Dance review: Yinarr

An exploration of identity by an Indigenous Dancer.

Amelia Jean O’Leary, a Gamilaroi dancer from Barraba, has performed the piece Yinarr (meaning ‘Aboriginal Woman’ in Gamillaraay Language) several times over the past few years, in various iterations combining multi-media and live performance. This one was a raw, physical segue into Dancehouse’s new season. 

In the performance, O’Leary has expressed that she is exploring her identity, as woman, as dancer and as an Indigenous Person. This was tangible in the work, which centred on her movement, spot-lit in violet light, in front of a wide white canvas. She played with shadow, lifting her arms, at times sinuous, at others, jagged above her head.

Kudos to Giovanna Yate González for the technical arrangements. O’Leary seemed to carry the weight of soul searching and identity questions by heaving the solar plexus, touching her face and bowing her head down to the ground. Sometimes this struck the audience as unsure, quavering, at other times powerful.

There appeared to be an ambivalence in the work about the discovery of identity, as projections and sound are distorted around her, snatches of dialogue such as ‘I think I’m regaining power in my body’ carried us into the vortex of self-discovery.

The floor work contrasted with the reaching, yearning motions in the earlier section, as O’Leary bent into a deep Martha Graham-esque plie and pushed into the floor with her hands and her head, as if searching for a channel or entry. The soundtrack and lighting seemed to accentuate the eerie mood.

Horror and suspense were employed through the ringing soundtrack and distortions in the projections. At one point, O’Leary slumped to the floor, ringing her hands like Lady Macbeth. Yet there were moments of tenderness, especially at the ending where we see O’Leary hold her removed garments to her body like a baby and walk serenely off stage. 

Read: Theatre review: Jane Eyre

I was left feeling as if Yinarr was a kind of reflection or echo, a ripple across the water or tremor in the leaves, pointing to more developed work from O’Leary later on, which I hope to see. 

Dancehouse, Melbourne
Tickets: $15-$30

Choreographer, performer, sound designer: Amelia Jean O’Leary
Projection/film: Amelia Jean O’Leary and Alliah Nival
Technical support (lighting/sound/projection): Giovanna Yate González

Yinarr will be performed until 3 September 2022

Leila Lois is a dancer and writer of Kurdish and Celtic heritage. Her poetry, essays and reviews have been published in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada by Southerly Journal, LA Review of Books, Honey Literary Journal, Right Now, Delving Into Dance and more.