We formulate Euler-Poincare and Lagrange-Poincare equations for systems with broken symmetry. We specialize the general theory to present explicit equations of motion for nematic systems, ranging from single nematic molecules to biaxial liquid crystals. The geometric construction applies to order parameter spaces consisting of either unsigned unit vectors (directors) or symmetric matrices (alignment tensors). On the Hamiltonian side, we provide the corresponding Poisson brackets in both Lie-Poisson and Hamilton-Poincare formulations. The explicit form of the helicity invariant for uniaxial nematics is also presented, together with a whole class of invariant quantities (Casimirs) for two-dimensional incompressible flows. (c) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.