Lemi Ponifasio


During his studies in politics and philosophy at Auckland University in New Zealand, Lemi Ponifasio (1964, Lano, Samoa) became interested in dance and discovered its political and philosophical power. Having taught himself in theatre, he started working as a dancer in Tokyo and in Europe, collaborating with visual artists, architects, film makers and poets. In 1995 Ponifasio returned to the South Pacific and founded his dance company MAU,a community initiative and platform for critical reflection and creativity, formed by artists, scholars, intellectuals and community leaders. Through MAU, Ponifasio interconnects diverse Oceanic cultures, exploring complex forms of knowledge, such as navigation, architecture, rituals, philosophy and genealogy as a driving force in emphasizing local-orientated arts, thought and narratives that have been silenced or excluded. Without ingratiation to Western aesthetics or South-Pacific clichés, Ponifasio offers a deeply challenging and powerful approach to contemporary theatre.

His radical choreographies have explored issues such as the politics of ethnicity, tradition, mythology, consumer society and the environment, bringing him critical international acclaim and gaining him a reputation as a groundbreaking creator of dance theatre. His work was shown at the prestigious Venice Biennial, the Adelaide Festival, Prague Quadrennial, the 250th Mozart Anniversary of the Vienna Festival, the London International Theatre Festival, the Edinburgh International Festival, at the Theater Der Welt and many other renowned festivals and venues. Ponifasio is a High Chief of the Samoans, holding the honorary family title of Sala, from Leauva’a, his father's village. He featured at the Holland Festival twice before, with Paradise (2005) and Birds with Skymirrors (2011).