Education Resources

Exploring About

Choreographer Elma Kris

… what inspired the dance work About?

About is inspired by the culture and practices of the people of Torres Strait Islands. These islands are located between the tip of Northern Queensland and the southern coast of Papua New Guinea. There are approximately 270 islands in the Torres Strait but only 17 of these islands are inhabited.

Prior to European settlement, the people of the Torres Strait relied on hunting, fishing and gathering, as well as trading objects made of hair, pearl, turtle shells and stone tools, including weapons collected during warfare. Since colonisation, modern economic and technical developments have occurred however the traditional practices continue to function among the new ways of life. The introduction and influence of Christianity in 1871, notably through the establishing of the London Missionary Society on Darnley Island, made a significant socio-cultural impact on Islander society. Christianity is practiced widely in the islands of the Torres Strait, including an annual celebration of singing, dancing and feasting on 1 July of each year.

For more information about the Torres Strait go to: http://www.tsirc.qld.gov.au

 

… what is the choreographer expressing in the work?

About expresses the choreographer’s personal cultural connection and continuing curiosity about the four winds (Gub) of the Torres Strait Islands. While the conventional western calendar of seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) are broadly determined by dates, the rise and fall of temperature and the noticeable changes to the landscape, it is the winds of the Torres Strait that are the seasonal forecasters for the people who live in this region. The behaviours of these winds guide the people in their daily lives, and the spirits of these winds inform the essential elements of their cultural life.

Elma Kris was born and raised on Thursday Island, one of the main islands of the Torres Strait. Kris wanted to explore the influence that the four winds have on the land, the sea and the sky as well as the way people of the Torres Strait have incorporated them into their cultural lives and their everyday sustainability.

The four winds of the Torres Strait are named Zey, Kuki, Sager and Naigai.

Living on Thursday Island as a child, Kris admired the way her parents talked about these four winds. She knew at a very young age that the winds played a central role in the daily life of the Islanders.  In creating the work About, Kris wanted to explore the way the winds move and shape themselves in magical and mysterious ways, the way they paint the colour of the day and night, and how they orchestrate the conditions of the seas. Kris says, “They are like spirits swiftly passing by and merging with nature. They guide and nurture day-to-day life”. In creating this work Kris was able to journey with the winds and bring them to life through dance.

The characteristics of the winds are explored and interpreted through movement. These movements depict qualities like calmness and delicacy, power and aggression, serenity and playfulness. Shifts in the winds’ behaviour are sometimes subtle but occasionally they are dramatic and swift.

About is a dynamic portrayal of life and culture of the Torres Strait and gives the viewer the chance to share the Islanders’ relationship to the four winds of their island home.

 

>> About: Excerpts from the production