Earth and Sky

Earth and Sky
Bangarra Dance Theatre. Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide (Sept 8 - 11). IPAC, Woolongong (Sept 16 – 18). The Arts Centre, Melbourne (Sept 24 – Oct 2).

Established in 1989, Bangarra Dance Theatre is a company that “embraces, celebrates and respects Australia’s indigenous peoples and their culture.”
Their latest production, Of Earth and Sky, is another great testament to that vision.
From the moment the performers took to the stage it was obvious the audience was in for a treat. The production was broken up into 2 halves, the first, called Riley, embracing the idea of objects digitally juxtaposed against the blue sky and the second, called Artefact, based on objects from the Earth.
At the core of the creation of Riley was visual art, and each of the dances was designed around the image of an object. The objects were a Boomerang, Locust, Bible, Angel, Broken Wing and Feather. Each of the objects was very different but the interpretation was always clear.
Boomerang had light twirling whipping movements from the dancers, beautifully reminiscent of a boomerang in-flight.
Locust showed a plague of dancers scampering across the stage in an insect like fashion, eventually appearing to be burned and destroyed by flickering orange and yellow lighting in a climactic scene of weaving and darting.
Broken Wing showed the distressful sight of a bird crippled by injury, rolling around in pain unable to flee or escape, beautifully yet sorrowfully depicted, the bird eventually accepting its fate.
In Feather the dancers moved with undulating unity. Each represented one feather, and together packed tightly they moved like the wing of a bird.
Bible, performed once by women and once by men, had by far the most culturally interesting commentary. It appeared to be a reflection on the way Indigenous Australians have been historically treated by Christians and White Australians. The dancers were physically branded with crosses on their backs in black paint. The girls’ choreography demonstrated a rejection of the suppression of Christianity and their attempts to cleanse themselves. The men were acting more like a tribal pack of hunters, stabbing and striking with large arm movements, representing an exaggerated religious presence.
In the second act, Artefact was performed. It was quite different in style and had much more flow than Riley. A beautiful large prop of tree bark was the central focus of the piece and gave the dancers something to move over, under and around. Music composed by David Page incorporated sounds from nature. It was a bold fusion of traditional and contemporary styles and perfectly suited the work.
The production company has created a great show here, and the audience loved it. Choreographers Daniel Riley McKinley and Frances Rings have a lot to be proud of with this new work Earth and Sky.
Paul Rodda

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