May 20, 2013
Blak was entirely fresh and raw when we opened in Melbourne, but although we felt incredibly nervous, our audience was more than supportive and encouraging.
When we finally perform the premier of any show, it’s akin to an enormous exhale after holding one’s breath for weeks on end. The night before had a little more comfort to offer us in our state of anxiety; Koorie Community Night in Melbourne!! The familiar faces and unconditional love of our mob gave us the extra push to get us through till the last dance on opening night. And the show is definitely up and running now! Like a baby it grows, evolves, changes, and feels more settled into life on the stage after birth. We have a lengthy season ahead of us, and thus I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to see where I can go within this work.
Deep in thought the other day I pondered on the time when I performed in smaller scale productions and only had one or two week long seasons. It was the ultimate ideal (and still is) to have the show at its very best from the first performance. Though we strive for that now, I get a chance to discover what is possible for Blak. We have just arrived in Wollongong and here is our new chance to grow along with Blak. Time to hone in on rehabilitation for bodies that are now rested and recovering from injuries, and time to give to the wonderful crowds here in the ‘Gong…always a pleasure to be at IPAC!
Image: Jasmin Sheppard in Yearning from Blak 2013, photo by Greg Barrett
May 20, 2013
I sat sweltering in the oddly summery Sydney weather as the sun’s rays were magnified through the floor to ceiling windows of Qantas domestic airport. I had shed a few layers of clothing to cope with the heat, but knew that when I disembarked in Melbourne I’d have to replace the layers and brave the crispy southern wind that blows right to your bones. I am a Melbournite by origin so I packed my woollies and my good spirits for the week, and the premiere of Blak at the Arts Centre.
A week before leaving for Melbourne our stress levels were through the roof. We had so much yet to choreograph, and my brainpower was beginning to wilt. By the last Saturday however, we had finished choreographing the last parts of the show and, with little if not any hiccups, we satisfied our worries by doing a complete run of the show. So much can change with a few days! I had been losing sleep with anxiety, trying to hold on to that faith and trust in my choreographers that I spoke of in my last entry, but it was fading with my own doubts and my failing mental capacity to retain choreography! After our first full run, I was filled with a renewed positive outlook. I should have taken my own advice – trusted that is would all come together in the end, because it did.
We had a huge week ahead of us, but the stress of long hours and nervousness I felt for opening night couldn’t swamp my excitement for performing a show that I truly believe in!
May 15, 2013
May 13, 2013
We wanted to share this great photo of our artists with students from Reservoir High School, Princess Hill Secondary College and Northern College of the Arts and Technology at their workshop at the Arts Centre Melbourne last week. The Company is currently on the road to Wollongong where they have 3 performances of Blak this weekend. You can book tickets for Wollongong here: http://merrigong.com.au/shows/blak.html|
April 19, 2013
Men and women reunite! Together again in the one studio, Bangarra are once again an entirety. How lovely it is to be fusing our polar opposite energies and begin to work in a team.
We still haven’t seen the men’s work Scar, and they haven’t seen ours Yearning, and I must say that I really can’t wait to see what they’ve been working on! But there’s plenty of time for that. We are two weeks out from the premiere of Blak in my own hometown of Melbourne.
A tension creeps through the air, a common thought, that, with about two weeks till opening night, and a fair amount to choreograph as of yet, will we get it all done in time? Will we be ready to share this story with confidence to our Melbourne audiences? Though not always shared openly, I know this worry plagues a good majority of us!
Things do however, as the cliché goes, come together in the end, and this point in the creative process comes for all dancers. It’s a time when you must return to that ultimate trust in your choreographer, which I have entirely in Stephen, and in Dan. All throughout the creation of a work, that trust enables me to create and contribute, even when I’m unsure of the direction the work is going in. That trust in a choreographer is why I chose this company to begin with. And why I know we will arrive at completion. So I’m putting the energy out there into the studio…it will all come together in the end!
Image: Stephen Page and artists rehearsing Blak, photo Greg Barrett|
April 11, 2013
Although it’s Autumn, I’m still sweating such a great deal throughout my day that one would think it is still the depths of Summer. Is it due to the unusually pleasant weather? Or is it that we are plunging all our energy, physical and emotional, into our creative workshopping of Blak? Perhaps a little of option A and B.
We are in the thick of developing the new work. I treasure the creative development process, it is constant food for the mind, and provides new challenges for our muscles. Men and women have been separated into two different rooms for the creation of the first two parts of Blak. After almost 5 weeks of segregation into a men’s camp and a women’s camp, it seems as though the boys are getting more boyish and the girls are getting girlier. I’m uncertain if that is fact, but it’s definitely feeling as such!
Our strenuous ballet classes bring us altogether under the watchful eye of our dedicated Rehearsal Director, Robert Curran (affectionately known by his full name at work also). His wealth of ballet knowledge is giving us a strong base with which to then thrash about, or languidly melt into our familiar contemporary style. Excitement abounds in the Bangarra studios as we discover more of what Blak is, and will be.
Image: Jasmin Sheppard in Blak rehearsals photo Greg Barrett|
March 13, 2013
It’s a far journey from Northeast Arnhem Land to Vietnam, but within a month we find ourselves here in Hanoi and in a few days, Ho Chi Minh City. From dancing traditional creation stories on the sandy beaches by open fire at Banu Banu (Bremmer Island near Dhalinybuy), our bodies and therefore our spirits find ourselves dancing the same traditional dances for the Vietnamese people. We grew in our cultural knowledge of these dances while spending time with the much loved communities – learning from our cultural tutors, and I felt that the trip enabled us to carry that freshness with us, and truly give to our audiences.
Our days were filled with warm friendliness from the Vietnamese people, during workshops at dance universities in both cities, and also within the theatres during performances. Sharing with other dancers from another culture teaches that communication transcends language alone. We shared the language of dance, and the enthusiasm of creativity. We understood each other in our common passion. Performing for them put the icing on the cake. To witness another dancer from an entirely different culture truly understanding the stories we tell makes it all the more evident that the entire planet is unified, even if we don’t see it sometimes. Spirit truly is a special program, tying together a lot of what makes this company unique, and I feel that it expresses the heart of Bangarra.
One Vietnamese guide shed light on her own experience of attending Spirit in Hanoi, saying that although she has never had the opportunity to visit Australia, she felt that through our performance she was given the chance to see the land, feel the country, its colours, sounds and people.
Image: Female ensemble with Kathy Balngayngu Marika, Spirit, Hanoi Opera House, photo Roger Stonehouse|
March 13, 2013
Bangarra to receive $613,000 additional core funding through the National Cultural Policy.
Read more HERE|
February 28, 2013
Rekindling selection workshops have now taken place across NSW in Wellington, Moree, Kempsey and Blacktown. In the Wellington Times last week, Member for Orange Andrew Gee MP, wrote about his visit to the Wellington Rekindling selection workshop saying “Watching the young dancers in action really brought home to me what an incredible opportunity this was for them.”
This photo of Rekindling Workshop Leader Chantel Kerr was taken by Greg Barrett at the Moree selection workshop. A second selection workshop will be held for the Darug language group in Blacktown on 9 March. You can find out more HERE and register for the selection workshop HERE.|
February 28, 2013
February 20, 2013
Just over ten days ago we set off to Nhulunbuy in northeast Arnhem Land, which is like a base camp for trips to and from different communities in the region. I awoke early one morning to attempt a sunrise yoga, but was soon eaten alive by the local mozzies who were thriving in the wet season’s humidity. Back to the room I went! A couple of hours later, and after joyful reunions with old friends from the community, we set out to Dhalinybuy, homeland of Djakapurra Munyarrun, a Bangarra founding member. What touches our hearts the most is seeing members of the community who we formed special bonds with over past visits, and spending time with them eating, swimming at fresh water holes (a small amount of worry creeps up on us when we think about the possibility of meeting baru – crocodile!) and playing with the kids during dance workshops.
Night fell on our final night and we blasted the headlights on the four wheel drives to get together for a bungle (dance). After almost 10 years of learning and performing Yolngu bungle, I was once again humbled by the children, with them taking the role of teacher and showing us the way, while we kept keen eyes on their styles and tried to make the community proud. After two nights in Dhalinybuy, we headed back to town and were invited to attend one night of the funeral ceremony of a special lady. I admit I was both incredibly honoured and nervous. I wanted to do my adopted family of Yirrkala proud and dance with respect!
January 30, 2013
December 20, 2012
With this article published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 10 December 2012, Bangarra’s Chair of the Board Larissa Behrendt reflects on Paul Keating’s speech in Redfern Park in the late 1980s.
December 14, 2012
November 28, 2012
Here we are on Wiradjuri country at last, bringing Riley home and sharing our work with the mob out here. How special it is to be tracing the trails of song lines through places like Bathurst, Orange, Albury and now Wagga Wagga. So far I’ve learnt the correct pronunciation of Bangarra from a woman who speaks Wiradjuri fluently, and have listened to stories that trace Wiradjuri song lines right through New South Wales and connect with other tribal groups right down as far as Nowra. The company are waiting to exhale with four remaining performances for the year. Not because we dislike what we do, but because our bodies are holding on by a thread. I recently heard that Bangarra may have done more performances this year than any dance company as small as us, and our bodies are feeling it! My back has begun to succumb to the weight of carrying our giant Cooloomun prop, a sign that the end of the year is drawing near and a rest for my body is just what I, and the whole company (crew included!) need. However, my minor back problem did lead me to a nurturing acupuncturist who not only gave my back some much needed TLC, but also put me on the road to other ways to take care of my body as a whole. When your body is your livelihood, it is important to take care and respect the whole thing….the insides and the outside. So in this sense, a negative has led me to a positive! So onward we go, gaining strength from our art, and of course from the beautiful Elders that welcome us onto their land with incredible warmth!
November 21, 2012
The West Australian leg of the of earth & sky regional tour is done and dusted. We don’t often have the chance to make the lengthy journey to the other side of the country to dance for the West. Although the entire team continued to battle through more injuries and sicknesses, we put on a few deadly shows in Mandurah, Geraldton, Bunbury and Albany. What a welcome we did receive from our Nyoongar brothers and sisters in every district. Our arrival in each town was anticipated, and the warmth was so heartening. I always forget how far WA is, and at times it felt like we were in a different country, battling mild jet lag and being woken at 5 or 6 am by eastern coast callers, thinking it was a godly hour to call (well it was by western standard time!). Teaching workshops to local kids, and adults for that matter, is always a highlight, and lifts our spirits even when our bodies are struggling to push through the last couple of months of a long and busy year. It is energising to experience the enthusiasm of young budding dancers, and we were especially touched by older dancers also eagerly hanging on our every word and giving of their spirits in our workshop in Albany. The company continues to miss our dearly loved dancers Daniel Riley and Yolande Brown as they recuperate from their injuries in Sydney. Sadly they won’t be dancing with us for the remaining 7 shows. Our Wiradjuri brother Daniel will meet us in Dubbo, but we are all itching for him to be with us in our entire NSW tour, as we tour Wiradjuri country performing Riley, our tribute to Wiradjuri artist Michael Riley. I personally feel very honoured to be bringing this work back to country, and I look forward to meeting community and discovering more of Wiradjuri culture along the way. This will surely enrich my performance in Riley.
October 31, 2012
Our time back in Sydney has been far too short, as we just begin to settle again into a routine of coming and going from our homes, working in our beautiful studios complete with perfect view of the Harbour Bridge and blue waters. With all minds focusing on the goal, we have remounted our 2010 show, of earth & sky with as little stress as possible. I personally think that blue skies and warm days assist in a light and carefree attitude! Over a fortnight we have rearranged the show as one of our female dancers has gone on to other creative pursuits. We have worked around injuries, sicknesses and (personally) too many appointments to mention. And here we are, on the plane to Perth to begin our regional tour of WA and NSW. It’s almost as if the entire company has turned into a flowing stream, curving around any boulders that obstruct the path, and pulling along anything we need to get through the fortnight amongst our current. As summer begins it brings with it lightness, positivity, and fresh creativity. I must say that in 2010 I thoroughly enjoyed performing this show, and I’m excited to be revisiting it again. Bon Voyage once more Bangarra!
October 16, 2012
Along with our tour to Brisbane came the first truly warm weather most of us have had for a while. I cherished the warm days walking to the theatre, sweating it out in class during our closing week of TERRAIN. After a long season, we pressed on and gave our most for the final week of transporting ourselves onstage to desert salt pans. I personally treasured the chance to perform for a lot of my own family, including my grandmother who turned 90 during the week. We have been given a week off after closing night, and my plan is to travel to the Gulf of Carpentaria to finally visit her place of birth, home lands of my ancestors, the Tagalaka and Walangama people. Whilst performing Reborn for the last time, as I poured the white sand through my fingers and into my palms, I imagined what I might be seeing for the first time in the week to follow. What colour would the earth be? How thick would the bush be as I scanned the horizon? Who would I meet there? And as I felt the energy of the three men dancing behind me and with me, I imagined the spirits of my great grandmother and my great grandfather watching me as I traversed homelands for the first time.
October 10, 2012
It’s a little late, but an update on our Mongolia tour must be commented on! On arrival at our hotel after dodging potholes and other wild vehicles on the road to the city centre, we were received by a warm welcome by crew from the Arts Council Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar, and quickly settled in for a week in the vibrant city. We were given a day to recuperate and explore the city, and I made use of my first morning in Mongolia by visiting the local Buddhist temple and saying a prayer of thanks to the universe for the opportunity to dance for the Mongols. After talking with the generous women from Arts Council Mongolia, I soon discovered many parallels between their culture and Aboriginal culture also. Here in Mongolia, I believe, we found an audience that, although may speak an entirely different language, connected and understood our culture through a deep sharing of spirit. Our first work day was spent at the University of Arts and Culture where we took workshops in Bangarra repertoire and Yirrikala traditional dance, led by Aunty Kathy Marika. It was a beautiful experience of sharing of cultures and dance style. How lucky we were to also be treated by a showing of their own traditional dance by the students, and also by a precious 80 something lady, clad in traditional dress and emotively moving to the traditional horse head violin. Watching her moved me to tears as I saw her soul extend to us, one with her body and the music.
Our two performances of Spirit were received so well, and we definitely made lasting connections with many people from Ulaanbaatar. Our last free day, spent amongst mountain ranges, rocky hills and vast plains at Terelj national park was a treat for our minds, bodies and spirits, and to perform Spirit again…..well what more could you ask for in a week of work. Bliss.
October 10, 2012
And exhale…I feel as though I can breathe calmly, and normally now. It’s was only two weeks ago that we returned from our excursion to Mongolia, and now as I sit writing this at Brisbane airport on our way home after successfully completing our national tour of TERRAIN, my mind is finally able to process the last few weeks, and I am able to type it into some sort of blog entry.
Three weeks ago to the day, we gathered together as a clan at Sydney international airport for our much anticipated trip to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I was not fully educated on the country, and what we were to expect once we arrived. But what we did find was beautiful, open, friendly people who were so excited and overwhelmed by our presence there. We were given the evening we arrived and the following day off, to sight see, and get a feel for the city. Through my eyes, and experiences, what I discovered was a city that is still developing. Skyscrapers and apartment complexes on every block growing and reaching for the sky, roads under development trying to keep up with the ever expanding car market, and locals on the side of the road with their fruit stalls making a living any way they can. The theatre where we were to perform was situated in the heart of the city, and was an interesting old theatre. Technologically a little dated, but, we got by, and with our always adaptive production crew we worked around what we were offered to make the show look as best we could with what we had. Language barriers were a daily occurrence for the crew, but with the help of the staff from the Mongolian Arts Council they found a middle ground and got the job done. Performing for the audience there was a real treat and rush. We may have freaked them out a bit, with our head to toe of ochre and our blankets, but I feel as though we made a great impression on the local arts community that will linger for years to come. Spirit is such a great show to perform, and to showcase what we as a company are about. It has everything from traditional dance, to the fusion of contemporary, to the presence of Aunty Kathy Marika to help connect the entire through line of the show. Mongolia wasn’t on my list of places to visit, but I feel lucky to have been able to experience it as a country, and get a brief look and feel into their culture.
Now TERRAIN is done and dusted, the next step is to remount of earth & sky for our regional tour of WA and NSW. The first half of the show is a work called Riley, that incidentally, I created and choreographed with the help of the dancers back in 2010. Getting to see and remount it again is going to be a pleasure. I’ll also be performing in it this time around which will be a new experience. Finally I’ll be able to fully understand what I put the dancers through the first time around and experience it from the inside, as opposed to a voyeur, viewing it from afar. I’m also eagerly awaiting to see Michael’s [Riley] cloud series again, projected up at the rear of the space, to remind me of what I created, and to continue to inspire myself and the dancers as we share the story of his images with our regional audience.
I would also like to put it out there, that if there are any questions that you as readers and avid fans of Bangarra would like answered, please don’t hesitate to ask. Sometimes Jas and I get a little stuck as to what to write. So a question here or there would aid us greatly. And we can help inform our readers of what we do in the process. Either ask away on Facebook, or comment on our blog posts and either Jas or I will attempt to answer them for you.
September 17, 2012
From Maree to Mongolia via our national capital. That’s been our schedule for the past two weeks and the week coming up. On Saturday we closed our season in Canberra. I have a deep connection to Canberra as I consider it my home town. I don’t have family there anymore, but a few close friends still live there and it’s where my relationship with dance started. A relationship that continues to bloom and blossom with the years. We were all freshly invigorated and re-inspired after our visit out to Lake Eyre last week. After we closed in Adelaide, we boarded a plane to Olympic Dam, then drove two and a half hours on dirt roads to Maree, where we met up with our cultural consultant for TERRAIN, Uncle Reg Dodd. He lives in Maree and runs tours out to the lake, where he tells Aboriginal stories of the lake and it’s surrounding areas. We were very lucky to have him impart his plethora of knowledge on us. It was so inspiring to see and hear him be so utterly involved and knowledgeable of his culture and roots.
The lake itself was beautiful and mystical. As we stepped out onto the earth surrounding the lake, with the sound of crunching salt beneath our shoes, we knew there was something special about this place. The energy and feel of the area with its colourful land made it feel slightly surreal. There was such a stillness or even a sacredness about it. Walking the shores of the lake I gained new inspiration for some of the choreography I perform. The first being Salt, where I represent the salt spirit of the lake and Kaine as my shadow. The salt formations made such beautiful patterns on the earth and sparkled under the sunlight. The crunching of the salt and the crystallised formations it made reminded me of the first passage of choreography where the movement is sharp, angular and twitchy. The salt also made me think of my costume for that section, which is a bolero jacket covered in triangles to make it look as though i have just rose from the salt planes of Lake Eyre and my upper body is crystallised in salt.
While we were out in Maree we conducted workshops for the local community kids from Maree Aboriginal School. As with most workshops we conduct the kids are always a little hesitant one the first day. They try to wrap their head around having to learn choreography and count music, and it sometime seems as though they aren’t having fun, that its work. But a mutual respect was gained by the second day and a lot of fun was had by all. The choreography they learned on the first day seemed to sink deeper into their memories over night, and they seemed to be absorbing more information. To end the workshops we put together everything they had learned as a little performance for some of the community members and local elders to come watch and see what we had all been working so hard so. Tara G, Jasmin, Ella, Amy, Lenny, Waangenga, Kaine and myself felt so fortunate to be able to be apart of the Maree community for those four days. It is such beautiful country out there, the sun rises and sun sets were unlike any I had seen either here in Australia or abroad. We were super proud of the kids and their accomplishments and we hope they take their experience with us into their future.
Now…back to Sydney, for a little under forty eight hours, as early Monday morning we are all convening at the international airport for our trip to Mongolia, via an overnight stop in Hong Kong. This trip seems like it was never going to happen and it has been in the back of our minds, until now. With little time at home, we are thinking about what needs to be packed and what needs to be bought before our trip, and organise our home lives before venturing overseas. Excitement has started to creep up on us, and we are looking forward to the adventure we are about undertake.
I had a great conversation with a gentleman at the pub in Maree. He said he was proud of us as a company and the way we represent our country, land and culture. First of all I was so surprised that he had heard of us, but he later told me he had seen a show when he was in the city once and has since watched all our YouTube videos. So safe to say he was up to date with our performance programs. I’ll end with what I told him as we were saying our farewells. We don’t take what we do, what and who we represent lightly. We are well aware how important our work overseas is, and are always sure to give Australia good representation, both on stage and off.
Daniel Riley McKinley|
September 17, 2012
Read a report from Bangarra’s chair, Larissa Behrendt about why the arts should be funded.|
September 17, 2012
Well here we are about to board the plane for Hong Kong and then Mongolia. Since my last blog we have been to Lake Eyre, Maree community, Canberra and now here.
My time in Maree was so special instead of mere blogging I thought I’d put in a couple of poems.
Throwing balls of energy
Back and forth, back and forth,
With small children,
Shining faces home to hungry eager eyes.
Deep brown pools of possibility.
We tread hard on wooden floors,
Pounding the earth to retrieve her energy,
Bringing light, forming connection,
Then thank her, in the hope we can give something back.
Small prepubescent lumps rise on the horizon.
Nothing. For miles and light years.
Only grey, khaki, grass green, straw and salmon.
The tufts of life springing up,
Almost starved of liquid, but not quite.
Then the curves arise.
Like a giant fist from beneath has struck the earth,
And up they heave.
Creating curves in the distance like sleeping women,
Their pelvic tips and breast crescents reaching and touching the blue sky,
Caressing the cool breeze.
Catching the birds as they fly past, collecting them in the curve of their waists,
Inviting them to take a moments rest from flight within their desert scrub.
September 10, 2012
September 4, 2012
It’s a rather balmy day today, and I’m staring out the wide windows of Adelaide airport out to the greyish blue hue of the hills contemplating the few days that are ahead of us. We are shortly going to board our plane to Lake Eyre, and drive to Maree amongst hot dry earth and quiet bush to teach mob some dance workshops. This is a trip that will surely revive, rejuvenate and heal all of us after a wildly busy couple of months. Our season here in Adelaide was received so warmly and we cherished the full houses, thunderous applause and welcoming community. Bringing TERRAIN back to the state of whence its stories came was special, particularly for Frances, as she is SA born and bred, and has a special connection to South Australia. As does Kaine Sultan-Babij, a Whyalla boy who was so thrilled to be performing for his family for the first time with Bangarra in SA. The haunting energy of Her Majesty’s Theatre, in its 99th year of existence, created an atmosphere of mystery. We shuffled around backstage spreading clouds of drying ochre up and down the old creaking staircases, the wood bending beneath our footsteps. The season brought me a renewed appreciation of being a performing artist, that’s certain!
August 29, 2012
Adelaide, or Radelaide or A-Town. It’s known by a lot of other names I’m sure. But here we are, bumping into the beautiful old Her Majesty’s Theatre. We have performed in this theatre once before in 2008 when we were regionally touring True Stories. It’s a great theatre with a lot of character, and it always makes for an interesting time getting used to the smaller stage, but it is a treat to look out into the auditorium, with its great chandelier. It’s also great for us to be able to share this work with its home audience, as Frances gained her inspiration from the Arabunna people of South Australia, and their land.
Yolande, Ella, Jhuny and myself conducted a masterclass today at the Adelaide College of the Arts for some dance students there and some high school students from a local school. It’s always such a pleasure to teach and help in the education of students who are choosing to take dance on as a career. I remember being a university student – in their shoes – and being so hungry for other information along with new and different styles and techniques. They were so welcoming and so open to anything and everything we had to say. It was really refreshing to teach them and hopefully give them some more inspiration to get through their training. University can be such a struggle and uphill battle, it feels like some days you’re not going anywhere, you don’t feel the advancement of your own personal technique, like you’re a mouse in a wheel. But once you’re out, and free to go where you choose, train with who you choose, you’ll notice it, and it will be a comfort to know that you have it in your back pocket should you need it. Thank you students at A.C. Arts, you all inspired me today.
Daniel Riley McKinley|
August 23, 2012
The traveling begins today. As we sit here in our Murrays coach on our way to Wollongong, there’s a feeling of mixed emotions. It feels great to say goodbye to the Opera House for another year but it’s always hard to say goodbye to loved ones and our familiar surroundings of home for unfamiliar hotel rooms and other cities that we don’t know as well as our own. Most of us have been to Wollongong before, every year for the past 7 or more years, so it’s not totally unfamiliar. We know where to get our morning coffee, where Woolworths is, what the fastest route to the theatre is, and where to find dinner after the show comes down at night.
There’s an unsettled feeling that circulates through the company once we start on the road. We’re always looking forward to the next venue, knowing that we are only in Wollongong for three nights before we head home for two sleeps in our apartments or houses, with our loved ones, in our beds, under our sheets, eating out of our bowls over breakfast at our tables. It’s this familiarity that we miss the most while we are away, sharing our work with other audiences. On the other hand we are very lucky to be able to see the places we do, and share our work with our fans elsewhere. We just have to learn to look at the glass as half full, rather than half empty.
Daniel Riley McKinley|
August 20, 2012
It’s our last Opera House performance of TERRAIN tonight, and the final night of what has been an epic month of shows, Spirit rehearsals for Mongolia, vaccination appointments, and photo shoots. In the midst of all this, we have been endeavouring to keep strong bodies, calm minds and rested souls. Between matinees we sneak midday siestas in the green room, we relish our short but sweet massage and physio appointments, and anticipate the end of yet another big week with good food and company. I’ve found it to be testing performing and rehearsing after my dreaded appointments with dr Pollack of the travel vaccination clinic. Being someone with a sensitive stomach, I dragged myself to the pathology clinic for my initial blood test, and was quite impressed at how pain and stress free it turned out. The following week, however, after two vaccination needles in each deltoid, I had to apologise to my ballet teacher for my comical inability to raise my arms any higher that 45 degrees! That night’s show was a push as I tried to ignore the ache in my arms, but with little time to prepare for a tour to Mongolia, there were not a lot of options! We all pushed through, and the company even got through a short bout of Gastro and a few minor injuries, but here we are, ready to perform one last time for Sydney! We’ll give it every last bit of juice before a few much needed days of rest, then do it all again for Wollongong.
August 2, 2012
Revisiting older repertoire is always a great way to fully appreciate where Bangarra as a company has come from. I remember learning most of Bangarra’s history when we were putting together Fire – A Retrospective. Familiarising myself with this choreography was a great way to really understand and appreciate the development of this one-of-a-kind company that I am a part of. Before we head over to perform at the Opera House each day, we are spending time relearning and revisiting some of our favourite pieces of repertoire for our upcoming international tour to Mongolia. Most of the pieces come back to us quite quickly – we have performed the choreography numerous times and all we may need is to watch it on DVD then a quick listen of the soundtrack, and we are eighty percent there. Teaching the older repertoire to some of our newer dancers also aids the rest of us to remember how steps changed and evolved the last time we performed them. I enjoy teaching the work and passing down all I have learned to those men. There is something so satisfying in watching someone you have taught, move and execute choreography well. It shows that they really are taking in everything you say, and that I can deliver technique, tips, tricks, and the steps verbally and be understood. They are doing so well learning in the short amount of time we have. I hope they retain everything long enough so they can in turn teach it.
Every now and then Bangarra gets approached to perform at an awards ceremony, a national holiday concert, or more recently a corporate awards ceremony. The gig was for Microsoft and was an awards ceremony where young computer programmers from around the world competed to design and create programs for any number of things. Waangenga, Jhuny and myself performed a shortened version of Black, which heralds back from Ochres. This piece is perhaps my favourite piece of Bangarra’s choreographic repertoire to perform. I never tire of it, and thoroughly enjoy revisiting it. It’s like a favourite t-shirt or a tailored suit: it just fits perfectly and feels so right.
Daniel Riley McKinley|
July 31, 2012
We are well into the swing of things at the Opera House, and now that opening night of TERRAIN is done, I feel like I can relax into the show and begin to play around with my stories and dynamics within the pieces I’m in, to make my performance really grow. Back at the Wharf, as we dancers basked in the lights of stage, our team were confirming a quick tour to Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. So it’s official. We are heading to Mongolia, a country I have wanted to visit since primary school, and we’ll be dancing there! As exciting as this all is, this means we have to get busy. Barely two days out from our hectic production week and our schedule is jam packed with rehearsals for Mongolia. We come in early, warm up then switch our muscle memories on to bring back our work Spirit. Some pieces are as simple as letting the music play whilst we let our physical bodies take over, relaying the movement as precisely as if we had performed it yesterday. Now that’s quite an unusual experience. We push through the week like a train with a heavy load. We are tired, and need to do our best not to let TERRAIN suffer as a result of our extra rehearsals. We regain energy and spirit for each performance by stepping into another existence once we’ve painted up and put our costumes on. This is the important part of a busy day; telling our story to the public. Here we go again! Chookas all round for another show!
July 19, 2012
Our community night performance for the local Indigenous community went extremely well. They are our biggest and most loyal fans. They soak up each step we perform, and let us know how much they loved the performance by jumping up on their feet during our curtain call. The community night performance, or ‘Koori’ night, is a great first show to do in the Opera House. It gets us all on our way for our long season ahead. The warmth from that audience, carries us through the entire season.
Opening night last night was also a huge success. There was a good turn out and we even had the privilege of performing for the Governor General, the Governor of NSW and the Premier of NSW, along with friends, family, supporters of Bangarra and our Bangarra staff. There is always a certain amount of nerves associated with opening night. The challenge is to rise above it and not to think about it too much, yes it’s opening night, but it should be no different to other shows and performances I give. Personally, last night was an excellent show. We came together to give Frances’ work a new level of performance and storytelling. As a show, it is definitely starting to sink into our bodies and feeling more natural and I’m able to enjoy performing it more.
We all have different ways to treat a tired, worn out body after a long few days of rehearsals and important performances. This morning, after sleeping very well, and a breakfast of muesli and yoghurt, i made my way to my local aquatic centre for a relaxing swim. Since I bulged a disc in my lower spine early last year, swimming was a huge part of my rehabilitation and since then has been my activity of choice to escape dancing and to ease out the impact of performances and rehearsals. It’s low impact and makes my body feel great and resets my body for another show. I enjoy the peacefulness and meditative state I go into whilst swimming. I’m able to clear my head and think about nothing but my breathing and the black line on the bottom on the pool.
Daniel Riley McKinley|
July 18, 2012
It’s production week for our Sydney season at the Opera House, a venue that feels comfortable and familiar, like settling back into an old home. I walk the same pathway up to our dressing rooms in the Drama Theatre, and wonder how time can speed by so fast. it seems as though it was just yesterday that we were at the House bumping in last year’s production of Belong. This week’s purpose is to take what beauty we created with TERRAIN in the spacious Playhouse in Melbourne, and translate it into a much more intimate space here. As a dancer, a lot of our time is spent re-thinking our delivery of each piece. For most of us this means focusing on a subtler delivery of our inner spirits. The audience will be much closer, which creates the opportunity to connect with them on a more personal level. For the crew, they are focusing on changing lighting moods to complement the intimate stage. Last night was community night, when all the mob fill the seats. Having our brothers and sisters out there supporting us brings us the energy we need to carry on through to opening night. Thanks for a fabulous, creative Koori night!
July 13, 2012
Rest days. Time off. Four words that are greatly welcomed at the end of a performance season. Especially our premiere season in Melbourne, from where we have just returned.
After two weeks away from home, long hours in the theatre, and ten performances, all our bodies are craving, is time off and away from the stage and dancing. The first season is always the most difficult, in both body and mind. Our bodies are adjusting to a new show, to new repertoire and to new daily challenges. New bruises develop, and soreness and tiredness sets in to new and different muscles. There is a new discovery of having to come up with new ways to prep our bodies before each show, as each show is a different physical challenge from the last. During the season our minds continued to adjust to locking in the new show and finding ways to deliver the show at our peak performance levels for the next three months. Finding the nuances both big and small and allowing our bodies to really sink into the movement is what the first season is all about. What movement can we push further and what do we have to pull back to enhance the work are questions that were continually answered during Melbourne. Figuring out how to maintain our bodies during the season was also something that needed to be discovered whilst we were in Melbourne, and is something that we will continue to explore once at the Sydney Opera House next week.
Daniel Riley McKinley|
July 5, 2012
TERRAIN opening night, after much preparation, was a great success. Back stage the dancers felt high levels of nervous energy, uncertain anticipation, and moments of quiet concentration. There’s always a lot to process on the eve of a world premiere. I don’t think I was the only one to take time out to picture in my mind the great expanse and curious moods of Lake Eyre. We have had the privilege to have a local elder from Lake Eyre come to watch our interpretation of the incredible landscape, and just knowing that we have his blessing to go out and portray an image of his traditional land is really quite special. I think it has given all of us an extra push of encouragement. As I pinned in the spindly arms of my spinifex headpiece I imagined the dry wick of lonely gums by the lake, awaiting the first drink of water for the season. The lake provides so much visual inspiration that it becomes easy to disappear into a different world and landscape onstage. The performance went by so quickly and I must say that I am going to treasure the experience of performing TERRAIN every night.
June 28, 2012
And that’s our first dress rehearsal done and dusted. It feels good to know we have a show to present, with all the elements working. They may not be working as one yet, but that will come over the next few days leading up to our opening night on Friday. There is something about the use of the ochre, and paint in TERRAIN, and all other Bangarra shows actually, that add and extra layer of character to a performance. Whenever that layer of ochre or paint is applied, you lose yourself underneath it. It becomes your second skin for the show, an alter ego almost, where you can get lost in the character and the movement. If you’re feeling a little slack or tired, that layer of paint can help you step up and tackle the show with all you have. It’s our superhero suit and our layer of story and character we add before each performance.
June 25, 2012
It is TERRAIN production week, and nature had blessed me with a mighty flu. What started on Tuesday as a mere rumble in my chest escalated into bouts of fevers, body aches and a chesty cough. When we work together in such a tight knit group, and each one of us is an important piece of the puzzle, it is a tough choice whether to brave the elements to come into work so as to not miss any important information and evolutions of the piece, or to stay at home, rest and recuperate and selfishly keep my fluey germs to myself. I chose the latter. Cathie Goss our tireless rehearsal director took one look at me and told me to rest up. I went home and slept for a solid and much needed six hours, then right through the night.
So now the company is back at Qantas domestic and on our way to Melbourne. As I’m sitting here I am hoping that by opening night my body heals so that I can give Terrain everything it deserves. But even if it doesn’t then I’ll need to draw from the well within, from where my stories and connection to Fran’s work comes.
June 25, 2012
It’s a beautiful blue and perfectly clear morning down by the wharf. It’s Saturday morning, our sixth day of work this week and we are here to do a final rehearsal and cleaning session of TERRAIN before we all move on down to Melbourne for our world premiere season at the Arts Centre. Up until yesterday I was feeling a bit nervous about our production week to come and our first shows. But something clicked yesterday with our run at the end of the day. The show is feeling whole and complete, more so than even the day before. I’m feeling more relaxed and comfortable with my steps and choreography, and have started to look forward to sharing the work with the general public, our family and friends. At the end of today, all should be clearer and the movement creases should be ironed out, as the big hurdle this week is the lighting and staging.
Daniel Riley McKinley|
June 25, 2012
At six am on a crisp Saturday morning, Bangarra and The Australian Ballet dancers congregated outside the Ballet Centre, anticipating a twenty hour flight to New York City. Slowly the ballerinas began to line up their luggage to be checked off and counted – a process that our small family of 13 dancers are not accustomed to! The Aussie Ballet move like a well oiled machine, and were hitching a ride with them to the Big Apple. We had four days and two shows at Lincoln Centre, and we were armed with high hopes for our New York performances. Our show Warumuk – in the dark night, is a magical and sensory journey of Yolgnu astronomy.
Our rehearsals were short, as was our time onstage to space and tech – barely enough time to take in the great expanse of the David Koch Theatre and its endless tiers and rows of seats.
Opening night was exhilarating- and we received a standing ovation! (rarely heard of at Lincoln Centre). I feel like I closed my eyes, opened them again and it was all over. Before we knew it Bangarra were boarding the plane to Sydney to open our new show, TERRAIN at the end of this week. Deep breaths all!
June 22, 2012
We have been busy of late having just returned from New York where we performed Stephen’s Warumuk – in the dark night with The Australian Ballet at Lincoln Centre.
New York was a whirlwind fast paced adventure. After the very long 23 hours of traveling from door to door, we were all eager to get out and get lost in the city. It is such a fantastic, exciting city, although a very tiring one. Each day felt like two days, as we were trying to jam pack it full of everything New York had to offer.
Our performances at Lincoln Centre were very special and memorable. Being invited to share the stage with The Australian Ballet was not only fantastic in itself, but what really made the performances for me was that together we were sharing, and telling traditional Yolngu night stories to the city that never sleeps, and receiving a standing ovation whilst doing it. Supposedly that never happens in New York, so for us to achieve that together was a huge milestone.
I feel as though my feet and body haven’t had time to feel planted on the ground I call home, which is Sydney. After having spent 6 weeks in Melbourne at the beginning of the year creating and performing Warumuk then a short season at the Sydney Opera House, we were all greatly looking forward to being home and settled for a while and being involved in a new story under the directorship of Frances and her ideas. We have been discovering TERRAIN is about a greater connection to earth, to country and an exploration of the relationship we, as Indigenous people, have to the landscape of our beautiful country.
Considering our circumstances leading up to the creation we had spent 7 weeks not at home and in the past month of June have been in a different city each week, the idea of exploring our connection to earth and to our landscape, could not be more poignant.
Daniel Riley McKinley|
June 15, 2012
Stephen Page has worked closely with cinematographer Bonnie Elliot and editor Rochelle Oshlack to create a Bangarra digital experience.
“Playing with a moving camera and eight of our wonderful dancers one Saturday, I looked for the essence within each individual – their special movement quality that reflects each personality and their own creative journey”. Stephen Page.
Bangarra’s new work TERRAIN premieres in Melbourne on June 29 and then continues nationally in 2012|
May 4, 2012
April 18, 2012
April 13, 2012
Patrick Thaiday, will perform with the company for the last time on April 25 this year. Patrick’s final performance with Bangarra will be in Stephen Page’s Warumuk-in the dark night at the Sydney Opera House as part of the Australian Ballet’s Infinity Program.
Patrick’s retirement comes as he celebrates a long and successful decade with Bangarra. Since joining Bangarra in 2002, Patrick’s face has become synonymous with the company and critics and audiences alike have lauded him for his extraordinary featured performances across Bangarra’s repertoire.
Bangarra’s Artistic Director Stephen Page said “Patrick has been a core member of the company for the past ten years and his work deserves to be celebrated. His passion for and commitment to Indigenous dance has been a driving force within the company and he is a point of inspiration for the younger dancers. I hope that after a well deserved break Patrick will return to Bangarra in a different role.”
March 12, 2012
The 10th annual Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) was hosted in Adelaide from 26 February to 1 March where Stephen Page delivered the keynote address to an audience of over 600 Australian and International delegates, artists and programmers. APAM presents Australia and New Zealand’s best new performing arts with over 30 excerpts and full length performances ready to tour nationally and internationally. Stephen spoke about how Art is Medicine and discussed his own personal experiences of working in the Australian Arts industry.
March 9, 2012
The 2012 national tour of TERRAIN, a new work by Frances Rings, inspired by Lake Eyre is now on sale nationally.|