visited 16 communities and connected with nearly 230 young Australians. This program is extremely beneficial as the participants are able to reconnect with their culture and explore their creativity through dance. Stories are shared and communities are brought together through this programme, which also helps the company discover more about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, allowing them to continue to develop their works. Dance work 1: Mathinna Mathinna is based on the true story of a young Tasmanian Aboriginal girl, Mathinna, who lived in the early 1800s.
The story of Mathinna explores her personal journey and highlights some of the key political, cultural and social interactions that occurred at the time of colonisation, which is significant as it gives audiences an insight into the life of an Aboriginal girl during the time of colonisation. The intent of the work is to demonstrate the social disruptions that occurred as British settlers relocated the Aboriginal people from their tribal lands, intervened in their cultural practices and challenged their traditional value.
The pieces is structured into three sections; In section 1 ‘Father’; the attention is centred around one male dancer who interacts with a large rock. This prop symbolises knowledge and the importance to guard and protect that knowledge to preserve the future of aboriginal culture. The movements within this section are grounded, determined, slow, careful and clam. He achieves this movement qualities by focussing on how he transfers his weight. As well as this, the isolation and coordination of separate parts of his body allows his movements to complement the care for the rock.
In section 2 ‘Nursery’; audiences follow Mathinna’s journey with trying to copy movements and behaviours of lady Jane, her mother. However, everything she is trying to understand is mysterious and unfamiliar, which is demonstrated through movements reflecting innocence and fear. In contrast, Lady Jane’s movements which are open and purposeful, illustrating the power position and control she holds over Mathinna. Another prop is included in this section which is a pair of shoes. These symbolise her struggle with confining in the ways of another culture. Mathinna’s movements are impulsive, but cautious – starting and stopping abruptly.
In section 3 ‘Moonshine’; the illustration of the time in Mathinna’s life when she was returned to her Aboriginal clan is demonstrated through an extra six female dancers along with Mathinna. The community was suffering the impact of the loss of many family and clan members, and the destructive impact of alcohol, which was reflected through the use of an oversized bottle symbolising this impact of alcohol. The overwhelming situation for Mathinna and the women is illustrated through slow and heavy movements, which are are oriented to the floor; with limited lightness shown.
Dance work 2: Our Land, People Stories Our Land, People Stories explores three different stories and enlarges audiences understanding on social, political and cultural struggles of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders past. Four choreographers have come together to create a piece that touches on grief, family and most importantly, on identity, tradition and hope. In section 1 ‘Macq’; Choreographer Jasmin Sheppard focuses on the true story of the Appin Massacre of 1816, involving the Dharawal.
The work involves a large, long table which is used to represent a site of social gathering, as well as discussions and meetings, which therefore, symbolises the coming together of people. As well as this, the table symbolises protection and power as performers hide under and stand on top of it. The use of a recorded voice in the work presents the character of Lachlan Macquarie in a very literal way, exposing his actual words, as written in official diaries. In section 2 ‘Miyagan’; choreographer Riley and Smith focus on ‘wanting to tell a Wiradjuri story, and reconnect back to our shared culture and heritage’.
The choreographers researched their own families, cultural inheritance and the communities to which they are both connected. Miyagan also draws inspiration from the cultural inheritance of the Wiradjuri people, their land, their language and their stories. Atmospheric lighting creates magical imagery, huge, feathered branches, symbolising both nature and the tangled generations and playful gestures representing family, community and even romance. In the third section; choreographer Stephan Page used Nyapanyapa Yunupingu as inspiration in which he created a performance in tribute to her life.
Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, a tree bark painter and Yolngu woman. Page fuses dance imagery with visual art repeatedly creating the feeling of recognition, along with a series of trios and small group performances includes athletic choreography. Nyapanyapa includes an old lady thrust suddenly into a dance hall where she jives, confused and bewildered; a child fighting off the buffalo by climbing tree branches as wild dogs attack, two girls elegantly transform into fish and a male dancer wearing giant horns shimmers with sweaty strength as the angry buffalo – that remains the most visceral.
How does it blend traditional aboriginal dance with contemporary technique? The context of the dance and the ideas behind the movements are all based on indigenous tradition and heritage. Traditional movements are incorporated through cooperating with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to gain a deeper understanding on their dance style. However, these movements are then manipulated to resemble the contemporary style through changing them to align with contemporary technique.
Through dance, music, costumes, lighting and scenic art choreographers are able to delve into the spiritual connection to indigenous story telling with the inclusion of contemporary technique. In Mathinna; the way the intent is revealed is through the use of story telling. This is iconic to indigenous culture as it is an element of their cultural identity and is a traditional practise around all indigenous Australians. This fusion between traditional aboriginal dance with contemporary technique develops a unique style, suited to modern day audiences.
How can cultural identity be represented through dance? Through costuming; The use of traditional costumes, especially those unique to the culture as well as including significant colours within the costumes, enable audience members to gain a greater understand of the cultural represented. These costumes help enhance the overall performance and helps particular characters to be more easily understood. In section one and three the male dancers where in earthy colours representing the natural homes of the Aboriginal people.
Music; Through the choice of music, audience members can relate unique instruments and specific rhythms. This musical arrangement can help represent cultural identity to audience members, with an example being in section 1 and 3, the inclusion of the didgeridoo Dance movements – Motifs, repetition; When including motifs or repetitive movements, it gives emphasis of the importance of these movements helping to convey the intent to audiences. Therefore, the inclusion of unique cultural movements, enables audiences to identify the cultural identity within the dance itself.