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Sean MacDonald’s Biography

Last Updated:
14/09/2023, 11:56 am
Contemporary Dance/ Choreography
Arts Foundation Laureate 2023
Te Arawa, Kai Tahu, Ngāti Raukawa
“When I was a teenager I watched from the audience in awe as these other worldly beings dance whispered their secrets of life to me. These same beings soon became my teachers and mentors and then eventually my employers, colleagues and friends.” – Sean MacDonald

2023 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate receiving the Burr/Tatham Trust Award

Renowned contemporary dancer and performer Sean MacDonald is one of Aotearoa’s most celebrated and distinguished dance artists. He has worked with New Zealand’s leading choreographers and dance companies, performing extensively throughout Aotearoa and across continents for over 30 years. Highlights of Sean’s longstanding career include performances with Douglas Wright, Michael Parmenter, Shona McCullagh, Moss Paterson, and with Atamira Dance Company, The New Zealand Dance Company, and Black Grace, of whom Sean was a founding member.

His collaboration with Black Grace Dance Company spanned over two decades, performing both nationally and internationally. Highlights include many tours of North America with seasons in New York City, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, tours through The Netherlands and Germany and performances in South Korea, Mexico, Japan and Australia. Since 2006 Sean has worked with Atamira Dance Company, firstly in Maaka Pepene’s Memoirs of Active Service and from 2015 in Moss Patterson’s Moko (including a tour to Beijing and South Korea), Kelly Nash’s works and Atamira and Tomo by Gaby Thomas. From 2020 to the present he has been involved in the creation and performance of the company’s seminal work Te Wheke and has just returned from a tour presenting the work to American audiences. The last few years have also seen him appear with Borderline Arts Ensemble in Strasbourg 1518, Malia Johnston’s Movement of the Human(M.O.T.H), Michael Parmenter’s OrphEus with New Zealand Dance Company and Tupua Tigafua’s work Shel We in Sweden/Aotearoa. 2022 saw him appear with Perth’s Co3 Company and Raewyn Hill performing in the remount of Douglas Wright’s Gloria. His most recent performances were in Waiwhakaata, Reflections in the Water by Eddie Elliott presented as part of Wellington’s Kia Mau Festival.

Choregraphically Sean made some early short works for Black Grace Dance Company and in 2018 made Kaleidoscope for the New Zealand Dance Company. In 2021 for Atamira Dance Company Sean choreographed his work Nga Wai drawn from his Ngāti Kahungunu/Rangitāne whakapapa.

Panel Statement:

"Sean is a performer with a stage presence and capacity to impart emotional impact that has to be seen, felt and experienced in person to truly understand the enormous power of his gift. Sean is mesmerising, a performer of breath-taking courageousness, sublime beauty and raw emotive power. Audiences, fellow artists and senior dance makers have long been aware of Sean’s extraordinary artistry, and his mana is recognized by all who are privileged to see the intensity and eloquence of this artist in flight. This Arts Laureate Award is a recognition of Sean’s dancing life, the dedication to his craft, and his embodiment of the ephemeral spirit of dance.”