Born in Tuakau, South Auckland in 1956, Douglas danced with Limbs Dance Company of New Zealand (1980-1983), the Paul Taylor Company of New York (1983-87) and DV8 Physical Theatre of London (1988) before forming the Douglas Wright Dance Company in Auckland in 1989.
Over his 25-year career Douglas Wright created more than 30 works including Knee Dance, Faun Variations, Hey Paris, How on Earth, Gloria, Elegy, Forever, Buried Venus, halo, Arc, Inland and Black Milk. When Forever had its European premiere in Switzerland, it was hailed as “an overwhelming contemporary contribution to the history of our life and times”.
In 2002, he choreographed Inland, which premiered at the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts and then toured New Zealand. Critic Jennifer Shennan wrote of the work: “Douglas Wright’s choreographic imagination has yielded a profound work of dark humour and breathtakingly brilliant dancing ... It’s a work of genius. What else do you want to know?”
The Douglas Wright Dance Company has toured throughout New Zealand, and to Australia and Europe. His work has been performed by other dance companies, including The Australia Dance Theatre, Sydney Dance Company and the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and supported by Creative New Zealand.
In 2000 Douglas was one of five inaugural Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureates and in 2003 was the subject of a feature-length documentary film, Haunting Douglas, directed by Leanne Pooley.
His acclaimed 2004 book Ghost Dance (Penguin) is part love story, part memoir, a deeply felt meditation on the art of performance, on absence and on life itself. As in the best of Douglas Wright's dance-theatre work, light and dark are interwoven in deft, mysterious combinations.
The 2006 season of Black Milk was accompanied by the publication of a new book – Terra Incognito (Penguin). In the same year Douglas presented wounded cloud and other works, his debut exhibition of painting and sculpture, at Stanbeth Gallery in Auckland. He retired from dance in September 2007 on the eve of the publication of his first book of poetry laughing mirror (Steele Roberts). Laughing mirror was subsequently chosen by the New Zealand Listener as one of the Best Books of 2007.
Tama Ma, a 15 minute work created for Taiaroa Royal and Taane Mete, premiered in 2008 and in 2011 The Auckland Festival commissioned rapt, Douglas Wright's 11th full-length work.
In 2014 and 2015 he developed material for a group work titled The Kiss Inside commissioned for the New Zealand Festival. In 2018 he choreographed M_nod, which premiered at the Grey Lynn Public Library hall, and presented in Q Theatre's Vault during Tempo Dance Festival 2018. This was his last work before he passed away from cancer on 14 November 2018, aged 62.