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Regret, Resilience and Relationships

Black Grace: Crying Men. Photo supplied.
Black Grace: Crying Men. Photo supplied.
Neil Ieremia on dance, masculinity and identity. Sam Grover asked the questions.


What kind of themes does the piece explore?

Crying Men explores masculinity through a Pacific lens. Through dance, Crying Men traces the journey of three generations of Pacific men, living in a new land and dealing with the impact of the loss of a matriarch who brought balance to the traditional expectations of masculinity with compassion, tolerance and strength.  The piece touches on domestic abuse, regret, relationships, cultural expectations – universal issues really.

The seed for this work was planted in 2015 whilst talking with my cousin Dave about his experiences working with Pacific Island and Maori men serving prison sentences in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions.

I was intrigued as he explained that inevitably at some point during the numerous meetings with prisoners, even the most hardened would cry; especially when talking about their upbringing and the moment their lives changed.  

Photo by Jinki Cambronero.

What kind of themes in Crying Men reflect issues facing artists?

I really enjoy the juxtaposition of speaking about toxic masculinity through dance - a medium not not viewed as a masculine pursuit in a New Zealand/Western culture.

I have been choreographing for over 30 years, but at times I still feel as though I am being placed in a box, whether it is to do with my culture, sex or sexuality – no doubt I’m not the only one.

Black Grace rehearse Crying Men. Photo by Raymond Sagapolutele.

What can other dancers learn from this piece?

The young dancers in this piece work extremely hard. With a bit of prodding they have learned to be self-disciplined, generous, and brave with their energy and creative input.  It is rare to find a dancer that works with humility and respect, and I feel lucky to have a group of young people that embody these qualities.

Black Grace rehearse Crying Men. Photo by Jinki Cambronero.

The piece deals with a loss of balance in a community. Can you talk about the resilience required - both in the play and in regular life - to deal with this loss of balance? How can artists build their resilience?

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you view it, I think the only way you can really build resilience is through experience. It takes experience to build resilience … good luck!

What is your advice for an aspiring dancer who would like to participate in something like this?

Work hard, keep good honest people around you, take risks and don’t believe the hype.

Crying Men premieres on 6 September at at ASB Waterfront Theatre with a strictly limited season

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

5 Sep 2018

The Big Idea Editor