IN PROGRESS: A timeline of New Zealand tertiary dance development

Please note – further contributions are welcome!

A Timeline of NZ Tertiary Dance Developments  (for reference purposes)
major milestones identified here have been confirmed from various sources as far as possible.


Philip Smithells appointed to Phys Ed school at Otago



Fulbright Scholar Margaret Erlanger (Univ of Illinois, USA) Lecturer
in Modern Dance at Otago University ; sets up Orchesis
Student Performing Group with regular performances; Robyn Newick first student to travel from University of Otago to US for Post Graduate
study in dance at the University of Utah. 

Dance in the curriculum at the School of Physical Education is taught by Annette Golding, dance lectureruntil 1965. She had studied in UK with Sigurd Leeder and Rudolf Laban and had experienced Isadora Duncan technique also, then studies educational dance at Wayne State University in Detroit USA..[Annette then moved to at Wellington Teachers College/College of Education where she headed up a new dance major til 1988.]

1960 – 63 

University Dance Group .performance group established at Otago University John Casserley was one of the dancers in this group.


John Casserley completes his Masters at the Univ of Illinois before returning to Lecture in dance at School of PE



Otago University, School of PE. Dance firmly embedded in the PE Diploma; Otago University Dance Theatre is directed by John Casserley and Students including Gaylene Wilson (Sciascia)



Gaylene Wilson (Sciascia) completes her Master of Fine Arts
at University of Utah and returns to Otago to take up a Lectureship in Dance at PE School.



Lecturer in Dance at Otago University, Gaylene Wilson (Sciascia)
sets up the NZ Modern Dance Company also known as ‘New Dance Company’. Gaylene is a dancer and choreographer in this company along with Suzanne Renner, plus John Casserley, George Akina,
Ann Kinsey and Kathleen Dillon who Gaylene brings to NZ from the U.S.
Supporters Tup and Henry Lang, Joy and Lloyd Parkin
are instrumental in the legal and business establishment of this 1 year trial
company which tours as “New Dance Tour 1973” during August and Sept. from Invercargill to Auckland offering performances and workshops.
A scrapbook of papers from the tour [Ref: f-92-002-3]; a poster/programme, news clippings and a photo also held at Turnbull [Ref: f-92-002-2]; a press kit on the 1973 tour of New Zealand by the Company; minutes of committee meetings 1973, 1975; financial accounts 1974-1975; action documents re tour 1973-1974 donated by Tup Lang also at Turnbull Library [MS-Papers-10870]; the tour poster is held at Victoria University in the NZSAC collection.


Suzanne Renner begins MA at University of Utah. On completion joins Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company.



Gaylene Sciascia brings the four member Dance Gallery company from USA to tour and perform in galleries. They also perform at Rongomaraeroa Mara, Porongahau. Dancers are Andrea Olsen, Peter Schmitz, Katherine Sanderson, Laurie Dill, Michael Dickinson (who subsequently joins Impulse dance Company in Wellington). Various
papers are held by the Turnbull Library [Ref: 92-002-1/06] also a copy of the programme [Ref: Eph-A-DANCE-1974/1976]



Wellington Teachers College moves to 3 year teacher training,
Annette Golding leads the new Dance major as a standalone major separate from and equivalent to Phys Ed major.



Porongahau Hui called by Gaylene Sciascia at Rongomaraeroa Marae so that “the national dance community could come together, share, talk,
dream, create, maybe could put dance first and individual egos second ”
outcome:  a new direction for dance in New Zealand.



The National School of Ballet was established in Wellington by the Queen
Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand, primarily to prepare students for
potential employment by the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Directed by Sara Neill. Began with nine full-time students – eight females and one male – and four part-time Senior Scholars. Subsequent directors:  Russell Kerr QSM ONZM (1967 – 1968), Dorothy Daniels MBE (1968 – 1971), Philip Chatfield (1972 – 1975) and Rowena Jackson Chatfield (1975 – 1977).


Anne Rowse appointed to direct National School of Ballet –
position held for 15 years



National School of Ballet is renamed as The NZ School of Dancereflecting the expansion of the curriculum to embrace contemporary dance training (A number of these graduates join Limbs Dance Company). Also Shell establishes a scholarship financially enabling two Second Year students to benefit from a third year of training and covering the salary of an outstanding New Zealand School of Dance graduate for their first year of employment with the Royal New Zealand Ballet. [ends 1997]


Suzanne Renner returns to NZ, teaches and choreographs for Dance=Arts student performing group at University of Otago



Wellington Performing Arts Centre founded by Jenny Stevenson; offering community classes in dance (many different styles including contemporary), acting, singing/music. yoga etc. for adults and children



Establishment of the (Auckland) Performing Arts School as a PTE offering a National Diploma in Contemporary Dance [Directed by Ali East, with Raewyn Thorburn,Brian Carbee, Dorothea Ashbridge) plus  Performing Arts school community classes – manager Wendy Preston; and subsequently (1992) a Diploma of Acting for Stage and Screen.
Pedagogical focus on developing creative independent dance artists and choreographers — with an emphasis on somatics-based practices which strengthen technical capacity, expand expressiveness, reduce incidents of injury, provide a base for personal practice, and with a concern for interdisciplinary awareness and practice.A related community-based programme was established at the same time and continued classes previously offered by the Limbs community programmes.



Whitireia Performing Arts Certificate and Diploma courses begin led by Gaylene Sciascia. Subsequently, tutors Tuaine Robati (Cook Islands Dance) and Elisapeta Scanlan (Samoan Dance), and Liz Davey (contemporary dance) are added.


Takitimu Performing Arts certificate and diploma programme begins at Te Whare Tapere o Takitimu led by Tama Huata and providing performers for Kahurangi Maori Dance Theatre performance troupes touring internationally]  Subsequently a degree programme was offered for some time [details needed]


Flock House hui for dance industry – results in formation of DANZ and TDENNZA


Rochelle Zide-Booth appointed director of NZ School of Dance

Oct 1994

UNITEC acquires the Auckland]  Performing Arts School


WPAC registered with NZQA as Private Training Establishment 

WPAC First tertiary intake – Certificate in Contemporary Dance (I year part-time) and Certificate in Acting (1 year part-time)

Raewyn Whyte joins Ali East as co-director of UNITEC Dance programme. May – PAS relocates to UNITEC and begins development of a multi-disciplinary undergraduate degree programme in performing and screen arts  [BPSA degree development led by Alison East, Raewyn Whyte and Bridget Marsh with contributions from all teaching staff.]

First Tertiary Dance Festival in Wellington at Wellington College of Ed
[Jan Bolwell, DANZ]


By mid-1996 there are 15 tertiary programmes, mostly PTEs.



WPAC   Full-time Certificates and Diplomas (Levels 4, 5 & 6) approved by NZQA and offered by WPAC – in contemporary dance, acting, musical theatre, classical ballet – offered til 2002



Establishment of  Dance Studies at University Auckland  by Susan Jordan with Postgraduate Diploma in Creative and Performing Arts and subsequently (2000) MCPA

Garry Trinder appointed to lead UNITEC degree programme.
Ali East takes up position  University of Otago dance department

First DANZ Research Forum at Aotea Centre



UNITEC Bachelor of Performing and Screen Arts begins, with majors in Contemporary Dance, Acting for Stage and Screen, Television and Video Production, Directing/Writing begins [Technical Theatre and Music Production majors added later ]  Chris Jannides appointed to lead UNITEC dance programme

Garry Trinder appointed to lead NZ School of Dance and
NZSD moved to premises in Te Whaea: National Dance
& Drama Centre.



BEST Pacific Institute of Education (previously BEST Training) offers a free Skill NZ Performing Arts programme for Pacific and Maori youth developed and implemented by Iosefa Enari.
This programme was run from BEST’s Avondale site.

University of Otago: Interdisciplinary undergraduate BA Major in Performing Arts Studies established at Otago University [Course closes in 2013 and is replaced by a Bachelor of Performing Arts within The School of Music.]

2nd DANZ Research Forum 1999 at Auckland College of Education



3rd Tertiary Dance Festival at Toi Whakaari/NZSD



TDENNZA Charter of Operation ratified and the organisation  is incorporated as Tertiary Dance Festival of Aotearoa Charitable Trust
TDENNZA becomes affiliated to DANZ



Dance becomes an arts subject at Dunedin College of Education, taught in compulsory curriculum courses. (Suzanne Renner says she can’t remember the exact year that this started –prior to this dance was taught as PE)


AUT dance programme begins  (initially led by Susan Graham)


Takitimu – Degree in  Maori Performing Arts begins {TBC}


4th Tertiary Dance Festival at Waikato called ‘Tui Tangi te Aorere
(coordinated for TDENNZA by Karen Barbour)

Tirairaka journal edited by Jan Bolwell as journal 2001-2004

3rd DANZ Research Forum “Critical Reflections on Dance Research” –
Convenor – Pirrko Markula

Australia New Zealand Dance Research Society Forum at AUT (Susan Graham) – Journals 2002-2003 – Conference proceedings compiled by Sue Cheesman



WPAC Full-time 2-year Diplomas in Performing Arts (Level 6) approved by NZQA majoring in dance, singing and acting (contemporary dance and commercial dance majors)

Karen Barbour PhD graduation from The University of Waikato for thesis: ‘Embodied ways of knowing: Women’s Solo contemporary dance in Aotearoa New Zealand



BEST Pacific Institute of Education develops and offers a tertiary level  programme for Pasifika students called the Certificate in Screen and Performing Arts  with a Dance strand, (1 year full-time)
which is run from the Manukau campus and led by Iosefa Enari

AUT – BDdance programme redeveloped  at AUT – closes in 2012. [Jennifer Nikolai, Linda Ashley

Ngai Toi o te Ao Haka – Dance Currents Tertiary Dance Festival 2003 – UNITEC , July



Master of Dance Studies offered at Otago University (Ralph Buck, Ali East, Barbara Snook)  Interdisciplinary undergraduate Performing Arts Studies Dept established, closes in 2013.


Te Wananga o Aotearoa Dance Diploma begins (Moss Paterson)
closes 2007 [TBC]?


WPAC – First intake of Third-Year course (Level 7) – The Singing Actor

BEST Pacific Institute of Education’s Certificate in Screen and Performing Arts programme  spins off as ‘The Pacific
Institute of Performing Arts’ (PIPA) offering the Certificate and a newly
developed  Diploma in Pacific Performing Arts ( 2-year course up to level 5) based at UNITEC

Caroline Plummer Fellowship in community dance is launched at the University of Otago, Dunedin.( annual 6-month fellowship.)

4th DANZ Research Forum during TDDENZA/Danz Conference Tuanui Whakamaru Dance Canopy


WPAC – First intake of  six-month Creative Arts & Therapies Certificate course (Level 4)


WPAC – First intake of Third-Year course in Advanced Acting (Level 7) – Physical Theatre and Devising Theatre

New Zealand School of Dance 40th Anniversary is marked by a special performance season at the Opera House, Wellington. Featured dancers included graduates from Black Grace, Footnote Dance, The Australian Ballet and the Royal Ballet of Flanders.


WPAC – First intake of six-month Screen Acting Certificate course (Level 4)

Uof Otago: Cross- divisional Minor in Dance Studies established ( Ali East)



Charene Griggs appointed coordinator of dance programme at UNITEC.
Chris Jannides starts PhD study in the UK.
WPAC business including tertiary courses taken over by Whitiriea Polytechnic who move into Wellington city centre



Tertiary Dance Festival in Dunedin [Te kupenga o te kanikani/Dance Blogs] alongside  Dance Symposium is called Dancing Across the Disciplines:Cross-Currents of Dance Research and Performance Throughout the Global Compass


Establishment of Bachelor of Performing Arts programme at MIT (Cat Ruka leads the dance programme)


The New Zealand School of Dance celebrates its 45th anniversary with ‘A Gala Dinner with Darcey Bussell CBE’ and the ‘Still Dancing’ exhibition.


PIPA launches their new purpose built facility in Avondale

Te Whakakitengā: 2013 Tertiary Dance Festival of
Aotearoa at The University of Waikato run by TDENNZA; And TDENNZA conference:
Dancing Critically: Pedagogy, Performance and Praxis.; Launch of Dance
Research Aotearoa as an annual peer-reviewed online journal focussing on qualitative, interpretive perspectives and research methods [editor Dr Karen Barbour]



Tertiary Dance Festival is held alongside a dance research conference
in August hosted by University of Auckland Dance Studies. DANZ hui Together Moving Forward in November.

Gaylene Sciascia (University of Otago/Whitireia) –
Ali East (PAS, U of Otago)
Jenny Stevenson (WPAC)
Raewyn Whyte (UNITEC)
Susan Jordan (U of Auckland)
Karen Barbour (U of Waikato, TDENNZA, Tertiary Dance Festival)
Iosefa Enari (BEST/PIPA)  Olivia Taouma (BEST/PIPA)
Linda Ashley and Jennifer Nikolai (for AUT)
Sue Cheesman (dance research conferences)
Chris Jannides
Suzanne Renner (Dunedin College of Education), Garry Trinder (NZ School of Dance) , Tania Kopytko (Te Wananga o Aotearoa)

NB Still to be included or elaborated:
Otago University – period 1975-97  (Helen Busfield, Sue Cheesman)
Include Caroline Plummer fellows?
NZSchool of Dance – recent developments to be added– Garry Trinder
East Auckland Performing Arts
NASDA (National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Arts),
Excel Ministries School of Performing Arts, also some that closed down
after not very long – Tauranga, Napier
CircoArts – currently in suspension due to earthquake damage.
Major conferences should be added.
TDDENZA needs to be expanded.
Changes at University of Auckland to add – undergrad, NICAI [Ralph Buck]
Colleges of Ed developments :Otago, Christchurch, Wellington, Palmerston North, Hamilton, Auckland
Te Wananga o Aotearoa (BMPA, Certificate);
Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi (BMPA, Certificate)
MIT – Cat Ruka;
Victoria University – Jennifer Shennan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.