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Gabrielle Thomas

Gabrielle Thomas
Kāi Tahu, Te Atiawa ki te Tau Ihu

Atamira Dance Company

Gabrielle Thomas is a choreographer and dancer of Kāi Tahu and Te Atiawa ki te Tau Ihu descent. Gabrielle became a member of Atamira Dance Company in 2006 and has continued to dance, teach and choreograph. Alongside performing for choreographers such as Louise Potiki Bryant, Jack Gray and Moss Patterson, she assisted Moss Patterson’s choreography for the youth engagement programmes Takarangi and Te Manu Ahi (in collaboration with the APO). Gabrielle continues to be involved in the Kori Pūrakau education programme and has run multiple community workshops and classes.

Gabrielle last performed in Siva for Black Grace’s 20 year anniversary, 20for20 and Alfe before having her fourth baby. Since then she has choreographed her debut full length work TOMO and created TOMO VR, a virtual reality dance film which premiered in July 2022 and abroad in Vancouver in 2023. It is also being presented in Auckland and Wellington at the DOC Edge Festival this June and in the Hauora Hub in Auckland this July. TOMO (the full length stage show) is being performed at Forum North in August 2023 as part of Atamira Dance Company’s North Island tour.

Her short works have been presented in Aotearoa and abroad and she has been a part of many collaborations within Atamira Dance Company. Gabrielle is one of eight choreographers selected to create Atamira’s company work Te Wheke which was performed in Hawaii and the USA in 2023. Her choreographies are inspired by Māori philosophies, traditional practices, pūrakau (legends) and often incorporate her personal experiences growing up.


As stated in the book The Woven Universe: Selected Writings of Rev. Māori Marsden, the whare wānanga views the world as the rhythmical moving patterns of pure energy, woven with cosmological purpose as well as design. Within carvings the manaia represents the form that can distort into various shapes, filling the empty spaces. Like a reflection, it sits between, shifting within space and time. The manaia has three fingers, forming the trinity of birth, life and death. This embodies a form that resides in more than just a singular realm. Also worn around the neck as taonga, the manaia is commonly carved out of pounamu or bone. Formed from bone and known as Manaia, the seahorse is the seer of the sea. With its thinly threaded fins all spinning, they drift like spirits through the intervening space, wearing watery bones. Our bodies are formed of skin and tissue and bone. We cannot see the wai ponapona (bone marrow) within our own living body, but does that mean it does not exist? Whakapapa brings us back to the beginning. We are threaded into the voice of existence. As we pass over, bodies falling away into bones, we transcend throughout the waters into the wai ponapona of Papatūānuku and this is Te Waenganui, the space between.

Tomo tells the tale of a wairua entering the world of light. With shifting architecture Tomo interprets the proverbial hearts of three wāhine, carriers of ancient worlds, broadest horizons and greatest depths. Their inherent power holds the hidden treasures of our tupuna within and beyond the whare tangata. Gabrielle Thomas is a choreographer and dancer of Kāi Tahu and Te Atiawa te Tau Ihu descent. Her choreographies are inspired by Māori philosophies and traditional practices, mythologies and raranga (weaving) and often incorporate her personal experiences growing up. A first full-length work by choreographer Gabrielle Thomas with collaborators Peter Hobbs (music) and Vanda Karolczak (design), Tomo dives between the boundaries of light (Tama Nui Te Ra) and darkness (Te Marama) to evoke a hauntingly spellbinding experience resonating with autobiographical and ancestral memories.

TOMO VR is derived from a full length stage show about the whakapapa of light and darkness, birth, life and death and the dream space. This adaptation in VR tells a tale of my mother carrying twins.

A tomo is a cavernous space where we lay the bones of our ancestors. Tomo also means to enter. As you put on your headset, imagine you are entering the womb of my mother.

Within her womb - the whare tangata, you will meet three women. They represent grandmothers, mothers and daughters. They are the ancestors of two wairua (spirits) on a journey. One is travelling to the world of light and the other is travelling to the embrace of Hine Nui Te Pō, the goddess of darkness.

" incredibly beautiful commentary that explores birth, life and death; and also the various incarnations of the Manaia itself."

Dione Joseph, DANZ Magazine, 2016

"Tomo is not only an extremely dynamic piece, but also is visually stimulating to watch. There is no denying the talent that Tomo holds, offering the audience a unique Maori contemporary dance experience that took us on a journey between light and darkness to evoke a hauntingly spellbinding performance. The powerful work highlights exactly why Atamira are the leading producer of Māori Contemporary Dance in New Zealand"

Lauren Sanderson, DANZ

"Through the intimacy and attentiveness of virtual reality, you stare directly into his eyes, see the sweat dripping down his face. Three wāhine, women, appear to help the wairua on his journey into the world of light. Weaving through space, they highlight the reflective potential of each other and their tīpuna, ancestors, behind them."

Natasha Van Etten, Theatreview

  • Career highlights
  • Education
  • Choreography
  • Awards
  • Residencies
  • Performance experience
  • Speaking
  • Selected shows
  • Project Lightbulb and Te Manu Ahi (youth engagement projects)
  • Tour to China and Korea (Moko 2015)
  • Marae DIY (Matihetihe Marae, Mitimiti)
  • Wananga with Wikitoria Hunt (Project Mitimiti)
  • Residency with Iraxte Ansa (Mexico)
  • Unitec teaching technique and choreography
  • Project Lightbulb
  • Dancing with Mythology (tutor, facilitator and co-developer)
  • Te Manu Ahi and Takarangi (Collaboration with the APO)
  • Mentoring for teachers in colleges around Auckland
  • Guest artist (dance department in secondary schools, Auckland)
  • Mixit and Pointy Dog (Youth companies)
  • TOMO
  • Te Waenganui within the triple bill programme MANAIA
  • Pou Rakau within the short works tour KAHA
  • Assistant choreographer to Moss Patterson for Te Manu Ahi and Takarangi (large youth engagement projects
  • Co-directed and choreographed for Pointy Dog Youth Company
  • Hapū received the Most Inspiring Performance at the Tempo Dance Festival
  • Mexico Summer residency with Iraxte Ansa
  • Secondment with Australian Dance Theatre
  • Raewyn Hill - Angels With Dirty FeetBlack Grace
  • Amata, The 20 year celebration SIVA, the 20for20 nation wide tour and “Another Letter From Earth by Neil Ieremia.
  • Guest artist/speaker (dance department in secondary schools)
  • As a dancer - Whakairo, Taonga, Whetu, Moko, Mitimiti
  • Choreography - KAHA (Pou Rakau), MANAIA (Te Waenganui)