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Brolga: Class Activities years 5/6
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?
- Encourage the students to experience moving their body both individually and with others; showing awareness of their body in space and in relation to objects around them.
- Give them opportunities to develop an awareness of, and the ability to isolate different parts of their body and make specific actions and gestures.
- Include cross lateral movements in movement activities.
- Ask students to make contrasting shapes with their body (curved/angular; symmetrical/asymmetrical).
- Assist students understanding that movements can be used to explore and improvise dance ideas by controlling and combining different movement qualities.
- Give students opportunities to know that it is possible to show similarity and contrast through movement, for example, can they change the size and speed of their movement and follow pathways on the floor or in the air?
- Provide opportunities for students to practice controlling movement by pausing or freezing, and using contrasting qualities such as smooth and sustained, followed by percussive movement.
- Have students form groupings such as lines or group shapes and lead or follow others in these groupings, moving close together or far apart.
- Give them experiences which assist them to understand that movements can be joined together in order to move on the spot or travel in different ways.
- Check that students are aware that they can interpret meanings from watching dance and that dances can tell a story which may have a beginning, middle and end?
- Encourage students’ recognition that people from different cultures dance and may have different reasons for dancing.
- Assist students to understand that when part of an audience, it is important to concentrate on experiencing the dance by watching and listening.
Pose questions that help them understand the ideas that the dance is based on?
- What does a brolga look like and how does it move? What are its habits and rituals? (nesting, feeding, dancing, habitat)
- Where in Australia is this bird found?
- Why do some Aboriginal people use another word to describe this bird?
- Does this type of bird live anywhere near you?
- What are some of the ways it moves (on the ground and in the air).
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 that represent spirits.
- Who are the Aboriginal people/s who live in Arnhem Land?
- Who are the dancers of Bangarra? Where do they come from?
- Where is the company Bangarra based?
- Who is Djakapurra Munyarryun?
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?
- In which direction do the first group of dancers move?
- 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?
- There is a mound-like prop behind the dancers. What could this represent?
- Where do the dancers go when they move upstage 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 students’ responses.
- Which dancer do you think is the soloist?
- Why do you think the soloist is on her own?
- How can you tell she is different?
- What role do you think she is playing in the story?
- 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?
- What could you learn from watching different animals ?
Collect, compare and categorise facts and opinions, 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?
- Describe/draw the formation that the five dancers make around the ‘girl’?
- Towards which direction is the big group of dancers facing?
- Draw the formations and pathways of the small and large groups.
- Why might they be moving/facing the same direction?
- Describe the movements of the small group of five when they are on a low level.
- Where on the stage is this group placed?
- Describe the movements of the large group. Is there any emphasis placed on any particular movements? (repetition, size)
- Can you see when the dancers are moving in unison? In canon?
- The dancers make special shapes with their bodies, their arms and their elbows. What do you think these shapes represent?
- What is the relationship between the dancers and the audience? Do the dancers acknowledge the presence of the audience or do you get the impression we are onlookers? Why?
- Describe the stage set including the colour of the curtaining, floor, props and the lighting (colour, brightness).
- There is a lot of dust on the stage. What do you think it is? What do you think it represents?
- The music could be described as a soundscape. Which sounds and instruments can you hear?
- The performance is on a stage in a theatre. Is this a traditional or contemporary place for Aboriginal people to dance?
Societies and Cultures
- Djakapurra Munyarryun performed in the opening of the Sydney 2000 Olympics. What role did he play?
- The dance Brolga, created and performed by Bangarra is about growing up, finding meaning in learning and rites of passage. What is a rite of passage?
- What are some other rites of passage experienced in different cultures?
- What are the symbolic stages of a ‘rite of passage’?
- How do rites of passage show what a society values?
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?
- Move on different levels (high medium low), on the spot and when travelling.
- In small groups explore copying another person changing levels as you move from one place to the next.
- Explore leg and arm gestures that lead toward, away from, and around your body.
- Experiment balancing on two legs then one leg; shift between different body bases – hands, feet, bottom, back, forearms.
- Use different parts of your body to make patterns in the air – straight, angular, twisting (think of drawing with a sparkler at night but with different parts of your body). Make patterns in front of your body, behind and all around. Change the size of the movement to very small or very large. Travel as you make the patterns in the air.
- Explore moving in unison, then copying the same movement one after the other – in canon.
Transfer and apply information in one setting to enrich another
- Using just your head, neck and shoulders experiment with movements which remind you of the actions of birds. Try to vary your movements so that you are describing the birds doing different things – nesting, feeding, searching.
- Use your arms to describe the same actions.
- Use your whole body to describe the walking actions of a brolga. How does it move when it is in a hurry? How might it move slowly?
- Explore different dynamics as you vary your movements.
- Explore different combinations of dancers moving at the same time.
- What does it feel like to be moving as a part of a group? What does it feel like to be dancing separate to the group?
Make dance sequences
- Explore different ways of moving in a group: running, jumping, sliding, rolling, slithering, spinning, shrinking, exploding and collapsing.
- Watch animals which move in groups (fish, kangaroos, ants). What formation do these groups make? What floor and/or air pathways do they take? Use these pathways to create a sequence of events.
- Contrast the movements of one dancer with the patterns of the group. Take turns in the solo role.
- Use sounds to accompany the movement. Do some sounds suit the different ways of moving more than others?
Experiment with a range of options when seeking solutions and putting ideas into action.
- Experiment with making and recalling movements using different leading body parts for each. Choose your four favourite movements. Show your partner each movement and teach it to them. Now swap roles.
Explore situations using creative thinking strategies to propose a range of alternatives.
- Try taking turns performing each of your four movement sequences. A then B
- Perform both of your sequences at the same time. A and B
- Join both sequences so that they flow from one to the other. A joined onto B.
- How else could you link these sequences?
Draw on prior knowledge and use evidence when choosing a course of action or drawing a conclusion.
- Try moving using different dynamics to describe a sequence of events involving a group of animals.
- What are some of the things that a chosen animal may do? Create two sections of the sequence which are in a particular place and other sections where you travel.
Communicate ideas through art works.
- Combine a sequence based on specific gestures, with a sequence using air pathways and a sequence of different group 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 gestures? Did they see a story, series of events or an idea?
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?
- How is the movement of the body used to represent the animal or idea?
- How did the dancers use space and energy to create the ideas/feelings in this dance?
- Which elements of dance were used?
- What could you learn from watching animals and creating sequences based on their movements?