Brolga (2001)

Brolga (An Excerpt from Corroboree)


Brolga (Gudurrku) is the first section of the production Corroboree. (The second and third sections are Roo (Garrtjambal) and Turtle (Waru). The dance Brolga illustrates the concepts of ceremony, connection and transformation between a human spirit and the spirit of a creature.

Brolga is also inspired by totemic systems in Australian Aboriginal culture, where every person is assigned a totem related to their clan. The Brolga is just one of the many animal, plant or natural element totems that are handed down from generation to generation.

At the start of the dance the girl enters the sacred ground of the brolgas who live in the wetlands of Arnhem Land. She plays, mimics and discovers the sensual and magical nature of the environment, but she has to learn to respect the secret brolga knowledge. A flock of brolgas joins her to protect her on her journey of learning as she prepares to become a woman. She walks between the brolgas as they teach her. She surrenders herself to become one of them in an alliance of understanding and a sense of belonging to her own Dreaming.



A solo female dancer and the full ensemble of Bangarra perform Brolga. The music draws its inspiration from the land, the air, the spirit of the sacred Brolga grounds and the creature itself. The language heard in the music is Yolngu Matha.

The dance involves movements that emulate the elongated body of the large bird, the way it delicately places each long limb as its walks with it wings folded neatly out of sight, and the dipping and lengthening of the neck. (The Brolga’s natural movements are often referred to as ‘dancing’).  The dancers hold their arms behind their bodies, with elbows bent and wrists touching their lower backs. The ensemble dancers move around the girl in circles, sometimes towards her and sometimes away. She copies them and learns the movements from them, as they lead her in their dance and transfer their knowledge.

The costume worn by the dancers, illustrates the grey and white colouring of the brolga and the slender shape of its body. The performers paint a red patch along the crown of their heads to represent the distinctive markings of the bird.

This excerpt from Brolga demonstrates the choreographic possibilities of movements (movement vocabulary) inspired and influenced by particular physical attributes and movement characteristics of animals. Examples of this are the way the dancers extend their legs in front of their body, hold one arm aloft and one arm folded behind the back. They move in circles and respond to each other as members of a flock.