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Kapiti News - 2021-06-09

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‘An award shared by many people’

Queen's Birthday Honours

Jamie Bull Rosalie Willis

Absolutely delighted and honoured to be recognised, Jamie Bull has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the performing arts and the community in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Involved with the performing arts for 45 years as a performer, director, choreographer, artist representative and mentor, Jamie said, “I think the last time I got anything was when I graduated from university, so this honour was a surprise. “I’m absolutely delighted, I feel very honoured but it is an award that is shared by many people. “Most of the things I’ve done have been part of the team — I might have been the leader of the team but I’ve always had a team around me. “You only achieve these things by working well together.” Originally training as a physical education teacher, Jamie’s focus quickly shifted to dance and she became a pioneer of contemporary dance in New Zealand after becoming the founding director of New Zealand’s first professional contemporary dance company, Impulse Dance Theatre in 1975. She led the company as director, performer and choreographer for six years before going on to choreograph for most professional New Zealand dance companies between the 1970s and 1990s. Working on projects with a range of theatres including Downstage, Bats, Circa, the Court Theatre and Centrepoint Theatre were highlights in her career but so too have been the times she has spent with untrained performers. “We would choreograph shows and stage performances for non-trained dancers and take them to communities all over the country.” Spending a week in the community, Jamie and her team would teach the students or members of the community the works, which they would then get a chance to perform. “As far as I was concerned the performances were as professional as if they had been trained.” Many times this meant giving people a chance to perform who had often not been allowed a chance before. “I worked with people who never got into their school play or musical because they didn’t have any experience — but how do you get experience? “I loved giving people who had already been written off a chance to perform. “There’s a different energy there.” Jamie has also worked as an artistin-residence with addiction and psychiatric services. This involved living in at former mental health and addiction facility Queen Mary Hospital in Hanmer Springs for a week at a time working with patients to express themselves in ways other than words. In more recent years since moving up to O¯ taki Beach from Wellington in 2014, Jamie has been involved in a number of community projects. The first thing she joined was an exercise class based at the O¯ taki Surf Lifesaving Club, which she has now taken over and been running for around 10 years. Not slowing down, Jamie has been a driving force behind Transition Town Otaki, ¯ a charitable trust seeking to undertake initiatives that help the local community be more resilient and sustainable. More recently this work has involved starting a domestic wood recycling base through Zero Waste O¯ taki. The project has been a win-win situation for all involved from council to transfer station companies Midwest Disposals and Envirowaste and of course the locals with wood being diverted from the landfill, instead being available for locals to find wood for garden or house projects. “For us it’s about diversion from landfill, it’s about education and communication in the community about waste, and it’s about pathways to employment. “I feel like I’m holding on to the tail of a rocket with this project, but it’s all going well. It’s a fabulous community up here.” Jamie said she is especially honoured to have been given the honour for both service to the performing arts and the community. “I’m very honoured the recognition is for both the performing arts and the community — it could have been just dance, but it’s nice that it’s the wider performing arts and also the community which has been my focus for the last 10 years. “I’m very proud of the work we did in the dance field, laying the ground work for an alternative to classical ballet. “When we started the only form of dance recognised was classical ballet. “For example when it came to the benefit, you could not be an unemployed dancer, it wasn’t recognised as a profession. “The fact that now we have contemporary dance and modern dance as an accepted part of that art form is fabulous. “On the community side, I guess the thing I’m proud of is the legacy we are creating with Zero Waste O¯ taki. “That’s something that ticks all my boxes — it’s something that will live beyond me. I’m very proud of what we’re doing.”

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