DRESSED FOR THE DANCE
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.