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Review - Our Land People Story: Bangarra’s unique dance

Our Land People Story

Choreographed by Jasmin Sheppard, Beau Dean Riley Smith, Daniel Riley and Stephen Page

Bangarra Dance Theatre

Playhouse Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank


Season: August 12-20. Duration: one hour fifty minutes including interval. Bookings: or 136 246

Bangarra’s success rests on its uniqueness and talented dancers.

Under 25 years of Steven Page’s stewardship this Aboriginal Company has scaled impressive heights and even now is coming to the end of a successful four month national tour before setting off for New York and Paris in September. Then, in October it will be touring Terrain to regional Western Australia and South Australia.

You don’t get that sort of appreciation without being special. This opening night was, as usual filled with surprises, energetic and intricate dances that ended in rapturous applause from an entranced audience.

This new program of three dance pieces carries on the company’s tradition of telling Aboriginal lore and Australian history with indigenous moves and music blended with contemporary dance and electronic sounds.

Each piece is linked through colonialism and the search for identity in modern times.

Two 25 minute dances were incorporated in the first act - Macq, choreographed by Jasmin Sheppard; and Miyagan, choreographed by cousins, Beau Dean Riley Smith and Daniel Riley.

Each had its own flavour and feel. Macq with erratic and violent moves and a distinctive sound track from the late David Page told the story of Governor Macquarie and the early white settlers; the friendships and disagreements that led to the 1816 massacre at Appin.

The opening was a poignant and sombre few minutes on the dimly lit stage of a woman mourning a man. This was powerfully danced by Nicola Sabatino as Leonard Mickelo lay stationary on the ground.

Following a happier picnic scene was the suspenseful confrontation between Macquarie and a local tribesman which led to the massacre. It was powerful stuff indeed.

Miyagan was a joyous celebration of family and kinship with the whole company combining in geometrical patterns and fast moving constant flow dance moves. This was Bangara’s talent at its best.

My favourite piece however came after the interval with a 44 minute tribute to artist Nyapanyapa Yunupingu and a celebration of her work and history. This was Steven Page’s contribution to the program and with the feisty Elma Kris dancing Nyapanyapa it turned out to be a tale of highs and lows, some frenetic modern dance as she was confronted by modern IT-age youth, and sombre, more traditional work. The painting that most inspired Steven Page was her image of the Buffalo story, based on the day she was gored by a buffalo and the story was graphically played out on stage.

I thoroughly enjoyed the dance work of the company and the choreography as the story moved on to gathering seashells, bush apples and the dance with the two metre tall “lost Wendy” puppets. Wendy is the English translation of Nyapanyapa’s name.

It was a heart-warming work that entertained totally. It was a great finish to a fine night of unique dance and a glimpse into Aboriginal spirituality.

Meeting up with Steven Page and Queensland Theatre Company Executive Sue Donnelly at5 the after-party,

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