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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 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.

Gabrielle became a member of Atamira Dance Company in 2006 and has continued to dance, teach and choreograph for the company. She was Moss Patterson’s assistant choreographer for the youth engagement programmes Takarangi and Te Manu Ahi in collaboration with the APO and taught Atamira’s Dancing with Mythology programme. Her short works have been performed in Aotearoa and abroad. Her recent work Huri Koaro, a development of Te Waenganui from Atamira’s triple bill programme Manaia, was performed in the NZSD graduation show in 2018. Gabrielle last performed in Siva for Black Grace’s 20 year anniversary, 20for20 and Alfe before having her fourth baby.

Gabrielle is studying Te Reo Māori and raising her whānau. She is passionate about creating new pathways of enquiry through the arts and sharing Mātauranga Māori through dance.


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.

" 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

  • 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)
  • 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)