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Bangarra Dance work honours first contact legend Benelong

Tara Robertson, Kaine Sultan-Babij and Beau Dean Riley. Photo by Niel Boud

Bangarra Dance Theatre returns to Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) from 25 August to 2 September with its latest work Bennelong, a tribute to one of the most celebrated individuals from the days of First Contact. Bennelong was created by Bangarra Dance Theatre Artistic Director Stephen Page, and it is his first full-length work to show in Brisbane in three years.

It unravels the story of the first Aboriginal statesman and explores the life of Woollarawarre Bennelong, a senior man of the Eora and namesake of Bennelong Point, where the Sydney Opera House now stands.

Bennelong was the first Aboriginal man to visit Europe and return, and one of the earliest to have his life story recorded and documented through the early diaries of the British military. Bennelong led his community to survive a clash of cultures, contributing to the establishment of positive relationships between the Eora and the British.

Page said Bennelong could be seen as an archetype of all experiences linked to the Western system. “In a way, we are all Bennelong – forever trying to navigate our way through two worlds,” Page said. “Everyone has heard of the name Bennelong, however his extraordinary story is not really understood in the way that shows the enormous capacity of a man who opened up the conversation between European and Aboriginal people.”

Bennelong is a collaboration with Set Designer Jake Nash, Costume Designer Jennifer Irwin, Lighting Designer Nick Schlieper and Composer Steve Francis.

Bangarra Dance Theatre is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation and one of Australia’s leading performing arts companies, acclaimed worldwide for its authentic storytelling, distinctive voice and moving performances.

Performing in partnership with QPAC for 20 of the Centre’s 32 years, Bangarra Dance Theatre and QPAC have a joint commitment to continuing a deeper connection and a high level of engagement between the wider Queensland community and its First Nations’ Peoples.

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