DRESSED FOR THE DANCE

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AUSTRALIA -

Dust swirls as dancers, glis­ten­ing with sweat, stomp their feet on the dry, brown earth to the bang­ing of clap­sticks and drone of the didgeri­doo.

Chil­dren in tra­di­tional cos­tumes, their faces painted with ochre, stand on the side, eyes wide and mouths agape, watch­ing as they await their turn. El­derly ladies, their faces swirled with white, sit on plas­tic chairs in a row clap­ping, whistling and laugh­ing rau­cously as their fam­i­lies per­form.

Over three days, dancers young and old from 20 Cape York com­mu­ni­ties take to the stage to en­act their sto­ries at the Laura Abo­rig­i­nal Dance Fes­ti­val.

Some wear elab­o­rate head­dresses, oth­ers sim­ple loin­cloths, their skin painted with hand­prints. Some per­form tra­di­tional hunt­ing dances, pranc­ing with spears poised in time to the beat. Oth­ers hold their arms out to the side and soar like ea­gles across the fes­ti­val ground.

An el­der in a bright orange T-shirt em­bla­zoned with the word Hawaii is so moved by the per­for­mance she kicks off her shoes and joins in, promptly steal­ing the show.

Chil­dren in the au­di­ence mimic the dancers, and it fills me with hope to see indige­nous cul­ture be­ing so en­thu­si­as­ti­cally pre­served and passed on to the next gen­er­a­tion.

The Laura Abo­rig­i­nal Dance Fes­ti­val is held ev­ery sec­ond year at Laura, 3½ hrs in­land from Cairns. The next is in 2019; lau­radance­fes­ti­val.com.

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