Bangarra: 30 years of sixty five thousand. Bangarra Dance Theatre, Choreography by Ji Kylin, Stephen Page, Frances Rings and Elma Kris. Music by David Page and Steve Francis. Design by Jennifer Irwin and Heidi de Raad (costumes), Peter England, Jacob Nash and Ji Kylin (sets), and Nick Schlieper and Kies Tjebbes (lighting). Canberra Theatre, July 18-20.
Bangarra means "to make fire" in the Wiradjuri language of the central west of New South Wales. Bangarra Dance Theatre's latest show, Bangarra: 30 years of sixty five thousand, celebrates the company's 30 years of dance making with a program that is full of fire, passion and pride.
The mixed program opened with Unaipon, a revival of a 2004 work that celebrates the life of David Unaipon, an Indigenous man whose career covered philosophy, science, invention and writing. Religion also had a strong presence in his life and the choreography for Unaipon by Frances Rings covered many diverse aspects of his life. The stand-out performer was Tyrel Dulvarie, who danced the role of Unaipon. His presence was spell-binding from beginning to end.
The middle work was Stamping Ground, created in 1983 after a momentous visit to Groote Eylandt by Czech-born choreographer Ji Kylin. It was preceded by a video clip in which Kylin explained the origins of the work, and that it was created not with the aim of imitating Indigenous movement, but as a work inspired by Indigenous culture and the moving experience he had while watching the Groote Eylandt corroboree. Staged by Kylin's assistant, Roslyn Anderson, Stamping Ground was stunningly danced by Tara Gower, Baden Hitchcock, Rika Hamaguchi, Ella Havelka, Tyrel Dulvarie, and Rikki Mason. Their performance highlighted the growing technical strengths of Bangarra dancers, who can now hold their own across a range of choreographic styles.
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For the closing section Page brought together a selection of moments from previous Bangarra productions and curated them under the name To Make Fire. The selections showed different aspects of Bangarra's output, including biographical productions with selections from Mathinna; stories from the Torres Strait Islands with selections from About; and, in the final section given the over-arching nameClan, excerpts from other works from Bangarra's repertoire.
A trio from Mathinna was a highlight. It suggested the potential nature of relationships between Mathinna, a young Indigenous woman, and the colonial couple who adopted but then rejected her. Another highlight came in Clan when a short section called Wiradjuri was danced strongly by Beau Dean Riley Smith. Its music by David Page was mesmerising, with a whispering voice murmuring over and over the word "Wiradjuri."
In the program notes for Bangarra: 30 years of sixty five thousand, Stephen Page suggests that Bangarra's greatest achievement is that it has survived for 30 years. But Bangarra has done more than survive. It has flourished. It can now claim an extensive repertoire of music and dance and its dancers are polished performers whose skills have gone from strength to strength over those 30 years.
Bangarra Dance Theatre's latest show, Bangarra: 30 years of sixty five thousand, celebrates the company's 30 years of dance making with a program that is full of fire, passion and pride