Bangarra Dance Theatre

2008
CC BY-SA 2.0
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Bangarra Dance Theatre

The Bangarra Dance Theatre was founded by Carole Johnson in 1989. In 1991 Stephen Page took over as artistic director. He collaborated with his brothers David, who composed the music, and Russell, who was principal dancer until his death in 2002. This kinship structure underpinned the unique artistic direction of the company for over a decade. [1] The Page brothers also collaborated with Djakapurra Munyarryun, a member of the Munyarryun clan in north-eastern Arnhem Land, who acted as a cultural consultant and teacher of traditional dances. [2]

Bangarra developed a signature style that fused contemporary techniques with traditional dances. The first full length work, Praying Mantis Dreaming, was choreographed in 1992 and explored the search for Aboriginal culture and spirituality in an urban environment. The production was received enthusiastically, and Stephen Page was hailed as a choreographer of immense potential. [3]

The theme of spirituality characterised the works that followed. Ochres in 1995 expressed the relationship between people and the land, while Fish in 1997 looked at water stories. Ochres marked Bangarra's arrival as a dominant force in the cultural landscape, both within Australia and internationally. It was the first Bangarra production to sell out nationally, and demand for international performances was so high that the company was forced to decline several invitations. [4]

Bangarra has continued to produce works to critical acclaim, and has been an artistic force in the Aboriginal rights movement, providing an accessible medium for non-Aboriginal audiences to encounter and empathise with Aboriginal culture and connections to land. It has been described as an important agent in the reconciliation movement. [5]

In addition, the fusion of Indigenous and contemporary dance forms has been hailed as a uniquely Australian modern dance style, and Bangarra is considered an ambassador for Australian dance on the international arts scene.

Notes

[1] Stephanie Burridge, 'Dreaming the Future: The Emergence of Bangarra Dance Theatre', Australasian Drama Studies, 41, October 2002, p 84

[2] Bangarra dance theatre 2005, Bangarra dance theatre, Walsh Bay NSW, 24 July 2008, http://www.bangarra.com.au/diary/ochres.html#about

[3] Lisa Meekison, 'Bangarra Dance Theatre', in Sylvia Kleine and Margo Neale (eds), The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Arts and Culture, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2000, p 367

[4] Bangarra dance theatre 2005, Bangarra dance theatre, Walsh Bay NSW, 24 July 2008, http://www.bangarra.com.au/diary/ochres.html#about

[5] Lisa Meekison, 'Bangarra Dance Theatre', in Sylvia Kleine and Margo Neale (eds), The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Arts and Culture, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2000, p 367

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