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  • Fiona Prior

Bangarra Dance Theatre: 30 years of sixty five thousand

The newly presented work in Bangarra’s 30 year career amazing audiences through story-telling choreography and Bangarra's unique perspective is, intriguingly, the company's interpretation of Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián‘s ‘Stamping Ground’. It is extraordinary for a number of reasons but possibly the most intriguing in anthropological terms is that the now world acclaimed Bangarra Dance Theatre has completed the cultural gift exchange. The origin of this inspiration loop was Kylián’s witnessing a large Corroboree on Groote Eylandt, in the Gulf of Carpentaria way back in the 80's, well before the existence of the Bangarra Dance Theatre.

Charmingly, in a video capture of the European choreographer, Kylián explains how he and his friends needed to convince the leaders of different Aboriginal cultural groups to participate in the Corroboree. Representatives of the communities gathered to watch a video of some of Kylián’s already acclaimed works. They left in silence but returned the next day with the decision that “(Kylián was) a good dreamer” and that they would dance for him. That was the birth of ‘Stamping Ground’ commissioned by the Nederlands Dans Theater. Now, near 40 years later, Bangarra has reconsidered the piece that was created before its formations and it features in this 30 year anniversary. Perfect reciprocity in generosity and respect! Glorious dancing that is full of whimsy, spirit, physical playfulness and a huge dose of earth. So special.

Of course, the ever wonderful repertoire of Bangarra Dance Theatre is celebrated along with its interpretation of ‘Stamping Ground’ and the presentation of film footage of Kylian’s Groots Eylandt visit.

Be astonished, as I was first time round when you see the story of aboriginal inventor, philosopher, writer and Storyteller, the Ngarrindjeri man David Unaipon who figures on our fifty dollar bills. Unaipon was fascinated by the concept of perpetual motion amongst many scholarly concerns and this physical fascination is central to the Bangarra work 'Unaipon'.

Likewise, ‘To Make Fire’ is a newly minted compilation of old favourites, referencing past works – and, using the analogy of string that is used by the storytellers in 'Unaipon' to pass on cultural knowledge to the young – tying together memorable moments from the companies repertoire that speak of traditional ceremony and practice, great artists and leaders, land and Country, survival … and of course the inter-connectedness of all things.

Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director Stephen Page and the lithe and evocative dancers of Bangarra ‒ with the assistance of composers, choreographers, costume/lighting/set designers and patrons for over 30 years) ‒ have created one of the world’s most unique and eloquent physical theatre ensembles.

Australia be proud!

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