Passionate and provocative, bold and beautiful, stirring and sensual, [The Dark Forest] contains some of the most complex and thrilling partnering you're ever likely to see. NZ Listener "Michael is one of those appalling human beings who does everything enviably and unbelievably well: dancing, choreography, writing, speaking," Alumni Orator, Professor Brian Boyd

Michael Parmenter began dancing in Dunedin in 1977.  During the 1980's he developed his dance skills both in New Zealand and overseas. He studied and danced with Erick Hawkins in New York and Min Tanaka in Japan.   He has created a wide range of dance-works, from innovative solo and duo shows to full-length pieces for the opera-house stage. He has choreographed many of these for his own Commotion Company, in addition to numerous works for the Royal New Zealand Ballet and Footnote Dance. Michael is also recognised as a teacher of distinction and an engaging and challenging writer and speaker.

Michael's choreographing began whilst he was a student at the National School of Ballet.  He presented the first evening of his own choreography with On The Move in 1982.  His first solo show Between Two Fires, based on the sonnets of Michelangelo and the diaries of Franz Kafka and Vaslav Nijinsky, followed a year later. This show instigated Michael's collaborations with local composers. Altogether 5 major works emerged from his first decade of dance.

After his return from studies in New York in the late 80's Michael created, with Lyne Pringle, the innovative duo Insolent River and a series of works for his Commotion Company that included the signature works GO, The Race and The Dark Forest. The Dark Forest was subsequently made into an award-winning film.

During a break from the demands of directing Commotion Company, Michael created his award-winning solo A Long Undressing. In this highly autobiographical text-based work Michael recounted the challenges of growing up gay in a conservative Christian tradition, his encounters with various international teachers, and his later diagnosis of HIV and battles with cancer. Michael was one of the first high-profile New Zealanders to acknowledge his HIV status.  During recent years Michael has been recognised as a highly engaging writer, speaker and story-teller and a spokesman in the area of the health challenges and the creative life.

In 1999 Michael returned to the choreographic arena with a pair of highly theatrical works. Jerusalem, a large scale dance/opera, which drew on the image of the ‘city of peace' from the Bible, William Blake and New Zealand poet James K. Baxter, premiered in Dunedin in 1999, and toured the country to critical acclaim. Following this success, Michael choreographed Seven Deadly Sins for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, a work to the music of Kurt Weil and Heinrich Schütz which confirmed his mastery of the Opera House stage. Empty Chairs, another work for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, became the source for Nightingale Fever a sequel to his solo work A Long Undressing.

In 2005 Michael moved to Auckland to direct COMMOTION: A Michael Parmenter retrospective, for the Auckland Festival, a production which toured throughout the country with great success. At the same time he took up a teaching role in the Dance Programme of the Unitec School of Performing Arts. This position recognised the significant role Michael has played in the training of a generation of young New Zealand dancers. As a regular teacher at Unitec and frequent guest teacher at the New Zealand School of Dance in Wellington and Indepen-dance in Auckland, Michael has contributed to the development of a distinctively New Zealand style of contemporary dance.

In recent years Michael has been developing one of the distinctive features of his choreography - intricate partner dancing - into two partner-improvisation forms, Piloting and TACTICS, which are continuing to expand the performative skills of New Zealand contemporary dancers.

Concurrent with Michael's move to Auckland was a return to academic study and a re-examination of his own choreographic practice. Michael completed his Masters degree in 2008 and followed this with a several new choreographies including the full-length TENT for a revived Commotion Company. In 2009 he began doctoral research in a co-tutelle between the dance department of Auckland University and l'Université de Paris, France. His research project ‘Gestures of desire' will stage an encounter between practices of dance and the phenomenology of life.  He re-joined the performance arena in 2012 as a tango dancer.

Michael has received numerous awards and scholarships including M.N.Z.M. (Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit), Winston Churchill Fellowship and the Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellowship. Early in 2010 he was named a Distinguished Alumni of Auckland University and appointed to the position of Adjunct Professor of UNITEC Department of Performing Arts.  In the same year he received an Arts Foundation Laureate Award.

Words

2010
Michael Parmenter reflects on UNITECH's 21-year journey, celebrating achievements and the students and teachers who were part of that legacy, and who continue to inspire a new generation of dancers.

Video

2010
Michael Parmenter (choreographer) features on the TVNZ 7 broadcast of The Artists, produced in partnership with the Arts Foundation.
1954
Born Dunedin
1977 
         Began dancing in Dunedin
1982
          Presented first evening of his own choreography - On The Move
1983
          Between Two Fires - solo show
1983-88 
    Studies in New York and Japan
1988
          GO- an evolution in dance;Insolent River: A romance (with Lyne Pringle)
1990 
         Commotion Company inaugurated with Gravity and Grace, a programme of three new works presented at the N.Z. International Arts Festival
1990-2008
Director of Commotion Company
1991  
        Wilderness
1992 
         The Race
1993 
         The Dark Forest - a film of this work won numerous international awards.
1995 
         A Long Undressing  toured the country and won the AIDS Media Awards.
1998
         Made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (M.N.Z.M.)
1999 
         Jerusalem toured New Zealand;Seven Deadly Sins - Royal New Zealand Ballet
2001 
         Nightingale Fever solo show
2002
          Weather (with Sarah Jayne-Howard)
2004 
         Tristan & Isolde  (with Taane Mete) toured New Zealand
2006
          Les Noces  Royal New Zealand Ballet
2008 
         Completed Masters degree in dance/philosophy, University of Auckland
2010
          Distinguished Alumni Award, University of Auckland;Appointed Adjunct-Professor, Unitec Department of Performing Arts;Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate Award