Bangarra Dance Theatre perform a scene from Terrain, Spinifex, at the Canberra Theatre.


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Dancers perform the Spinifex scene from Terrain, a performance that reflects the experiences of the Arabunna people. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Frances Rings said Terrain, the sixth work she choreographed for Bangarra Dance Theatre, ''explains the relationship of indigenous people to country'' and ''the layers of what that relationship is''.

From people who live in urban areas but yearn for and identify with the land to the many aspects of the land itself, from salt to water, drought to deluge, Terrain, designed by Jacob Nash, was intended to convey the unique and ancient qualities of the Lake Eyre region and the stories of the Arabunna people who live there.

Rings and members of the company travelled there for inspiration and to conduct dance classes with indigenous children.

''It's like nothing you've seen,'' Rings said.

''It's an amazing landscape.''

Deborah Brown has been a dancer with Bangarra for the past 10 years. She was impressed by the variety of wildlife around Lake Eyre.

''You look at it and it looks like a desert but there's so much life out there - big reds, emus.''

She was also impressed by the vistas created at dusk.

''It's beautiful. The sunset is just amazing, the colours you get there are just stunning.''

She said the section ''Spinifex'' was inspired by old trees the floods had rushed through and left behind, leaving them in contorted patterns.

''Frances saw them and said they looked like ladies-in-waiting … so it became a women's piece.''

She had been to Canberra several times with the company and said Canberra audiences ''seem a little bit conservative, but still responsive''.

The presence of a former Canberran might help. Dancer Daniel Riley McKinley spent his ''formative years'' here, attending Telopea Park High School and Narrabundah College and said he considered it his home town.

The 26-year-old began tap dancing in primary school and went on to study dance at the Queensland University of Technology and on graduating joined Bangarra in 2007.

He, too, was impressed by Lake Eyre.

''It's so beautiful there, so still and the earth will shock you, it goes from red desert dirt to white - all that salt.''

It was all these qualities - and many more - that Bangarra would seek to portray in Terrain.

Terrain is on at the Canberra Theatre tonight and tomorrow night at 7.30pm with a 1.30pm matinee tomorrow. Tickets $39-$63. Bookings: 62752700 or canberratheatrecentre.com.au