Atamira Dance Company
Gabrielle Thomas
Kāi Tahu, Te Atiawa ki te Tau Ihu
Atamira TOMO prodn stills AUG23 13083746 01733 hires

Gabrielle Thomas grew up in Te Whanganui a Tara and is of Te Atiawa Ki Te Tau Ihu and Kai Tahu descent.

She trained at NZSD and Unitec and has been a member of Atamira since 2006. Gabrielle’s love for her whānau and whenua have led her and her partner to a life in Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) where they are raising their four tamariki.  

Pūrākau (legends), whakapapa (genealogy) and motherhood have informed Gabrielle’s developing practice as a choreographer, exploring themes of birth, death and te taiao (the natural environment). These concepts around Wairua have given her a distinctive cinematic style to her choreographies.  Her love of weaving and architecture have influenced her choice of movement patterns and her desire to interact with sets and props.  Character play, improvisation, sensory exploration and tikanga (protocol) are embedded in her directing process. 

Gabrielle has a close working relationship with her composer Peter Hobbs. Their collaborations have been performed by Atamria in Aotearoa and abroad to places such as Canada, USA, Hawaii and Australia.


Tomo VR (2022) 

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.

"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


Tomo (2019) 

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 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

Manaia Gabrielle

Te Waenganui - Manaia (2016) 

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.

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

Dione Joseph, DANZ Magazine, 2016

Gabrielle Thomas's work