Bangarra Dance Theatre is broadly acclaimed within Australia and internationally as portraying the true spirit of its Aboriginal heritage. They make traditional culture obtainable and pleasurable in providing an enriching experience for the audience. Bangarra’s works are originally and thought provoking ultimately to educate and ensure a greater understanding and acceptance of Aboriginal values. Carole Johnson who was the director of National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association, who established this astonishing dance theatre in 1989. Stephen page has been the Artistic Director since 1991 and is the first choreographer of Aboriginal and Torres Islander descent to have achieved major national and international recognition. What is so phenomenal about Page’s work is his fantastic talent to fuse together traditional Aboriginal dance with contemporary dance techniques influenced by Graeme Murphy he believes in storytelling that meld traditional Aboriginal ideas and motifs with those of the urban culture of his youth.
Stephen Page has choreographed many works including stories of dreamtime, the spirit of the land and animals, as well as more contemporary Aboriginal issues. Productions include Boomerang, Clan, Spirit Bush, Walkout, The Dreaming, Corroboree, Skin, Ochres and Fish. Fish is a story of the earth and the power of the elements relate to culture. Fish “unborn soul”, Call “the Poison Fish” and Wash “Sacred Waters” this work is structured around hard-edge energy originated from David Page’s powerful and strong score and emphasized by Stephen’s severely ground-based movement language.
Fish has three sections these are ‘Swaps, Traps, and Reefs’ which it celebrate the sea, the river, the swamps, and the wealth of life and mystery they contain. Swaps this section shows us the stories and traditions from Dhalimbouy that reflects mystical site of a great sacredness and spirituality. Traps this is the most contemporary of ballets traces the fishing cycle from the water contributes consequences flow from the disruption to such a cycle like a tradition born in the time of the Dreaming while the Reef section give the vibrant blues with the deep dramatic greens of Reef evoke the clash and contrast of culture and colour found at the water’s edge merge into one majestic whole. The exhilaration and energy of life and love are blended in a rich simplicity.
These dances show us bodies of the waters through murky, the mystical, bracing and refreshing elements in their seasonal cycles. Example to this is the Ochres that it’s like the same to some section in Fish they both incorporate various movements, facial expression and props to justify some actions that used sequences we witness throughout the dancers using their branches. There movements intertwine with this as they crawl behind and in front of the props as a sign of them being out in the bush land hunting. Using this movement to express their Aboriginal connection to the land such as touching the floor and a wide variety of floor movements. These elements of dance evaluate the earth’s colours of inland Australia’s natural desert landscape and lighting techniques are employed to create atmospheric in assisting telling us the story.
Visual settings are conspired to create a dramatic juxtaposition between traditional ways of life and the urban indigenous experience. They use vast red rock background; shimmering pool and primeval fog are stunning reminders of the power of the land as a storehouse of ancient knowledge. Their costumes are quite simple; a dingy grey material of the urban scenes reflects the greyness of the action and the themes of loss of identity.
The scenes in which the dancer bodies are painted black/grey/mud as what we seen in each section, the dancers insects like movements add to narrative of the power of the land to cleanse and redeem while there music they used is very haunting bringing a strong sound to matched the figurative role with the fusion of traditional indigenous song and contemporary instrumentation, reinforcing themes of the ancient enhancing the new to produce a strong pure form. Each section of the dance separate entities reflecting the worlds that exist in Indigenous cultures that there performance ranges from traditional to contemporary to animistic interpretation “fish” gives us a strong and emotive presence involving the artist to work together creating a powerful performance that both contemplative and instructive.
To understand the company’s vision statement is too pivotal to the company. They are fuelled by the spirit, energy and inspiration derived from the culture, values and traditions of Indigenous Australians. They endeavour to create theatre that is artistically innovative, technically outstanding and truly exciting to audiences throughout Australia and the world. In conclusion Bangarra Dance Theatre is one of the finest and most unique dance companies in Australia. They capture the Indigenous Australian culture and embellish the work with contemporary movement, but without clouding over the true culture of Aboriginal dance. Their movement like art portrays stories through interpretation and a certain intimacy with the audience, sharing their past and their future wwith honesty.