OUR land people stories

Strong, resonant and resilient: new works from Bangarra Dance Theatre.
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Bangarra ensemble in OUR land, people, stories: Nyapanyapa. Photo by Jhuny Boy-Borja.

This season of new works from Bangarra, dedicated to David Page the company’s late Music Director, features two works by three emerging choreographers as well as a new work from Stephen Page, the Artistic Director.

Bangarra has now expanded to include 17 dancers and is a vital platform for Indigenous dancers in Australia. All the dancers are splendid, and their dancing in this show is full of energy and commitment.

The first piece in the program, Macq, from choreographer Jasmin Sheppard, is based on research conducted into NSW Governor Lachlan Macquarie, often referred to as the ‘real founder of Australia.’ Sheppard explores the unspoken, unacknowledged aspects of Macquarie’s life, including his attitude to Aboriginals, and his part in the 1816 Appin massacre. As Sheppard notes in the program, ‘Australians from every background deserve to know the full history of our home including the uncomfortable parts that are often hidden.’

Macq explores the ‘unmarked’ histories of colonial Australia, and in every sense Australians deserve this work. Macq is an important, courageous, politically driven piece of dance theatre of the highest calibre. The images are strong, full of poetry and resonance, and they stay in the mind long after the performance is over. In particular the images of men repeatedly lowering the dead bodies of their brothers to the ground takes the work beyond the instance of the Appin massacre, to give an insight into cycles of violence, oppression and suffering that speak volumes to continuing racism in Australia today.

Miyagan created by choreographers Beau Dean Riley Smith and Daniel Riley comes to life with the emergence of strange mythic beings wearing extraordinary feathered headdresses who move amongst the dancers bringing an aura of mysticism and menace to the piece. The set of crossed tree branches is stunning and imbue the work with a powerful sense of place.

The final half of the program, Nyapanyapa, by Stephen Page is a strong work given resonance by the wonderful art works of visual artist Nyapanyapa Yunupingu that are projected large scale to fill the entire stage. Awarded the 2008 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award Three Dimensional Prize, these works projected at this scale are breathtaking. Nyapanyapa is based on these art works, and on the artist’s narrative of an experience she had in early life when she was gored by a buffalo.

The work follows the character of Nyapanyapa through an episodic series of life experiences. Elma Kris in the central role is amazing, a mesmerizing performer who energizes the stage with her presence. Nyapanyapa is a powerful work, intense, playful and mystical.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

OUR land people stories
Bangarra Dance Theatre
Choreographers: Jasmin Sheppard, Beau Dean Riley-Smith, Daniel Riley and Stephen Page
Cultural Consultants: Frances Bodkin, Diane McNaboe, Lynette Riley
Visual Artist: Nyapanyapa Yunupingu
Costume Design: Jennifer Irwin
Set Design: Jacob Nash
Lighting Design: Matt Cox
Music: David Page, Paul Mac, Steve Francis
Dancers: Waangenga Blanco, Deborah Brown, Luke Currie-Richardson, Tyrel Dulvarie, Tara Gower, Rika Hamaguchi, Elma Kris, Yolanda Lowatta, Rikki Mason, Leonard Mickelo, Beau Dean Riley Smith, Daniel Riley, Tara Robertson, Jasmin Sheppard, Glory Tuohy-Daniell, Nicola Sabatino, Kaine Sultan-Babij.

Sydney Opera House
17 June – 9 July 2016

Additional dates:
State Theatre Centre of WA: 20-23 July 2016
Canberra Theatre Centre: 28-30 July
QPAC, Brisbane: 12-20 August 2016
Arts Centre Melbourne: 1-10 September 2016

Katie Lavers
About the Author
Dr. Katie Lavers is a writer, director, producer and researcher based in Sydney.