music, and why?

Driving in my car.

You are given a piece of string, a stick and some fabric. What do you make?

Manu Aute -  Kite String made from raupo strands, stick from toitoi and fabric is beaten flax.

What's the best stress relief advice you've ever been given?

Karakia is awesome for focus, shifting feelings and clearing whats in your way.

What's great about today?

Composer for Mauri, DLT Daryl Thompson, giving me feedback after seeing rehearsal and loving the work more than the original version.

What’s your big idea for 2010 and 2011?

Having the courage to take the work I do to another level.

  • Atamira Dance Company presents Whetu

Hamilton – Telecom Playhouse – June 16th and 17th.  Ph:  07 8585100

Rotorua – Arts Village – June 19th and 20th Ph: 07 348 9008

Wellington – Te Papa (Kowhiti Festival) – June 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th
Ph:   04 384 2294

Auckland – Hawkins Theatre (Papakura) – June 29th.  Ph:  09 2977712

For more information and ticketing, visit

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

3 Jun 2010

The Big Idea Editor