Achievement award for dance lecturer

Suzanne Renner at home with her Kowhiti lifetime achievement award last week. Photo by Peter...
Suzanne Renner at home with her Kowhiti lifetime achievement award last week. Photo by Peter McIntosh.

A Dunedin dance lecturer has been honoured for a lifetime body of work.

University of Otago College of Education senior dance lecturer Suzanne Renner was presented with the Kowhiti lifetime achievement award in Maori contemporary dance, at the Kowhiti Atarau Festival of Indigenous Contemporary Dance, in Wellington earlier this month.

''I was very surprised and absolutely thrilled, especially, with having Maori heritage,'' Ms Renner said last week.

''I suppose if you live long enough, someone takes notice of what you've been doing.''

The award was an important recognition of dance she said.

''Dance isn't the most visible of arts. Most of the time, you're working away in a studio and the work is unseen until you bring it out on stage,'' she said.

''I think I'm still in the developing stage in Maori contemporary dance. The previous recipients have either come from a Maori traditional or from a European Western dance base, but they all work at finding ways to amalgamate the best of what each has to offer. My background is predominantly in modern dance''Despite her modesty, Ms Renner is credited with inspiring generations of dancers and choreographers.

She was a professional dancer and choreographer with the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company in the United States and qualified as a national movement specialist in 1980, before undertaking dance teaching residencies in indigenous and mixed communities in Alaska, Hawaii and New Mexico.

Since her return to New Zealand in 1986, she has been senior lecturer and school support adviser in dance education at the University of Otago College of Education.

She helped shape the Ministry of Education arts curriculum professional development programme and has mentored many dancers and choreographers through the former University of Otago dance group Dance-Arts.

Ms Renner is only the fifth recipient of the Kowhiti lifetime achievement award.

She was particularly delighted with her award, a pounamu adze specially created for her by Maori artist and friend Charles Koroneho.

''We also used to dance together, so it is very special,'' she said.

nigel.benson@odt.co.nz

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