MES­SAGE OF HOPE

The in­dige­nous Bangarra Dance Theatre pro­duces per­for­mances that register and res­onate in our na­tional con­scious­ness

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY SHOWS - OLIVIA STEWART

Count­less words have been writ­ten and ut­tered in the name of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion but few have done as much to ad­vance the cause as the works of Bangarra Dance Theatre.

Of­ten the cre­ative process prom­ises more than the out­come de­liv­ers yet, time and again, year af­ter year over the past quar­ter-cen­tury, the in­dige­nous com­pany has pro­duced per­for­mances that register and res­onate in our na­tional con­scious­ness, in­form­ing and broad­en­ing our col­lec­tive iden­tity.

Bangarra’s latest pro­duc­tion, Lore, ar­rives in Bris­bane this week fol­low­ing a hit pre­miere Syd­ney sea­son, which was ex­tended ow­ing to de­mand. Both of Lore’s dou­blebill works, Sheoak and I.B.I.S., ad­dress is­sues of iden­tity and her­itage in the face of con­tem­po­rary chal­lenges, pre­sent­ing com­ple­men­tary por­traits of land and sea.

Bangarra, a flag­ship per­form­ing arts com­pany rep­re­sent­ing the voice of Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der peo­ple, is known for nur­tur­ing and build­ing for the com­pany’s fu­ture from within.

Lore’s themes of ex­plor­ing the cy­cle of past, present and fu­ture in those com­mu­ni­ties are re­flected in the lives of the pro­duc­tion’s three chore­og­ra­phers. For­mer com­pany dancer Frances Rings’s con­nec­tion to Bangarra spans 22 years. Sheoak is the award-win­ning res­i­dent chore­og­ra­pher’s sev­enth cre­ation for the com­pany, while fledg­ling chore­og­ra­phers Deb­o­rah Brown and Waan­genga Blanco have drawn on their Mer (Mur­ray Is­land) an­ces­try to hatch I.B.I.S. The long­time mem­bers and lauded dancers also per­form in I.B.I.S. An acro­nym for Is­land Board of In­dus­try and Ser­vices, the mod­ern-day I.B.I.S is a shop that serves as a hub of is­land life. It’s the fo­cal point for a song and dance cel­e­bra­tion of a vi­brant and joy­ous cul­ture forged by sun, sea and sand, bal­anc­ing mod­ern and an­cient ways.

“That’s what we do, that’s what theatre is, we’re bring­ing peo­ple into this space and cre­at­ing a world,” says Blanco, who grew up in far north Queens­land at Mis­sion Beach.

Want­ing to “bring a lit­tle sum­mer into the cold win­ter”, Blanco wants peo­ple to leave the per­for­mance with “a warm heart and a big smile” and also “knowl­edge of where the Tor­res Strait Is­lands are”. Hope­fully, that’s not as much of an is­sue in their home state as other parts of the coun­try but what might be less well­known is the threat of dis­place­ment ad­dressed in I.B.I.S., which is­lan­ders face from ris­ing sea lev­els.

“Peo­ple are be­ing re­lo­cated from the western is­lands of Tor­res Strait where they’re start­ing to go un­der,” Blanco says.

“It’s a real threat and we wanted to bring a bit of at­ten­tion to that. You hear the el­ders talk about ‘if the is­lands go down, we’ll go down with them’, like a cap­tain with a ship. There’s a real pride in Tor­res Strait Is­lan­ders and re­silience and we wanted to leave peo­ple with a mes­sage of hope.” For Bris­bane-born Brown, the best feed­back for I.B.I.S. has been that it has helped peo­ple see in­dige­nous iden­tity in a pos­i­tive light.

Bangarra Dance Theatre’s latest pro­duc­tion, Lore, ar­rives in Bris­bane this week.

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