2023 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate receiving the Toi Kō Iriiri Queer Laureate Award
Taiaroa Royal is one of New Zealand’s most outstanding and versatile dancers. He graduated from the New Zealand School of Dance in 1984. Since then, he has worked with the major dance companies in New Zealand, including the Royal New Zealand Ballet; Limbs Dance Company; Douglas Wright Dance Company; Human Garden; Origins; Commotion; Black Grace (of which he was a founding member) and Atamira Dance Company.
In 2007, along with dance colleague, Taane Mete, he started Okareka Dance Company; a collaborative company working with many different artists in various art forms. Their first collaborative work, ‘Tama Ma’, premiered in 2008 at the Tempo Dance Festival, Auckland, where it won 4 Tempo awards including ‘Spirit of the Festival’. It was also voted ‘Best Dance’ by Metro Magazine’s ‘Best In Auckland’, 2008. Since then Tama Ma has toured nationally and internationally to great acclaim. In August 2010, Tai was awarded the Te Tohu Toi Ke – Te Waka Toi Award for Making a Difference in Contemporary Dance. In September 2011, Tai was awarded the Koowhiti Lifetime Achievement Award, In Wellington, for his services to Māori contemporary dance.
Tai has successfully choreographed many high profile events across Australasia including the Brancott Estate World of Wearable Arts Awards in Wellington, Auckland’s Christmas in the Park and over the past 3 years has choreographed operas for NZ Opera. Tai is also part of the teaching faculty at the UNITEC Bachelor of Performing Screen Arts, and has taught at The New Zealand School of Dance as well as many private dance schools. While he continues to create and direct live theatre and performance productions (locally, nationally and internationally) Tai also holds the guardianship or kaitiakitanga for his family farm in Rotorua, where he currently lives.
“Soaring through some of the most impactful milestones of the Aotearoa contemporary dance whakapapa since 1984, Taiaroa has performed and collaborated as a principal dancer in seminal works that impacted our nation. His ability to scale the heights of physical and artistic discipline have made him dearly beloved by regional and international dance enthusiasts. His deft and skilful movement, his toned and articulately expressive body, and compelling and honest performances–spanned many facets of queer identity embodied like never before, moulding atua (deities) with the profane, cabaret and contemporary, renowned for a transformational interdimensional presentation of self on stage, film and in the landscape. He is truly in a class of his own, and continues to be an inspirational role model to a legion of contemporary dancers who have emerged in the wake of his powerful pathway.”