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Brolga: Class Activities years 3/4
Inspired by a brolga plain in Northeast Arnhem Land and stories told by Djakapurra Munyarryun, Brolga represents a contemporary rite of passage for a young woman who plays with the birds, mimics their movements and learns to respect their sacred knowledge.
Things to Think About and Do
1) Before Viewing
What do students already know and what are some things that they can do?
- Have the students experienced moving their body both individually and with others; showing awareness of their body in space and in relation to objects around them?
- Do they have an awareness of position and understand the difference between different parts of their body, moving in different directions, levels, shapes and pathways?
- Can they move with another person and explore moving around, side-by-side and in front and behind?
- Do the children understand that movements can be used to explore and improvise dance ideas for example gliding like a bird, jumping in the mud?
- Do they realise that it is possible to interpret meanings from watching dance and that when part of an audience it is important to concentrate on experiencing the dance by watching and listening?
Pose questions to expand their knowledge of the ideas the dance is based on.
- What kind of creature is a brolga?
- Can you find out its name in an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language? What is the name and where is this language spoken?
- What does this bird look like?
- Have you ever seen a bird with long legs?
- Does this bird have a nest? What does the nest look like?
Bangarra is a company of Aboriginal and Torres Strait dancers based in Sydney. The dancers are from all different parts of Australia. Pose questions that expand students’ knowledge about where and how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people live. Expand students understanding that contemporary Indigenous people participate in all facets of the community and as artists they may choose to communicate ideas on based on traditional stories including those relating to animals which represent spirits.
- Where do the brolga live?
- Where is Arnhem Land? Who does the land there belong to?
- Who are the dancers of Bangarra? Where do they come from?
2) As you view
Ask the students to watch and listen to the dance, be a respectful audience and try to remember as much as they can about what they are seeing, hearing and feeling.
3) After viewing
Pose questions that remind them of their experience.
- How many dancers are on the stage at the beginning of the dance?
- Where do the first group of dancers come from?
- Are they male or female?
- How many are there in the first group?
- What are they wearing?
- What is on their skin and hair?
- Who has red paint on their head?
- Are all the dancers covered in this?
- What does the mound behind the dancers look like?
- Where do the dancers go and who comes back on stage with them?
- Are they male or female?
- Are there fewer or more dancers this time?
Identify some of the main ideas and select and clarify information from the children’s responses.
- Which dancer do you think is the girl?
- Why do you think the girl is on her own?
- How can you tell she is different?
- What do you think she is doing?
- Why is she is the middle of the circle?
The dance Brolga represents a young woman, who plays with the birds, mimics their movements and learns to respect their sacred knowledge. (To mimic means to copy).
- Why does the girl seem to be following and copying the birds?
- Why and how does she start to look like one of them?
Collect, compare and categorise facts and opinions about brolgas for example, brolga movements are often described as dance movements.
Movement and Meaning
- Do the dancers look anything like the real brolgas?
- Do the dancers move like the brolgas? In what way/s?
- What shape do the five dancers make around the girl?
- Why is the big group of dancers facing the same direction?
- What do you think the dancers’ arms represent when they are long? What do you think they represent when then are bent at the elbows?
Non movement aspects
- Why are the stage lights blue?
- There is a lot of dust on the stage. What do you think it is? What do you think it represents?
- The composer has described the music as a soundscape. Which sounds can you hear? Which are manmade (by musical instruments) and which are natural?
- What is a didgeridoo?
4) Next steps
Expand on known ideas to create new and imaginative combinations through improvising, exploring and experimenting with movement.
- Explore following one person, copying what they do as they move around the room. The person leading should move slowly so that the person/s behind can copy easily.
- Take turns leading a group. Try following in a line or in a triangle behind the leader. Which group formation makes it easier to see what the leader is doing?
- Think of a bird perched on a tree branch. Copy the way it might look around to see other birds. Use your shoulders and arms to show that a bird’s wings are folded at their sides. Use your toes and ankles to show how a bird might cling onto a branch.
- Think of a bird with a long neck. Using all your body, explore looking up, around and down on the ground. Now just use your arm to show the same ideas.
- Think of a bird with long legs. How does it move when it is in a hurry? How might it move when it is moving slowly?
Transfer and apply information in one setting to enrich another.
- Explore floor pathways. Follow a leader who ‘draws’ a line on the floor with their travelling pathway. Walk in curved pathways then in straight pathways.
- Meet then part with a partner or a group.
- Form a circle around an object or a person, move around, towards or away from the centre of the circle.
Make dance sequences.
- Explore different ways of moving in a group: running, galloping, sliding and crawling.
- Watch another animal which moves in groups (fish, kangaroo, ant). What formation does this group make?
- Choose pathways (curved, straight, changing direction) to travel.
- Use sounds to accompany the movement. Do some sounds suit the different ways of moving more than others?
- Move from small groups to large groups then back to moving as an individual or pair.
Experiment with a range of options when seeking solutions and putting ideas into action.
- Experiment with making shapes with different parts of your body. Try making round, elongated, symmetrical and asymmetrical shapes.
- Choose your four favourite shapes. Taking turns with a partner, make one of your shapes, then repeat it while your partner copies you.
- Do the same with your partner’s first shape. Keep doing this for all of your shapes. Repeat this sequence of eight shapes with your partner.
Explore situations using creative thinking strategies to propose a range of alternatives
- Make and record a series of sounds to use as a sound track for dance. Does this soundtrack alter the way you move?
Draw on prior knowledge and use evidence when choosing a course of action or drawing a conclusion.
- Try moving with increasing speed or slowing down. Does it look more natural (like a group of animals) to move exactly at the same time or at slightly different times?
- Do certain pathways or formations remind you of flight or gathering around a waterhole?
- What are some of the things that a chosen animal may do.
Communicate ideas through art works.
- Combine a sequence based on travelling, one of the sequences using a specific formation and a sequence of different shapes. Choose the order in which you will perform each sequence and in which direction or part of the room you will perform the sequence.
- Is there a story in the dance?
Reflect on, explain and check the processes used to come to conclusions. explaining ways they check their thinking and deal with setbacks.
- Reflect on this order to see if you now have a clear beginning, middle and end. Alter the order to improve the changes between each sequence. If you are communicating a story in your dance is it clear?
- Perform your dance to another group. Ask them what they saw and felt when they watched your dance. Could they see different pathways, formations and shapes? Did they see a story?
Explain and justify ideas and outcomes
- What could you call your dance? What kind of costume could you make or choose to go with your dance? Why have you made these choices?
- What did some of the shapes you chose remind you of?
- How did the dance begin and how did it end?