People

For Art’s Sake

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express Magazine
Written by express Magazine

Michael Parmenter has been a significant player in the New Zealand dance scene for over three decades, creating some of the most challenging and exciting theatrical works ever presented.


Parmenter’s name is synonymous with bold and innovative contemporary dance in New Zealand.

His first major production was Between Two Fires (1983), a portrait of the torn artist created with celebrated gay composer, Jack Body. It was inspired by the works of writer, Franz Kafka, gay iconic dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky, and sculptor, Michelangelo. 1985 saw the creation of acclaimed Insolent River: a tango which was recreated last year to open the 2016 TEMPO Dance Festival.

Some of Parmenter’s most celebrated works include the highly theatrical The Race (1992), The Dark Forest (1993) Jerusalem (1999) for his own Commotion Company, as well as Seven Deadly Sins (1999) and Les Noces (2006) for the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Amongst the gay community, Parmenter is most remembered for his involvement in the early Hero Parties, playing the lead in Warwick Broadhead’s spectacular 1992 production, and creating his own Aphrodisia for HERO ‘93. 

Parmenter established a celebrated dance partnership with Taane Mete throughout the ‘90s, culminating in their shared role in Jerusalem. He also created Tristan & Isolde for himself and Mete in 2004, and created Hand to Hand for Mete and Taiaroa Royal in their show Tama Ma (2008).

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While being HIV+ for over 30 years, his solo show, A Long Undressing, won the AIDS Media Award in 1995. He was honoured as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1998 for both his choreographic work and his work in HIV awareness campaigns throughout the ‘90s.

Parmenter now teaches at UNITEC Dance and is rehearsal director for The New Zealand Dance Company (NZDC). He is currently working on NZDC’s new season Kiss The Sky, which will premiere in Auckland from 29 June at the Bruce Mason Centre until 1 July.

He is also in the development stages of The Orpheus Project, a new full-length work for NZDC.

Forever the over-achiever, Parmenter has recently turned his attention towards tango, creating Tango Insolente three years ago. This month it will begin regular queer tango classes in Auckland.

To find out more about how you can get involved in Tango Insolente, visit www.tangoinsolente.com, or for more on The New Zealand Dance Company, visit www.nzdc.org.nz.

Sky City Careers 1 August 2017

About the author

express Magazine

express Magazine

express is New Zealand's leading LGBT+ publication. Our goal is to inform and support our community by delving into relevant people, stories and events.