18 Feb 2019
Kua hinga te tōtara haemata o te ao kanikani. Moe mai rā.
Creative New Zealand is saddened to hear of the passing of one of New Zealand’s most treasured choreographers and dancers, Douglas Wright.
Known for his raw and physical works that explore challenging themes, Douglas helped shape contemporary dance in New Zealand and paved the way for many dancers, in a career spanning nearly four decades.
Douglas’s extraordinary gifts as both a dancer and choreographer were evident from the time he first entered formal training at the age of 20. His previous training had been as a gymnast and while he worked tirelessly to perfect his dance technique he never lost his unique combination of power and flexibility. These attributes, when combined with his magnetic presence as a performer, made for unforgettable stage moments for those who were lucky enough to see him dance live.
Douglas joined Aotearoa’s seminal professional contemporary dance company, Limbs Dance Company, in 1980, before launching his career overseas with the Paul Taylor Company in New York and the DV8 Physical Theatre in London.
He returned to New Zealand in the late 1980s to create his first full-length work on LIMBS Now is the Hour and subsequently formed the Douglas Wright Dance Company. He went on to create more than 30 works during his career, which he toured throughout New Zealand, Australia and Europe.
His longer works included Gloria, Forever, How On Earth, Now is the Hour, Buried Venus, Inland, Black Milk, and The Kiss Inside. His work, M_Nod was performed as last month, when it featured during the closing weekend of the Tempo Dance Festival at Auckland's Q Theatre.
In addition to his work as a dancer and choreographer, Douglas wrote two semi-autobiographical books, Ghost Dance and Terra Incognito; as well as a volume of poems, Laughing Mirror.
Douglas was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to dance in 1998 and was one of five inaugural Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureates in 2000.
Despite battling ill health for many years he continued to work until his retirement two years ago.
Douglas will be missed by many in the dance community, but he leaves an extraordinary legacy spanning the first short works he created for the LIMBS cushion concerts in the early 80s through to his remarkable commissions by the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
Our thoughts go out to Douglas’ loved ones.