July 2, 2013

Dancers’ Blog: Sydney comes to a close

The Sydney Opera House season has come to a close. Over the past three weeks we have been blessed with almost all of our shows sold out, including the twilight 6.30pm shows on a Tuesday. What passionately dedicated audiences we have had! And what encouragement we have felt as a company, that even though the drab, wet and cold weather has not deterred people from braving the elements to enjoy our stories. Blak has been so far described as a breath of fresh air, a moment gone too fast, but a lesson in being in the present moment, a personal journey, a witness to a tightly knit family of dancers and their stories, a passionate experience. From my experience in performing Blak, I feel overwhelmed that our vision and desire to move people through our personal stories has been more than successful. There truly is a lot of ‘us’ in this show. Together with the genius of Stephen Page and Daniel Riley McKinley, I believe we have achieved our goal with the show; to touch people, to give them a glimpse of what it is like for us in our every day lives finding ourselves as men, women, Indigenous people, people of the city, with origins from all over the country (remote places and highly populated places) and the issues that we face in finding our identity through such colourful backgrounds. These stories are just a fragment of what young Indigenous people of this country face, but I do hope they have shed light on us, the next generation of Indigenous youth.

Jasmin Sheppard

May 28, 2013

Bangarra at the World Indigenous Network Conference 2013

This stunning image of Bangarra artists Daniel Riley McKinley, Waangenga Blanco, Luke Currie-Richardson and Beau Dean Riley Smith rehearsing for the World Indigenous Network Conference, Darwin over the weekend was captured by Dancer Deborah Brown. You can check out more great images of the Bangarra family and follow us on our Instagram page here: instagram.com/bangarradancetheatre

October 10, 2012

Dancers’ Blog: reflecting on Mongolia

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And exhale…I feel as though I can breathe calmly, and normally now. It’s was only two weeks ago that we returned from our excursion to Mongolia, and now as I sit writing this at Brisbane airport on our way home after successfully completing our national tour of TERRAIN, my mind is finally able to process the last few weeks, and I am able to type it into some sort of blog entry.

Three weeks ago to the day, we gathered together as a clan at Sydney international airport for our much anticipated trip to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I was not fully educated on the country, and what we were to expect once we arrived. But what we did find was beautiful, open, friendly people who were so excited and overwhelmed by our presence there. We were given the evening we arrived and the following day off, to sight see, and get a feel for the city. Through my eyes, and experiences, what I discovered was a city that is still developing. Skyscrapers and apartment complexes on every block growing and reaching for the sky, roads under development trying to keep up with the ever expanding car market, and locals on the side of the road with their fruit stalls making a living any way they can. The theatre where we were to perform was situated in the heart of the city, and was an interesting old theatre. Technologically a little dated, but, we got by, and with our always adaptive production crew we worked around what we were offered to make the show look as best we could with what we had. Language barriers were a daily occurrence for the crew, but with the help of the staff from the Mongolian Arts Council they found a middle ground and got the job done. Performing for the audience there was a real treat and rush. We may have freaked them out a bit, with our head to toe of ochre and our blankets, but I feel as though we made a great impression on the local arts community that will linger for years to come. Spirit is such a great show to perform, and to showcase what we as a company are about. It has everything from traditional dance, to the fusion of contemporary, to the presence of Aunty Kathy Marika to help connect the entire through line of the show. Mongolia wasn’t on my list of places to visit, but I feel lucky to have been able to experience it as a country, and get a brief look and feel into their culture.

Now TERRAIN is done and dusted, the next step is to remount of earth & sky for our regional tour of WA and NSW. The first half of the show is a work called Riley, that incidentally, I created and choreographed with the help of the dancers back in 2010. Getting to see and remount it again is going to be a pleasure. I’ll also be performing in it this time around which will be a new experience. Finally I’ll be able to fully understand what I put the dancers through the first time around and experience it from the inside, as opposed to a voyeur, viewing it from afar. I’m also eagerly awaiting to see Michael’s [Riley] cloud series again, projected up at the rear of the space, to remind me of what I created, and to continue to inspire myself and the dancers as we share the story of his images with our regional audience.

I would also like to put it out there, that if there are any questions that you as readers and avid fans of Bangarra would like answered, please don’t hesitate to ask. Sometimes Jas and I get a little stuck as to what to write. So a question here or there would aid us greatly. And we can help inform our readers of what we do in the process. Either ask away on Facebook, or comment on our blog posts and either Jas or I will attempt to answer them for you.

Dan

 

September 17, 2012

Dancers’ Blog: From Maree to Mongolia via our nation’s capital

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From Maree to Mongolia via our national capital. That’s been our schedule for the past two weeks and the week coming up. On Saturday we closed our season in Canberra. I have a deep connection to Canberra as I consider it my home town. I don’t have family there anymore, but a few close friends still live there and it’s where my relationship with dance started. A relationship that continues to bloom and blossom with the years. We were all freshly invigorated and re-inspired after our visit out to Lake Eyre last week. After we closed in Adelaide, we boarded a plane to Olympic Dam, then drove two and a half hours on dirt roads to Maree, where we met up with our cultural consultant for TERRAIN, Uncle Reg Dodd. He lives in Maree and runs tours out to the lake, where he tells Aboriginal stories of the lake and it’s surrounding areas. We were very lucky to have him impart his plethora of knowledge on us. It was so inspiring to see and hear him be so utterly involved and knowledgeable of his culture and roots.

The lake itself was beautiful and mystical. As we stepped out onto the earth surrounding the lake, with the sound of crunching salt beneath our shoes, we knew there was something special about this place. The energy and feel of the area with its colourful land made it feel slightly surreal. There was such a stillness or even a sacredness about it. Walking the shores of the lake I gained new inspiration for some of the choreography I perform. The first being Salt, where I represent the salt spirit of the lake and Kaine as my shadow. The salt formations made such beautiful patterns on the earth and sparkled under the sunlight. The crunching of the salt and the crystallised formations it made reminded me of the first passage of choreography where the movement is sharp, angular and twitchy. The salt also made me think of my costume for that section, which is a bolero jacket covered in triangles to make it look as though i have just rose from the salt planes of Lake Eyre and my upper body is crystallised in salt.

While we were out in Maree we conducted workshops for the local community kids from Maree Aboriginal School. As with most workshops we conduct the kids are always a little hesitant one the first day. They try to wrap their head around having to learn choreography and count music, and it sometime seems as though they aren’t having fun, that its work. But a mutual respect was gained by the second day and a lot of fun was had by all. The choreography they learned on the first day seemed to sink deeper into their memories over night, and they seemed to be absorbing more information. To end the workshops we put together everything they had learned as a little performance for some of the community members and local elders to come watch and see what we had all been working so hard so. Tara G, Jasmin, Ella, Amy, Lenny, Waangenga, Kaine and myself felt so fortunate to be able to be apart of the Maree community for those four days. It is such beautiful country out there, the sun rises and sun sets were unlike any I had seen either here in Australia or abroad. We were super proud of the kids and their accomplishments and we hope they take their experience with us into their future.

Now…back to Sydney, for a little under forty eight hours, as early Monday morning we are all convening at the international airport for our trip to Mongolia, via an overnight stop in Hong Kong. This trip seems like it was never going to happen and it has been in the back of our minds, until now. With little time at home, we are thinking about what needs to be packed and what needs to be bought before our trip, and organise our home lives before venturing overseas. Excitement has started to creep up on us, and we are looking forward to the adventure we are about undertake.

 I had a great conversation with a gentleman at the pub in Maree. He said he was proud of us as a company and the way we represent our country, land and culture. First of all I was so surprised that he had heard of us, but he later told me he had seen a show when he was in the city once and has since watched all our YouTube videos. So safe to say he was up to date with our performance programs. I’ll end with what I told him as we were saying our farewells. We don’t take what we do, what and who we represent lightly. We are well aware how important our work overseas is, and are always sure to give Australia good representation, both on stage and off.

Daniel Riley McKinley

August 29, 2012

Dancers’ Blog: Adelaide and Masterclasses

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Adelaide, or Radelaide or A-Town. It’s known by a lot of other names I’m sure. But here we are, bumping into the beautiful old Her Majesty’s Theatre. We have performed in this theatre once before in 2008 when we were regionally touring True Stories. It’s a great theatre with a lot of character, and it always makes for an interesting time getting used to the smaller stage, but it is a treat to look out into the auditorium, with its great chandelier. It’s also great for us to be able to share this work with its home audience, as Frances gained her inspiration from the Arabunna people of South Australia, and their land.

Yolande, Ella, Jhuny and myself conducted a masterclass today at the Adelaide College of the Arts for some dance students there and some high school students from a local school. It’s always such a pleasure to teach and help in the education of students who are choosing to take dance on as a career. I remember being a university student – in their shoes – and being so hungry for other information along with new and different styles and techniques. They were so welcoming and so open to anything and everything we had to say. It was really refreshing to teach them and hopefully give them some more inspiration to get through their training. University can be such a struggle and uphill battle, it feels like some days you’re not going anywhere, you don’t feel the advancement of your own personal technique, like you’re a mouse in a wheel. But once you’re out, and free to go where you choose, train with who you choose, you’ll notice it, and it will be a comfort to know that you have it in your back pocket should you need it. Thank you students at A.C. Arts, you all inspired me today.

Daniel Riley McKinley

August 23, 2012

Dancers’ Blog: Travelling

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The traveling begins today. As we sit here in our Murrays coach on our way to Wollongong, there’s a feeling of mixed emotions. It feels great to say goodbye to the Opera House for another year but it’s always hard to say goodbye to loved ones and our familiar surroundings of home for unfamiliar hotel rooms and other cities that we don’t know as well as our own. Most of us have been to Wollongong before, every year for the past 7 or more years, so it’s not totally unfamiliar. We know where to get our morning coffee, where Woolworths is, what the fastest route to the theatre is, and where to find dinner after the show comes down at night.

There’s an unsettled feeling that circulates through the company once we start on the road. We’re always looking forward to the next venue, knowing that we are only in Wollongong for three nights before we head home for two sleeps in our apartments or houses, with our loved ones, in our beds, under our sheets, eating out of our bowls over breakfast at our tables. It’s this familiarity that we miss the most while we are away, sharing our work with other audiences. On the other hand we are very lucky to be able to see the places we do, and share our work with our fans elsewhere. We just have to learn to look at the glass as half full, rather than half empty.

Daniel Riley McKinley

August 2, 2012

Dancers’ Blog: extra curricular shows and repertoire

Black (Fire - A Retrospective) Perun Bonser, Leonard Mickelo, Daniel Riley McKinley & Jhuny-Boy Borja. Photo by Jeff Busby

Revisiting older repertoire is always a great way to fully appreciate where Bangarra as a company has come from. I remember learning most of Bangarra’s history when we were putting together Fire – A Retrospective. Familiarising myself with this choreography was a great way to really understand and appreciate the development of this one-of-a-kind company that I am a part of. Before we head over to perform at the Opera House each day, we are spending time relearning and revisiting some of our favourite pieces of repertoire for our upcoming international tour to Mongolia. Most of the pieces come back to us quite quickly – we have performed the choreography numerous times and all we may need is to watch it on DVD then a quick listen of the soundtrack, and we are eighty percent there. Teaching the older repertoire to some of our newer dancers also aids the rest of us to remember how steps changed and evolved the last time we performed them. I enjoy teaching the work and passing down all I have learned to those men. There is something so satisfying in watching someone you have taught, move and execute choreography well. It shows that they really are taking in everything you say, and that I can deliver technique, tips, tricks, and the steps verbally and be understood. They are doing so well learning in the short amount of time we have. I hope they retain everything long enough so they can in turn teach it.

Every now and then Bangarra gets approached to perform at an awards ceremony, a national holiday concert, or more recently a corporate awards ceremony. The gig was for Microsoft and was an awards ceremony where young computer programmers from around the world competed to design and create programs for any number of things. Waangenga, Jhuny and myself performed a shortened version of Black, which heralds back from Ochres. This piece is perhaps my favourite piece of Bangarra’s choreographic repertoire to perform. I never tire of it, and thoroughly enjoy revisiting it. It’s like a favourite t-shirt or a tailored suit: it just fits perfectly and feels so right.

Daniel Riley McKinley

July 19, 2012

Dancers’ blog – TERRAIN begins in Sydney

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Our community night performance for the local Indigenous community went extremely well. They are our biggest and most loyal fans. They soak up each step we perform, and let us know how much they loved the performance by jumping up on their feet during our curtain call. The community night performance, or ‘Koori’ night, is a great first show to do in the Opera House. It gets us all on our way for our long season ahead. The warmth from that audience, carries us through the entire season.

Opening night last night was also a huge success. There was a good turn out and we even had the privilege of performing for the Governor General, the Governor of NSW and the Premier of NSW, along with friends, family, supporters of Bangarra and our Bangarra staff. There is always a certain amount of nerves associated with opening night. The challenge is to rise above it and not to think about it too much, yes it’s opening night, but it should be no different to other shows and performances I give. Personally, last night was an excellent show. We came together to give Frances’ work a new level of performance and storytelling. As a show, it is definitely starting to sink into our bodies and feeling more natural and I’m able to enjoy performing it more.

We all have different ways to treat a tired, worn out body after a long few days of rehearsals and important performances. This morning, after sleeping very well, and a breakfast of muesli and yoghurt, i made my way to my local aquatic centre for a relaxing swim. Since I bulged a disc in my lower spine early last year, swimming was a huge part of my rehabilitation and since then has been my activity of choice to escape dancing and to ease out the impact of performances and rehearsals. It’s low impact and makes my body feel great and resets my body for another show. I enjoy the peacefulness and meditative state I go into whilst swimming. I’m able to clear my head and think about nothing but my breathing and the black line on the bottom on the pool.

Daniel Riley McKinley

July 13, 2012

Dancers’ Blog – Rest days. Time off. Healing.

Rest days. Time off. Four words that are greatly welcomed at the end of a performance season. Especially our premiere season in Melbourne, from where we have just returned.

After two weeks away from home, long hours in the theatre, and ten performances, all our bodies are craving, is time off and away from the stage and dancing. The first season is always the most difficult, in both body and mind. Our bodies are adjusting to a new show, to new repertoire and to new daily challenges. New bruises develop, and soreness and tiredness sets in to new and different muscles. There is a new discovery of having to come up with new ways to prep our bodies before each show, as each show is a different physical challenge from the last. During the season our minds continued to adjust to locking in the new show and finding ways to deliver the show at our peak performance levels for the next three months. Finding the nuances both big and small and allowing our bodies to really sink into the movement is what the first season is all about. What movement can we push further and what do we have to pull back to enhance the work are questions that were continually answered during Melbourne. Figuring out how to maintain our bodies during the season was also something that needed to be discovered whilst we were in Melbourne, and is something that we will continue to explore once at the Sydney Opera House next week.

Daniel Riley McKinley

June 28, 2012

Dancers’ Blog – TERRAIN lands in Melbourne

And that’s our first dress rehearsal done and dusted. It feels good to know we have a show to present, with all the elements working. They may not be working as one yet, but that will come over the next few days leading up to our opening night on Friday. There is something about the use of the ochre, and paint in TERRAIN, and all other Bangarra shows actually, that add and extra layer of character to a performance. Whenever that layer of ochre or paint is applied, you lose yourself underneath it. It becomes your second skin for the show, an alter ego almost, where you can get lost in the character and the movement. If you’re feeling a little slack or tired, that layer of paint can help you step up and tackle the show with all you have. It’s our superhero suit and our layer of story and character we add before each performance. 

Dan

June 25, 2012

Dancers’ Blog – TERRAIN in rehearsals

TERRAIN rehearsal. Deborah Brown and Male Ensemble. Photo by Greg Barrett

It’s a beautiful blue and perfectly clear morning down by the wharf. It’s Saturday morning, our sixth day of work this week and we are here to do a final rehearsal and cleaning session of TERRAIN before we all move on down to Melbourne for our world premiere season at the Arts Centre. Up until yesterday I was feeling a bit nervous about our production week to come and our first shows. But something clicked yesterday with our run at the end of the day. The show is feeling whole and complete, more so than even the day before. I’m feeling more relaxed and comfortable with my steps and choreography, and have started to look forward to sharing the work with the general public, our family and friends. At the end of today, all should be clearer and the movement creases should be ironed out, as the big hurdle this week is the lighting and staging.

Daniel Riley McKinley

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