Fierce and fabulous: the NZ Dance Company comes to Te Papa

Fierce and fabulous: the NZ Dance Company comes to Te Papa

This week Te Papa is thrilled to be hosting the New Zealand Dance Company who are bringing their acclaimed full-length dance-piece Rotunda to Soundings Theatre.

Photograph by JohnMcDermott. Dancers TupuaTigafua and HannahTasker-Poland_Dncrs
Dancers TupuaTigafua and Hannah Tasker-Poland of the NZ Dance Company perform Rotunda. Photograph by John McDermott.

Described as ‘another fierce and fabulous strike for professional and profound contemporary dance in New Zealand’ (Bernadette Rae, The NZ Herald), Rotunda has been created by created by Shona McCullagh (Artistic Director) and Don McGlashan (Musical Director).  Drawing inspiration from the many band rotundas that populate New Zealand cities and towns, and the community spirit they represent, Shona and Don have combined the uplifting sound of a live brass band with the raw power of contemporary dance to create a ‘living memorial that celebrates the ANZAC spirit and the themes of courage, loss, kinship and ultimately, a desire for peace’.

Band Rotunda, Lyttelton, 1912, Lyttelton, by Muir & Moodie. Te Papa (O.000859)

Of the source of her inspiration,  Shona McCullagh comments:

‘There is something in the voice of the brass band, which carries the emotional weight of a community’s joys and sorrows. Hope, aspiration, and loss are things that bind us together as a nation, but which we often find so difficult to express.  The social landscape within the Rotunda, as an increasingly lonely ornamental focal point, has both flourished and declined. Our raw, new movement revitalises this space and makes the Rotunda alive again’.

In Rotunda eight dancers move to traditional hymns and new brass music written by New Zealand composers Gareth Farr, John Ritchie, John Psathas and Don McGlashan. Excitingly, the music is played live by the New Zealand Army Band, which itself has an international reputation as one of the finest marching bands in the world.

The latest reviewer from the show in Tauranga, stated:

‘The show immediately cemented the purpose at its heart. The Anzac spirit came to life when the New Zealand Army Band joined the stage, performing and musically narrating the dancers with clean-cut percussion. Timing here was everything and there was no doubt that a high level of fitness from the dancers was needed to execute movements at their best for one-and-a-half hours. Gentle humour made it easy to lose yourself in the enjoyment of the show; but goosebumps and the welling of tears reminded me what was being portrayed.’ 

Photograph by John McDermott of dancers Gareth Okan and HannahTasker-Poland.
Gareth Okan and Hannah Tasker-Poland of the NZ Dance Company perform Rotunda. Photograph by John McDermott.

The New Zealand Dance Company are performing at Te Papa from Thursday 19 March to Sunday 22 March. Shona McCullagh will be available for a Q&A session after the Sunday matinee.

General Performance times:

  • Thu 19 Mar – Sat 21 Mar, 7.30pm–9pm
  • Sun 22 Mar, 3pm–4.30pm. This performance will be followed by a Q&A session with Artistic Director Shona McCullagh.
  • Tue 24 Mar 10am–11.30am

School performances

  • Fri 20 Mar 1pm–2.30pm


  1. What a pity that a so-called ‘national’ museum of NZ is almost solely concentrated on Wellington. With a significant theatre/dance performance like this, Te Papa ought to be hosting it not just in the capital, but taking the show all over NZ – at least to main centers.

    1. Author

      Hi Wendy – the New Zealand Dance Company is touring throughout Australasia with Rotunda – Wellington is just one stop on its tour. As mentioned, the company have just performed in Tauranga, and after Wellington they will be performing in Christchurch at the Airforce Museum of New Zealand, Dunedin at the Regent Theatre, Auckland at the Aotea Centre and are then onto Adelaide, Melbourne, Parramatta and Geelong. You can find their dates here:

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