Bangarra Dance Theatre
Playhouse, The Arts Centre, Melbourne
September 16, 2011
For the past 20 years, Bangarra's artistic director Stephen Page has led the company from strength to strength, creating powerful dance theatre while encouraging the emergence of other choreographic voices.
One of those choreographers is Elma Kris, creator of About, the first piece in this program. An embodiment of the four winds of the Torres Strait Islands, Kris' ancestral home, the work fuses modern dance moves with occasional glimpses of traditional shapes or gestures.
Unfortunately, the movement lacks dynamic variation and choreographic complexity, and despite assured dancing and an attractive set design (by Jacob Nash), the ancestral stories are lost beneath the glossy surface.
Page’s latest work, ID, is an accomplished, occasionally shocking exploration of what makes up the identity of indigenous Australians today.
It begins with a filmed sequence of an older aboriginal woman and the dancers, who step out of the video and onto the stage. A solo by Daniel Riley McKinley is particularly striking, with sharply isolated wrist to head gestures contrasted against expansive, elastic moves.
Graphic images of a corpse being dismembered and death in custody remind us of the grisly past and present of relations with white Australia, though the violence is balanced by the beauty of totemic dance featuring a fabulously lit set of hollow gum trees.
Snaking through time under the steady gaze of a painted elder, family and culture continue on, represented by the traditional tap-step of the hunched dancers.
ID barely diverges from Page's established style, but it’s no less enjoyable for that.
Originally published in The Age newspaper