Chorographic Fusion between Contemporary Dance and Indigenous Movement in Bangarra Dance Theatre Stephen Page has been the Artistic director of Bangarra Dance Theatre since 1991. During this time he has choreographed many works, including his two major pieces Ochres and Fish. Ochres was first performed in Sydney in 1995 playing an essential part in traditional life and it explored the significance of ochres.
Fish is also about the earth and the power of the elements, Fish focused on the waters of the earth and the wealth of life. Bangarra gets its inspiration from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditions and deals with the contemporary issues the Indigenous population face.
Ochres is a work with four parts to it, Yellow, Black, Red and White,(colours representing Aboriginal culture and heritage) with each section representing the following: Yellow showing the female spirit, Black displaying the male energy, Red being about contemporary social issues and White takes inspiration from what has come and using it to create a new world. Using the ochres is a traditional ritual done before dancing on the earth, it welcomes the story to the earth and this is done at the start of Ochres.
Djakapurra Munyarryun is Bangarras cultural consultant and is featured in Ochres to display the traditional paint up and preparation of cleansing the earth. This traditional element in Indigenous dance and is much more detailed than what is performed in Ochres. In the section Yellow, Page has used choreographic fusion between contemporary dance and indigenous movement.
The dancers are imitating animal movement which is taken from traditional Indigenous dance. However most of the movement in Yellow is presented in an abstract contemporary way. Black starts with Munyarryun wiping the ochre across his forehead, this is a traditional element that is repeated in Black. The stick dance in Black is about men competing for hunting grounds and has a traditional meaning. Most of Ochres has traditional meanings that are displayed though contemporary dance.
The fusion between the contemporary dance and the indigenous movement is clear in Black with a lot of animal imitation. Fish also has four sections to it, Fish, Swamp, Traps and Reef. They are all about the waters of the earth and the mysteries they contain. Both traditional movement and contemporary dance is shown in Fish and each section displays this in its own way. The contemporary expression of traditional parts of Indigenous culture in Fish is shown when the men are hunting for fish in the section Traps.
They have spears and are demonstrating how they traditionally caught fish. The choreographic intent of the hunting movement achieved the message of their traditional ways but told a whole story through the abstract contemporary outlook. Fish has many traditional elements that are expressed through contemporary dance; this includes things such as movement, music and costumes.
The Music in Fish changes from their traditional music with instruments like the didgeridoo into a more techno and modern upbeat sound. Throughout Ochres the music has a combination of the traditional and contemporary music. Indigenous chanting in both pieces displays the relevance of the Indigenous culture in Ochres and Fish.
The costumes in Fish look like creatures of the ocean, they have a scaly effect but are kept simple. Jeans are also used in Fish as costumes other than the traditional body paint that is still shown in other sections. In Ochres there is a section that has the woman dancing topless, this is done in low light and is very traditional and acceptable in this form of dancing. Page has also incorporated costumes that are very modern in contemporary dance in Ochres, in the section Red a lot of the items of clothing are beautiful and modern but still contain that Indigenous feel.
Bangarra Dance Theatre is important to Australia because it has so much history behind every single dance that Page creates. It celebrates the communities and cultures of the indigenous people in a unique way. It’s living traditions go back at least 40,000 years with the Indigenous people of Australia and reflects the lives of Indigenous people today. Contemporary dance embraces traditional stories that admire the histories and identity of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. The culture, values and traditions of Indigenous Australians inspires movement in Bangarra Dance Theatre.
This company tells a story about the history of the indigenous people to Australia to the world. It is important that the Indigenous culture is never forgotten and Bangarras artistically creative works make sure that they aren’t. Ochres and Fish have many parts that are traditional to Indigenous culture with animal imitation, the paint up and preparation with ochre and the representation of what the earth means to their culture. Bangarra Dance Theatre is important to Australia and to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Stephen Page has created many works with a fusion of contemporary dance and traditional movement. This is important because it’s apart of Australian heritage and our history.
Bangarras distinctive choreography portrays stories and highlights important traditions through contemporary dance.