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Kinship – Bangarra Dance Theatre


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An exquisitely beautiful interpretation of an Aboriginal creation story opens this double-bill performance marking Bangarra Dance Theatre’s 25th anniversary year.

At first, Yirrkala elder and Bangarra cultural adviser Kathy Baingayngu Marika sits alone on stage, spotlit against a stark black set on which she is joined by a young girl, climbing down from a canoe-like structure.

The girl (dancer Tara Robertson) is an adventurous spirit setting off alone into the wetlands of Arnhem Land where she stumbles into the sacred grounds of the brolgas (large birds). She playfully copies the perfectly synchronised movements of the brolgas, who at first ignore her before engaging in a series of interactions that are by turn threatening and tender, leading to a sensual and deeply moving duet before she surrenders herself to join the flock.

Inspired by the Aboriginal totemic system, Brolga explores the real and spiritual relationship between humans and nature. Accompanied by stunning lighting and a soundtrack incorporating both contemporary and traditional music, Stephen Page’s choreography draws the audience into such a powerful, dreamlike place that it feels a wrench to leave it.

The second part of Kinship, ID, is a longer and more contemporary work comprising nine vignettes exploring the question of Aboriginal identity and kinship in the 21st century. It feels a world apart from Brolga, which seems appropriate given the inherent challenges of reconciling the past and present.

The first piece, Initiate, is a highlight: a film featuring the performers plays like a moving portrait at the back of the stage, with the dancers seeming to almost break free of the frame in what might be interpreted to represent a transition between two simultaneous worlds.

Some of the vignettes are less subtle than others: Class 7B, for example, sees a group of classmates pushing and shoving each other on bleachers until one of them presents a giant tub of Vegemite so they can all present with the same colour for a school portrait, with the flash of the camera sparking spontaneous audience laughter and applause. Much more sobering and confronting is a scene showing the externalised anguish of a tortured prisoner.

A sense of optimism returns with the ID finale, featuring the full ensemble on stage in a routine that leaves a lasting impression of resilience, strength and empowerment.

Kinship is a wonderful celebration of a hugely successful dance theatre company which both shares and celebrates Indigenous culture with a wide audience. It’s a highly recommended and moving double-bill; hopefully we won’t have two wait two years to see Bangarra in Adelaide again.

Bangarra is presenting Kinship at the Dunstan Playhouse until October 25.



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