May 8, 2012


More New Zealanders dance than play rugby –  the emergence of a new Auckland based major arts company recognises the Nation’s passion for movement.

This week marks the media launch of The New Zealand Dance Company – Aotearoa’s freshest dance company with a fervent, long term vision to create a permanent, high calibre national contemporary dance company that from its Auckland base will represent New Zealand both nationally and internationally. 

Founded by two of New Zealand’s most respected arts professionals; Executive/Artistic director Shona McCullagh and General Manager Frances Turner, the vision for The New Zealand Dance Company is to be a hotbed of creative collaboration, a place to be artistically brave and exist to present compelling work that moves and inspires a dedicated and growing audience.

Over the last two years during the formation of this exciting new venture, McCullagh and Turner have set out courageously to develop their arts company with business thinking and to challenge the paradigm.  With the establishment of the New Zealand Dance Advancement Trust, an experienced Board and an expanding range of generous supporters McCullagh and Turner are excited by the possibilities the future holds.

The company has also been officially recognised by Creative New Zealand and will receive $500,000 of funding per annum over the next two years. Additionally, the development of dynamic and significant partnerships with Designworks and Performing Arts Venue THE EDGE, along with a 3 year sponsorship association with Westpac has created a solid foundation for the company to launch from. 

The creation of this company contributes to the fabric of New Zealand’s strengthening cultural identity and landscape as we build to provide increasing opportunities for some of our finest dance practitioners and brilliant collaborators to share their artistry with New Zealand audiences” says NZ Arts Laureate McCullagh.

New Zealand presently has several worthy, project-based dance companies such as Black Grace, Footnote, Atamira and Touch Compass, however since the demise of Limbs Dance Company in 1988 there has not been a full-time contemporary equivalent to the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

The New Zealand Dance Company ultimately aims to fill this void by creating full-time opportunities for dancers and choreographers, many of whom currently need to head overseas to forge their craft.  New Zealand doesn’t just produce world-renowned rugby players, but also world-class dancers who are sought after internationally and fill the ranks of many international dance companies. Our dancers are admired globally for their versatility, humour, physical virtuosity and strong connection to the ground. 

The New Zealand Dance Company will present its inaugural season entitled; “Language of Living” in August at the ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, details of which will be announced shortly.

There is a global explosion of interest in dance and New Zealand is no exception.  549,000 of us aged 16 and above dance annually that’s significantly more than registered netball and rugby players in this country. There are at least 90,000 youngsters learning dance through studios, plus dance is the fastest growing NCEA University Entrance subject within senior secondary schools.

Reference: 209,769 adults play netball (SPARC research), Netball NZ have 138,510 registered players at all levels (Netball NZ Annual Report 2008). NZ Rugby had 140,279 registered amateur and professional players in 2008.

Dance excites and engages our youth, and the potential for developing new, younger audiences is enormous.

The New Zealand Dance Company has also developed a Youth Engagement programme, nicknamed (YEP!). This offers talented youth – trained or street dancers – a unique opportunity to participate in workshops and performances where professional dancers can connect with the community. The YEP workshops are an important part of our crusade to communicate the power of dance and its ability to transform young lives.

The New Zealand Dance Company Foundation supporters include National Presenting Sponsor Westpac, Core Funder Creative New Zealand, Major Supporters Designworks and THE EDGE. Other supporters include, ASB Community Trust, Auckland Council, KPMG, Unitec, Barsket!,Travel Corporation NZ, 5 Digital, Soiree, Crescent Chambers, The Audience Connection, DANZ, Dance Pilates, Ara Wines, Langdon Hudson Butcher, The Human Agency, AUT. 
Official Supplier, John McDermott Photography.
As well as generous donations from individual supporters.  

The New Zealand Dance Company:

The dancers and founding company members;
Craig Bary / Ursula Robb / Sarah Foster Sproull / Justin Haiu / Tupua Tigafua / Hannah Tasker-Poland  / Lucy Lynch

Shona McCullagh – Executive/Artistic Director: 

A New Zealand Arts Laureate, Shona is a cross- platform artist and New Zealand’s most versatile choreographer, director, filmmaker, educator and installation artist. A Distinguished Graduate of the New Zealand School of Dance, Shona was a dancer with D’Arc Swan Theatre Company, Limbs,,Douglas Wright Dance Company and her own company The Human Garden. Shona’s choreography has been seen in NZ for the last 30 years, creating at least one new work or film every year.

A pioneer in dance theatre works involving actors and musicians, Shona is a serial collaborator having created work with and for theatre companies (ATC, Downstage, The Actor’s Company, Watershed Theatre, Nightsong Productions), films (King Kong, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe), television (Xena, Hercules, Legend of the Seeker) and numerous writers, actors, composers and designers within her own work. Shona’s award winning films are internationally celebrated and she was also the Head Choreographer of the 2011 Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony.

Frances Turner – General Manager

Frances is originally from Washington, DC, USA and has been a permanent resident of NZ since 1993.  She holds a Bachelor of Science Diploma in Accounting and Management Information Systems from The Pennsylvania State University, USA. She has over 20 years of experience in the IT industry, both as a consultant and in corporate management roles.  She has worked for companies such as Ernst & Young USA, Ernst & Young NZ, Carter Holt Harvey, Nestlé NZ and Vector.  Over her career, she earned experience in methodology, marketing, sales, presentation and teaching, strategic planning, facilitation and project management.  She has managed projects ranging in financial scope from $30K to $5M.

Frances’ most significant IT achievement and legacy has to be the Quality Assurance methodology and set of tools, templates and databases that she developed at Carter Holt Harvey (CHH) to successfully roll out a $34M SAP implementation across all of its 6 business groups and approximately 20 business units; the CHH implementation was regarded as a benchmark for excellence around the world.  

Frances is passionate about dance and has performed both on stage and in film, in the USA and NZ.

In 2000, Frances left the corporate IT industry and since then has applied her management and business skills to roles in support of the NZ dance industry most notably as General Manager of the Tempo Dance Festival in 2007/08.  Since late 2009, as a co-founder and initiator, Frances has been working with Shona McCullagh on the New Zealand Dance Company.   

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