Terrain (2012)

Exploring Terrain (2012)


Landscape is at the core of our existence and is a fundamental connection between the natural world and us. The power of that connection is immeasurable. It cleanses, it heals, it awakens and it renews. It gives us perspective. It reminds us of something beyond ourselves and it frees us. But more importantly when we are surrounded by nature we begin to understand our place and how we are a very, very small part of a much larger, much bigger picture. …… TERRAIN is where spirit and place meet.
Frances Rings, Choreographer, TERRAIN, 2012

Terrain is Bangarra Dance Theatre’s twentieth production and the first full-length commission by choreographer and Bangarra artist-in-residence, Frances Rings. Prior to creating Terrain, Rings had made a number of shorter works for the company, and had also co-choreographed sections of other works in the repertoire.

Terrain is inspired by the power of natural forces and the vulnerability of ecosystems within a landscape that has existed and evolved as long as the Earth itself – a landscape from where human beings draw life and express meaning to that life. Terrain explores the fundamental connection between people and land – how we treat our land, how we understand its spirit, and how we regard its future. Terrain looks at the area of Australia known as Lake Eyre. Lake Eyre is a great salt lake of tectonic origin situated in the remote north west of South Australia. As a closed inland drainage basin with an area of 1,140,000 km2, the Lake Eyre basin is one of the largest areas of internal drainage in the world. It has a vastness and diversity like no other landscape in the world. To the Aboriginal people of this land it is known as Kati Thanda.



Lake Eyre (Kati Thanda) is the home of the Arabunna people who have maintained their deep connection with the Lake Eyre basin for thousands of years. In May 2012 the Arabunna won land rights for Lake Eyre and its surrounds. Their understanding of the landscape, and all the variances of its ever-changing behaviour enable the Arabunna to read the landscape, know its purpose and be able to share stories with us about how Kati Thanda survives and thrives through its very dramatic natural cycles of flood, drought and everything in between.

The Arabunna read the Lake Eyre landscape by different methods and indications from modern western ways. Days are measured by the length of shadows, or when the afternoon clouds roll in; months are measured by the level of salt crust on the surface of the lake; and years are measured by the rise and fall of waters, the sweep through ancient river systems, transforming the desert and bringing new life. Even more importantly, this knowledge serves to maintain the cultural life that has existed for the tens of thousands of years of Aboriginal people’s relationship to the terrain of central Australia.

Environmental imbalance is also a theme in the work. In Terrain, Rings references the collective responsibility that we all have to protect these lands – not only for the cultural importance but the environmental



Bangarra’s production of Terrain is presented as nine sections or ‘states of experiencing’ the terrain of Lake Eyre. The sections depict particular features of the Lake Eyre environment as well as the culture of the Arabunna people.

Certain themes or provocations are presented throughout the work as Rings. These themes include:

  • How we feel and acknowledge connection to ‘place’.
  • How we experience the emotion and the power of an untouched landscape.
  • How we sense our responsibility to care for the land.
  • How we hear and share the stories from the traditional dreaming of the Arabunna.
  • How the experience of a place like ‘Lake Eyre’ can inspire us to think about the power of an ancient land.

Other themes explored in the work can be identified and discussed across a range of perspectives.


Terrain is a full-length work of about 60 minutes. The 9 sections are:

Looking beyond the urban landscape to hear an ancestral Calling to Country.

Reflecting on the struggle for Land Rights and Recognition that continues to affect Indigenous people today.

Land is passed down through the lineage along with knowledge and customs.

Inspired by the trees in and around Lake Eyre that resemble the gatherings of spirit women waiting, suspended in time.

Beyond the white salt vastness lies an abstract landscape that resonates an ancient power.

The impact of man’s actions scars and disrupts the delicate balance between man and environment.

Through each evolution, the land regenerates and heals, awakening the cultural ties that connect people to place.

Traversing the horizon to glimpse the sacred realm where earth and sky meet.

Waters begin their journey towards Lake Eyre bringing with it transformation and ensuring the life cycle continues.


The film clip in this resource shows excerpts from five of the nine sections.