Woman Hill, Raewyn

Choreographer and Dancer

Written by Grace Edwards, The University of Melbourne

Born in 1972 in Oamaru, Raewyn Hill joined the New Zealand School of Dance at the age of 15. Graduating in 1992, she received the Best All Round Student award. Hill has worked extensively in Australia, including with Sue Healy and with Gary Stewart's company THWACK in the original Plastic Space. She has appeared as a dancer in both artistic and commercial platforms, including Xena, The Warrior Princess and the BBC's 'The lost world'. In 2006 she choreographed for the TVNZ series 'Rude Awakenings' and also advised producers for the New Zealand version of 'So You Think You Can Dance'.

In 2001, Hill established Soapbox Productions which toured throughout New Zealand and performed eight full-length works, including When Love Comes Calling, inspired by a series of love letters between a seventeenth-century nun and her lover; White, exploring the state between sleep and wakefulness; Night, an examination of the darkest hours of the night; Angels with Dirty Feet, a study of drug addiction; A dance for the forgotten and Finders Keepers. Other works included Nest, Trio 1 and 2, How ugly is the duckling, In time of Flight and Forgotten for Footnote Dance Company, Hanging between heaven and earth for New Zealand School of Dance, An ocean of tears for Royal New Zealand Ballet, Vespers and Til Death do us Part for Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

Of her relationship with dance, Hill has said: 'Within my work I take pride in having the ability to embody social issues and provoke emotional reaction through pure dance. I aspire to take both the performers and the audience on a journey, which allows them to experience the exceptional power of a story, whether it is through its sheer horror or in its capacity to inspire and move us' (Tanzconnexions, www.goethe.de/tanzconnexions).

Hill retired from performing in 2006 after a successful tour of her solo show, We are gathered here today. This piece explored the subject of her own death. Following this departure, Hill's intention was to focus her energies on developing a full-time company, New Zealand Dance Theatre. While building her company, Hill also fulfilled annual commissions from Footnote Dance Company, culminating in the hour-long Here Lies Within (2006), an examination of society's idolisation of manufactured beauty. When her goals for NZDT proved unachievable within the proposed timeframe, Hill chose to focus instead on her professional development both locally and internationally.

After marrying ballet dancer Richard Longbottom, Soapbox Productions was renamed 'Raewyn Hill and Dancers'. Hill became CEO, Artistic Director and Choreographer whilst Longbottom became Associate Director, Artistic Advisor and Rehearsal Director. Hill has appeared as a guest teacher and choreographer for institutions including Royal New Zealand Ballet, Footnote Dance Company, New Zealand School of Dance, Unitec Performing Arts School, Beijing Dance Academy, Western Australia Performing Arts, Tasdance, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts where she was Artist in Residence 2007-2009, and the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Hill premiered a new contemporary dance work Vespers at the inaugural Asia Pacific Dance Platform, as a part of the 37th Hong Kong Arts Festival in February 2009. That year she also became the first New Zealander to be awarded a Cite International des Arts residency in Paris, August - September.

In 2010, Hill was appointed Artistic Director of Queensland's Dancenorth. The company was invited to be resident at Baryshnikov Arts Centre, New York City in September and Hill created a new work for The Juilliard School in Nov/Dec. Since her appointment, Hill has also created three works for Dancenorth, the cry (2010), Black Crows (2010) and MASS (2011). She has led the company on its first tour of regional Queensland in eight years and in performances of her works MASS at Brisbane Festival and Fugue as part of the Australian Ballet's 50th Anniversary in Melbourne. She has spoken to local dance media of a desire to help the company 're-establish a feeling of local ownership' but to ideally 'be regionally based, nationally respected and international desired' (DANZ Quarterly, Spring 2012).

Published Resources

Journal Articles

  • Francis, Rain, 'Contemporary: Connecting to the tropics: Raewyn Hill in Townsville', Dance Aotearoa New Zealand Quarterly, Spring 29, 2012. Details

Resource Sections

Online Resources

See also