May 26, 2014

Dancers’ Blog: Patyegarang

Jasmin Sheppard photo by Jess Bialek

Jasmin Sheppard photo by Jess Bialek

It is indeed that time of year again, with only two more weeks until we move into the Sydney Opera House to breathe life into our new show, Patyegarang.

This new program, about the special relationship shared by such an incredible young Eora woman, (Patye), and Lieutenant William Dawes, is forming a deep spirit of its own as we near the end of our creative period.

It’s also been a while since I’ve blogged, and I’m sure this has a lot to do with the energy of Patyegarang nearing me and taking me on her journey. The immense responsibility of portraying her with honesty is on me and I so very much desire to discover who she was, this young Sydney woman of confidence, proud of her people, knowledgeable in her culture and familiar with the most intricate parts of her homeland, the place we call Sydney.

I feel almost as if she has been leading me through her story, enveloping me with her energy, and revealing new parts of herself as we have delved deeper into the story. All I can say at this point in time is: What a woman! And what an incredible trip through history!

I feel reluctant to reveal too much, and prefer to let Patyegarang do a little more of the leading to bring us right through to opening night.

- Jasmin Sheppard 

February 25, 2014

‘Patyegarang’ tickets on sale!

Tickets for our new production Patyegarang choreographed by Stephen Page are now on sale in all venues that are part of the 2014 national tour: Sydney Opera House, Canberra Theatre Centre, State Theatre Centre WA Perth, QPAC Brisbane and Arts Centre Melbourne. Come behind-the-scenes of our studio through this video clip and find out more about Patyegarang.

Image: Jasmin Sheppard & Thomas Greenfield, Patyegarang, photo by Greg Barrett

November 14, 2013

Dancers Blog: From Dancer to Choreographer

We are here: tech week in our snug theatrette at Bangarra studios on the Wharf. The last 6 or so weeks have been a journey down an entirely new path for myself, Tara Gower, Yolande Brown and Deborah Brown. Our initiation into the role of choreographer has filled our beings with fresh challenges. Each one of us has taken on a unique way to create, finding what makes us peculiar in the rehearsal room whilst working with our peers on our own stories. Although we may have created works in the past, working on Dance Clan 3 is something special in an entirely different way. We are so lucky to have dancers such as our company members to create on and watch our imaginations come to life. I treasure each one all the more after this process, and it is all the more inspiring to walk into the studio and be greeted with an eager desire to help tell your story, realise your vision and work hard to achieve the best result. Expelling the story from my own brain to the dancers helps me relieve my own creative anxiety. Some times it feels as though every spare corner of my brain is being utilised, information pressed into every nook and cranny. Thank goodness I’ve had the chance to just relax and also work to realise the vision of Yolande and Deborah by just being able to step back into the role of a dancer.

I can’t believe we are here already. I am nervous and excited to see the unfolding of the completion of my first work, ‘Macq’, but untill opening night, the journey continues on, tweaking and refining our works, the constant process of evolution!

Jasmin Sheppard

Image: Jasmin Sheppard, Dance Clan 3 rehearsals 2013, photo by Anna Warr

November 11, 2013

Dance Clan 3 Q&A with Stephen Page and the Choreographers

WHEN Saturday 23 November at 6pm
WHERE Corroboree Cinema, Mezzanine Level of Pier 2/3
REGISTER HERE

Join us behind-the-scenes on 23 November at 6pm in a Q&A session with Artistic Director Stephen Page and Dance Clan 3 choreographers Deborah Borwn, Yolande Brown, Tara Gower and Jasmin Sheppard. Bangarra’s artists will discuss their creative inspirations and answer your questions about their choreographic processes and connections to traditional culture.


October 21, 2013

Dancers’ Blog: On A Creative Journey

Four women have plunged themselves into a realm of storytelling, and we are almost a month into the creative development process of Dance Clan 3, a company work that will present its season as a part of Sydney’s first Corroboree festival in November. Myself, Yolande Brown, Tara Gower and Deborah Brown are contributing to the new work, with four stories hailing from all over the country. The Torres Strait, the Central Desert, the Kimberly and our home base of Sydney all have rich history, and hidden stories to reveal. Our goal is to share these stories from each of these places, and take the audience on a diverse journey. So far we are all finding our way through the choreographic process, discovering how we work with the dancers in the studio, and what kind of choreographers we may be. This process is a personal journey of discovery, and will no doubt uncover the hidden gems each one of us possess in our creative inner worlds. I am finding parts of my mind are awakening with inspiration, and the challenge is to switch off and stop thinking about what I would like to experiment with the very next day. I feel privileged to have been given this opportunity from the nurturing platform of our home at Bangarra, to find my choreographic self, and also blessed to tell this story through the incredibly talented dancers that I share the stage with. More to come…

Jasmin Sheppard

October 4, 2013

Dancers’ Blog: Regional Tour Reflections

Dancers and crew arrived back onto a sunny wharf last week after having a weeks rest from gallivanting all about Victoria and Tasmania. Our Kinship tour was a great success, with many full houses and inspired feedback from theatregoers. Our last stop was the Theatre Royal in Hobart, one of the oldest and most splendid theatres in the country. In addition to performing in such a grand space, we spent our spare time traversing the pretty town, and driving through Tasmania’s lush countryside. In passing Oyster Cove one day, I was transported back to a few years ago, when we brought the Mathinna story back to country in Hobart. The local community in Hobart were overjoyed to have us back, and the touching memories of connecting with mob were revived when we saw them all again. Every time I go to Tasmania I am inspired by the community. They are a strong, resilient and proud people, fighting for the future of their culture every day. We were blessed to teach a large portion of the kids some workshops, and I very nearly broke into tears after one girl, about 14, welcomed us onto her ancestor’s land with a self written and moving welcome. I heard the pride and the tenderness toward her ancestral country, and throughout the rest of the workshop continued to be awe inspired watching the next generation of Tasmanian Aborigines working hard, staying strong and knowing who they are, where they come from, and excited about their future. The community in Tasmania has a lot to teach us all about perseverance and pride, and holding onto the precious thing that sometimes we can take for granted; Culture.

Jasmin Sheppard

Image: Jasmin Sheppard and Hobart workshop participants 2013, photo by Tiffany Parker

September 3, 2013

Dancers’ Blog: ‘Kinship’ Regional Tour 2013

We are two weeks into our Kinship regional tour of Victoria and Tasmania. On our very first day we were welcomed onto Wathaurong land by the community on the Bellarine Peninsula, Geelong. Acknowledgement by the local mob brings a sense of unity and purpose to our performances and to touring itself. We are more than a dance company, we are a thread of Indigenous people from all across the country, and it is important to recognise where we are and also bring something of ourselves to the communities where we visit. The Wathaurong people are part of the great Kulin Nation, which spans Melbourne, its outer regions and central Victorian districts. The Kulin Nation are protected by their creator, Bunjil the eagle. Bunjil is the God figure of the all the tribes within the Kulin Nation, he is the protector and came to the people in the eagle form. Throughout this tour we spend a great deal of time in Bunjil’s territory. We recently performed in Dandenong, the traditional land of the Wurundjeri, also a tribe of the great Kulin Nation. I myself grew up in Frankston, outer Melbourne, traditional land of the Boon Wurrung people, and I feel like my own childhood and life there by the bay was protected and looked over by the spirit of Bunjil. We will be touring there this a week, and then returning to Wurundjeri land when we perform in Nunawading. Our performances have been successful so far on this regional tour, and I thank the spirit of Bunjil for watching over us as we perform throughout his country, and in addition I thank him for watching over me throughout all my life, up until the point where I left to follow my love of dance in Sydney.

Jasmin Sheppard 

Image: Kathy Balngayngu Marika, Yolande Brown, Leonard Mickelo & Deborah Brown in Brolga from Kinship 2013, photo by Greg Barrett.

August 2, 2013

Dancers’ Blog: Our ‘Blak’ Journey

So our Blak journey has come to a close, for now. We concluded this wonderful season in Brisbane, home city to many of the dancers and our dear Artistic Director, and also home to family and friends of us all. It became quite poignant performing such personal stories to the ones who know us best; family, and this is what makes Bangarra such an important company. A sense of family is a constant thread woven through our expression of culture, the stories we tell, our respect for one another, and our desire to move with our people into the future whilst respecting where we have come from as Indigenous people. This is the strong basis of our dancing, and the driving inspiration to continue to work hard at our technique and to show up every day with the aim to improve and evolve. This strong tie is what gives us the inspiration to push further even though our bodies may feel tired or injured, and even when we would love to have a few extra hours sleep. The response from Brisbane audiences reiterated to us that our personal stories have rich meaning, and when we perform a story from our hearts and personal experience, you can move people, create change, provoke thought and inspire. I think our entire season of Blak achieved this.

So now we are back in our studios on the Wharf, where we are rehearsing and turning our focus toward our regional program, Kinship. A culmination of two works, Brolga, and ID, the shift in focus brings us new inspiration as we say goodbye for now to Blak, and the fantastic journey that it took us on.

Jasmin Sheppard

Image: Jasmin Sheppard 2013, photo by: Greg Barrett

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

June 11, 2013

Dancers’ Blog: ‘Blak’ in Sydney

The Bangarra dancers have just emerged from two weeks back home in our little creative cave, the studios on the wharf, where we have had the much needed time to pay attention to our bodies, regaining strength and energy, and resting those parts of the body affected by repetitive strain. We also had the pleasure of changing our focus to the regional tour program Kinship, rehearsing Brolga undergoing some sort of metamorphosis, melting into a flock of birds. The process is treasured especially by those of us who have birds as traditional totems, mine is the black cockatoo so to be a bird must be deep within me somewhere!

We spent most mornings running Blak, and I found that running the show repetitively but without performance quality made me focus more on my execution of the movements. In addition, the extra time out of the theatre encouraged most of us to spend extra time strengthening and stretching our bodies, giving that never ending reach for perfection in technique a little attention. I must say that Robert Curran, with his wealth of ballet knowledge, and general understanding of the body, has prompted a physical change in all of us – we are on the road to a better understanding of our dancing bodies!

The focus shifted last week, however, as we prepared for the Sydney opening night last Friday. We are back at the Opera House and the familiarity is wonderful. We settle in, and sink back into our Opera House routine. It is very special to perform to Sydney city, the town that has been home to the company since its birth. So it’s heads down tails up as we work hard to make Blak a beautiful soul experience for our audiences at the Drama Theatre.

Jasmin Sheppard 

Image: Jasmin Sheppard, Yearning from Blak 2013, photo by Greg Barrett

May 20, 2013

Dancers’ Blog: ‘Blak’ from Melbourne to Wollongong

Blak was entirely fresh and raw when we opened in Melbourne, but although we felt incredibly nervous, our audience was more than supportive and encouraging.

When we finally perform the premier of any show, it’s akin to an enormous exhale after holding one’s breath for weeks on end. The night before had a little more comfort to offer us in our state of anxiety; Koorie Community Night in Melbourne!! The familiar faces and unconditional love of our mob gave us the extra push to get us through till the last dance on opening night. And the show is definitely up and running now! Like a baby it grows, evolves, changes, and feels more settled into life on the stage after birth. We have a lengthy season ahead of us, and thus I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to see where I can go within this work.

Deep in thought the other day I pondered on the time when I performed in smaller scale productions and only had one or two week long seasons. It was the ultimate ideal (and still is) to have the show at its very best from the first performance. Though we strive for that now, I get a chance to discover what is possible for Blak. We have just arrived in Wollongong and here is our new chance to grow along with Blak. Time to hone in on rehabilitation for bodies that are now rested and recovering from injuries, and time to give to the wonderful crowds here in the ‘Gong…always a pleasure to be at IPAC!

                                                                                                                 Jasmin Sheppard

Image: Jasmin Sheppard in Yearning from Blak 2013, photo by Greg Barrett

 

May 20, 2013

Dancers’ Blog: Opening Night Nerves

I sat sweltering in the oddly summery Sydney weather as the sun’s rays were magnified through the floor to ceiling windows of Qantas domestic airport. I had shed a few layers of clothing to cope with the heat, but knew that when I disembarked in Melbourne I’d have to replace the layers and brave the crispy southern wind that blows right to your bones. I am a Melbournite by origin so I packed my woollies and my good spirits for the week, and the premiere of Blak at the Arts Centre.

A week before leaving for Melbourne our stress levels were through the roof. We had so much yet to choreograph, and my brainpower was beginning to wilt. By the last Saturday however, we had finished choreographing the last parts of the show and, with little if not any hiccups, we satisfied our worries by doing a complete run of the show. So much can change with a few days! I had been losing sleep with anxiety, trying to hold on to that faith and trust in my choreographers that I spoke of in my last entry, but it was fading with my own doubts and my failing mental capacity to retain choreography! After our first full run, I was filled with a renewed positive outlook. I should have taken my own advice – trusted that is would all come together in the end, because it did.

We had a huge week ahead of us, but the stress of long hours and nervousness I felt for opening night couldn’t swamp my excitement for performing a show that I truly believe in!

                                                                                                                 Jasmin Sheppard

April 19, 2013

Dancers’ Blog: The Creative Journey

                                                                                                      

Men and women reunite! Together again in the one studio, Bangarra are once again an entirety. How lovely it is to be fusing our polar opposite energies and begin to work in a team.

We still haven’t seen the men’s work Scar, and they haven’t seen ours Yearning, and I must say that I really can’t wait to see what they’ve been working on! But there’s plenty of time for that. We are two weeks out from the premiere of Blak in my own hometown of Melbourne.

A tension creeps through the air, a common thought, that, with about two weeks till opening night, and a fair amount to choreograph as of yet, will we get it all done in time? Will we be ready to share this story with confidence to our Melbourne audiences? Though not always shared openly, I know this worry plagues a good majority of us!

Things do however, as the cliché goes, come together in the end, and this point in the creative process comes for all dancers. It’s a time when you must return to that ultimate trust in your choreographer, which I have entirely in Stephen, and in Dan. All throughout the creation of a work, that trust enables me to create and contribute, even when I’m unsure of the direction the work is going in. That trust in a choreographer is why I chose this company to begin with. And why I know we will arrive at completion. So I’m putting the energy out there into the studio…it will all come together in the end!

                                                                                                            Jasmin Sheppard

Image: Stephen Page and artists rehearsing Blak, photo Greg Barrett

April 11, 2013

Dancers’ Blog: ‘Blak’ in Progress

Although it’s Autumn, I’m still sweating such a great deal throughout my day that one would think it is still the depths of Summer. Is it due to the unusually pleasant weather? Or is it that we are plunging all our energy, physical and emotional, into our creative workshopping of Blak? Perhaps a little of option A and B.

We are in the thick of developing the new work. I treasure the creative development process, it is constant food for the mind, and provides new challenges for our muscles.  Men and women have been separated into two different rooms for the creation of the first two parts of Blak. After almost 5 weeks of segregation into a men’s camp and a women’s camp, it seems as though the boys are getting more boyish and the girls are getting girlier. I’m uncertain if that is fact, but it’s definitely feeling as such!

Our strenuous ballet classes bring us altogether under the watchful eye of our dedicated Rehearsal Director, Robert Curran (affectionately known by his full name at work also). His wealth of ballet knowledge is giving us a strong base with which to then thrash about, or languidly melt into our familiar contemporary style. Excitement abounds in the Bangarra studios as we discover more of what Blak is, and will be.

                                                                                                              Jasmin Sheppard

Image: Jasmin Sheppard in Blak rehearsals photo Greg Barrett

March 13, 2013

Dancers’ Blog: From Bremmer Island to Hanoi

It’s a far journey from Northeast Arnhem Land to Vietnam, but within a month we find ourselves here in Hanoi and in a few days, Ho Chi Minh City. From dancing traditional creation stories on the sandy beaches by open fire at Banu Banu (Bremmer Island near Dhalinybuy), our bodies and therefore our spirits find ourselves dancing the same traditional dances for the Vietnamese people. We grew in our cultural knowledge of these dances while spending time with the much loved communities – learning from our cultural tutors, and I felt that the trip enabled us to carry that freshness with us, and truly give to our audiences.

Our days were filled with warm friendliness from the Vietnamese people, during workshops at dance universities in both cities, and also within the theatres during performances. Sharing with other dancers from another culture teaches that communication transcends language alone. We shared the language of dance, and the enthusiasm of creativity. We understood each other in our common passion. Performing for them put the icing on the cake. To witness another dancer from an entirely different culture truly understanding the stories we tell makes it all the more evident that the entire planet is unified, even if we don’t see it sometimes. Spirit truly is a special program, tying together a lot of what makes this company unique, and I feel that it expresses the heart of Bangarra.

One Vietnamese guide shed light on her own experience of attending Spirit in Hanoi, saying that although she has never had the opportunity to visit Australia, she felt that through our performance she was given the chance to see the land, feel the country, its colours, sounds and people.

                                                                                                     Jasmin Sheppard

Image: Female ensemble with Kathy Balngayngu Marika, Spirit, Hanoi Opera House, photo Roger Stonehouse

February 20, 2013

Dancers’ Blog: Our Cultural Residency

 

 

We started the year gently finding our dancing bodies again, we revelled in the freshness of the new year, and have all returned to Sydney after our first adventure for 2013.

Just over ten days ago we set off to Nhulunbuy in northeast Arnhem Land, which is like a base camp for trips to and from different communities in the region. I awoke early one morning to attempt a sunrise yoga, but was soon eaten alive by the local mozzies who were thriving in the wet season’s humidity. Back to the room I went! A couple of hours later, and after joyful reunions with old friends from the community, we set out to Dhalinybuy, homeland of Djakapurra Munyarrun, a Bangarra founding member. What touches our hearts the most is seeing members of the community who we formed special bonds with over past visits, and spending time with them eating, swimming at fresh water holes (a small amount of worry creeps up on us when we think about the possibility of meeting baru – crocodile!) and playing with the kids during dance workshops.

Night fell on our final night and we blasted the headlights on the four wheel drives to get together for a bungle (dance). After almost 10 years of learning and performing Yolngu bungle, I was once again humbled by the children, with them taking the role of teacher and showing us the way, while we kept keen eyes on their styles and tried to make the community proud. After two nights in Dhalinybuy, we headed back to town and were invited to attend one night of the funeral ceremony of a special lady. I admit I was both incredibly honoured and nervous. I wanted to do my adopted family of Yirrkala proud and dance with respect!

                                                                                                               Jasmin Sheppard

November 28, 2012

Dancers’ Blog: on Wiradjuri land

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Here we are on Wiradjuri country at last, bringing Riley home and sharing our work with the mob out here. How special it is to be tracing the trails of song lines through places like Bathurst, Orange, Albury and now Wagga Wagga. So far I’ve learnt the correct pronunciation of Bangarra from a woman who speaks Wiradjuri fluently, and have listened to stories that trace Wiradjuri song lines right through New South Wales and connect with other tribal groups right down as far as Nowra. The company are waiting to exhale with four remaining performances for the year. Not because we dislike what we do, but because our bodies are holding on by a thread. I recently heard that Bangarra may have done more performances this year than any dance company as small as us, and our bodies are feeling it! My back has begun to succumb to the weight of carrying our giant Cooloomun prop, a sign that the end of the year is drawing near and a rest for my body is just what I, and the whole company (crew included!) need.  However, my minor back problem did lead me to a nurturing acupuncturist who not only gave my back some much needed TLC, but also put me on the road to other ways to take care of my body as a whole. When your body is your livelihood, it is important to take care and respect the whole thing….the insides and the outside. So in this sense, a negative has led me to a positive! So onward we go, gaining strength from our art, and of course from the beautiful Elders that welcome us onto their land with incredible warmth! 

Jasmin Sheppard

November 21, 2012

Dancers’ Blog: ‘of earth & sky’ on the road from WA to NSW

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The West Australian leg of the of earth & sky regional tour is done and dusted. We don’t often have the chance to make the lengthy journey to the other side of the country to dance for the West. Although the entire team continued to battle through more injuries and sicknesses, we put on a few deadly shows in Mandurah, Geraldton, Bunbury and Albany. What a welcome we did receive from our Nyoongar brothers and sisters in every district. Our arrival in each town was anticipated, and the warmth was so heartening. I always forget how far WA is, and at times it felt like we were in a different country, battling mild jet lag and being woken at 5 or 6 am by eastern coast callers, thinking it was a godly hour to call (well it was by western standard time!). Teaching workshops to local kids, and adults for that matter, is always a highlight, and lifts our spirits even when our bodies are struggling to push through the last couple of months of a long and busy year. It is energising to experience the enthusiasm of young budding dancers, and we were especially touched by older dancers also eagerly hanging on our every word and giving of their spirits in our workshop in Albany. The company continues to miss our dearly loved dancers Daniel Riley and Yolande Brown as they recuperate from their injuries in Sydney. Sadly they won’t be dancing with us for the remaining 7 shows. Our Wiradjuri brother Daniel will meet us in Dubbo, but we are all itching for him to be with us in our entire NSW tour, as we tour Wiradjuri country performing Riley, our tribute to Wiradjuri artist Michael Riley. I personally feel very honoured to be bringing this work back to country, and I look forward to meeting community and discovering more of Wiradjuri culture along the way. This will surely enrich my performance in Riley.  

Jasmin Sheppard

October 31, 2012

Dancers’ Blog: on the road again

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Our time back in Sydney has been far too short, as we just begin to settle again into a routine of coming and going from our homes, working in our beautiful studios complete with perfect view of the Harbour Bridge and blue waters. With all minds focusing on the goal, we have remounted our 2010 show, of earth & sky with as little stress as possible. I personally think that blue skies and warm days assist in a light and carefree attitude! Over a fortnight we have rearranged the show as one of our female dancers has gone on to other creative pursuits. We have worked around injuries, sicknesses and (personally) too many appointments to mention. And here we are, on the plane to Perth to begin our regional tour of WA and NSW. It’s almost as if the entire company has turned into a flowing stream, curving around any boulders that obstruct the path, and pulling along anything we need to get through the fortnight amongst our current. As summer begins it brings with it lightness, positivity, and fresh creativity. I must say that in 2010 I thoroughly enjoyed performing this show, and I’m excited to be revisiting it again. Bon Voyage once more Bangarra!

Jasmin Sheppard

October 16, 2012

Dancers’ Blog: a visit to my homeland

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Along with our tour to Brisbane came the first truly warm weather most of us have had for a while. I cherished the warm days walking to the theatre, sweating it out in class during our closing week of TERRAIN. After a long season, we pressed on and gave our most for the final week of transporting ourselves onstage to desert salt pans. I personally treasured the chance to perform for a lot of my own family, including my grandmother who turned 90 during the week. We have been given a week off after closing night, and my plan is to travel to the Gulf of Carpentaria to finally visit her place of birth, home lands of my ancestors, the Tagalaka and Walangama people. Whilst performing Reborn for the last time, as I poured the white sand through my fingers and into my palms, I imagined what I might be seeing for the first time in the week to follow. What colour would the earth be? How thick would the bush be as I scanned the horizon? Who would I meet there? And as I felt the energy of the three men dancing behind me and with me, I imagined the spirits of my great grandmother and my great grandfather watching me as I traversed homelands for the first time.

Jasmin Sheppard

October 10, 2012

Dancers’ Blog: Reflecting on Mongolia

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It’s a little late, but an update on our Mongolia tour must be commented on! On arrival at our hotel after dodging potholes and other wild vehicles on the road to the city centre, we were received by a warm welcome by crew from the Arts Council Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar, and quickly settled in for a week in the vibrant city. We were given a day to recuperate and explore the city, and I made use of my first morning in Mongolia by visiting the local Buddhist temple and saying a prayer of thanks to the universe for the opportunity to dance for the Mongols. After talking with the generous women from Arts Council Mongolia, I soon discovered many parallels between their culture and Aboriginal culture also. Here in Mongolia, I believe, we found an audience that, although may speak an entirely different language, connected and understood our culture through a deep sharing of spirit. Our first work day was spent at the University of Arts and Culture where we took workshops in Bangarra repertoire and Yirrikala traditional dance, led by Aunty Kathy Marika. It was a beautiful experience of sharing of cultures and dance style. How lucky we were to also be treated by a showing of their own traditional dance by the students, and also by a precious 80 something lady, clad in traditional dress and emotively moving to the traditional horse head violin. Watching her moved me to tears as I saw her soul extend to us, one with her body and the music.

Our two performances of Spirit were received so well, and we definitely made lasting connections with many people from Ulaanbaatar. Our last free day, spent amongst mountain ranges, rocky hills and vast plains at Terelj national park was a treat for our minds, bodies and spirits, and to perform Spirit again…..well what more could you ask for in a week of work. Bliss. 

Jas

 

September 17, 2012

Dancers’ Blog: a poem from Jas

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Well here we are about to board the plane for Hong Kong and then Mongolia. Since my last blog we have been to Lake Eyre, Maree community, Canberra and now here.

My time in Maree was so special instead of mere blogging I thought I’d put in a couple of poems.

Throwing balls of energy
Back and forth, back and forth,
With small children,
And adolescents.
Shining faces home to hungry eager eyes.
Deep brown pools of possibility.
We tread hard on wooden floors,
Pounding the earth to retrieve her energy,
Bringing light, forming connection,
Then thank her, in the hope we can give something back.

Small prepubescent lumps rise on the horizon.
Nothing. For miles and light years.
Only grey, khaki, grass green, straw and salmon.
The tufts of life springing up,
Almost starved of liquid, but not quite.
Then the curves arise.
Like a giant fist from beneath has struck the earth,
And up they heave.
Creating curves in the distance like sleeping women,
Their pelvic tips and breast crescents reaching and touching the blue sky,
Caressing the cool breeze.
Catching the birds as they fly past, collecting them in the curve of their waists,
Inviting them to take a moments rest from flight within their desert scrub.

Jasmin Sheppard

September 4, 2012

Dancers’ Blog: TERRAIN in Adelaide and travelling to Maree

It’s a rather balmy day today, and I’m staring out the wide windows of Adelaide airport out to the greyish blue hue of the hills contemplating the few days that are ahead of us. We are shortly going to board our plane to Lake Eyre, and drive to Maree amongst hot dry earth and quiet bush to teach mob some dance workshops. This is a trip that will surely revive, rejuvenate and heal all of us after a wildly busy couple of months. Our season here in Adelaide was received so warmly and we cherished the full houses, thunderous applause and welcoming community. Bringing TERRAIN back to the state of whence its stories came was special, particularly for Frances, as she is SA born and bred, and has a special connection to South Australia. As does Kaine Sultan-Babij, a Whyalla boy who was so thrilled to be performing for his family for the first time with Bangarra in SA. The haunting energy of Her Majesty’s Theatre, in its 99th year of existence, created an atmosphere of mystery. We shuffled around backstage spreading clouds of drying ochre up and down the old creaking staircases, the wood bending beneath our footsteps. The season brought me a renewed appreciation of being a performing artist, that’s certain!  

Jasmin Sheppard

August 20, 2012

Dancers’ Blog: Sydney season wraps up

Jas - last show in Sydney

It’s our last Opera House performance of TERRAIN tonight, and the final night of what has been an epic month of shows, Spirit rehearsals for Mongolia, vaccination appointments, and photo shoots. In the midst of all this, we have been endeavouring to keep strong bodies, calm minds and rested souls. Between matinees we sneak midday siestas in the green room, we relish our short but sweet massage and physio appointments, and anticipate the end of yet another big week with good food and company. I’ve found it to be testing performing and rehearsing after my dreaded appointments with dr Pollack of the travel vaccination clinic. Being someone with a sensitive stomach, I dragged myself to the pathology clinic for my initial blood test, and was quite impressed at how pain and stress free it turned out. The following week, however, after two vaccination needles in each deltoid, I had to apologise to my ballet teacher for my comical inability to raise my arms any higher that 45 degrees! That night’s show was a push as I tried to ignore the ache in my arms, but with little time to prepare for a tour to Mongolia, there were not a lot of options! We all pushed through, and the company even got through a short bout of Gastro and a few minor injuries, but here we are, ready to perform one last time for Sydney! We’ll give it every last bit of juice before a few much needed days of rest, then do it all again for Wollongong.    

Jasmin Sheppard

July 31, 2012

Dancers’ Blog: settling in at the Opera House and a new tour!

2.TERRAIN-Bangarra- dressing-room-male ensemble-photo-greg-barrett

We are well into the swing of things at the Opera House, and now that opening night of TERRAIN is done, I feel like I can relax into the show and begin to play around with my stories and dynamics within the pieces I’m in, to make my performance really grow. Back at the Wharf, as we dancers basked in the lights of stage, our team were confirming a quick tour to Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. So it’s official. We are heading to Mongolia, a country I have wanted to visit since primary school, and we’ll be dancing there! As exciting as this all is, this means we have to get busy. Barely two days out from our hectic production week and our schedule is jam packed with rehearsals for Mongolia. We come in early, warm up then switch our muscle memories on to bring back our work Spirit. Some pieces are as simple as letting the music play whilst we let our physical bodies take over, relaying the movement as precisely as if we had performed it yesterday. Now that’s quite an unusual experience. We push through the week like a train with a heavy load. We are tired, and need to do our best not to let TERRAIN suffer as a result of our extra rehearsals. We regain energy and spirit for each performance by stepping into another existence once we’ve painted up and put our costumes on. This is the important part of a busy day; telling our story to the public. Here we go again! Chookas all round for another show! 

Jasmin Sheppard

July 18, 2012

Dancers’ blog – production week at Sydney Opera House

It’s production week for our Sydney season at the Opera House, a venue that feels comfortable and familiar, like settling back into an old home. I walk the same pathway up to our dressing rooms in the Drama Theatre, and wonder how time can speed by so fast. it seems as though it was just yesterday that we were at the House bumping in last year’s production of Belong. This week’s purpose is to take what beauty we created with TERRAIN in the spacious Playhouse in Melbourne, and translate it into a much more intimate space here. As a dancer, a lot of our time is spent re-thinking our delivery of each piece. For most of us this means focusing on a subtler delivery of our inner spirits. The audience will be much closer, which creates the opportunity to connect with them on a more personal level. For the crew, they are focusing on changing lighting moods to complement the intimate stage. Last night was community night, when all the mob fill the seats. Having our brothers and sisters out there supporting us brings us the energy we need to carry on through to opening night. Thanks for a fabulous, creative Koori night!

Jasmin Sheppard

July 5, 2012

Dancers’ Blog – TERRAIN opening night in Melbourne

Landforms (TERRAIN) Bangarra Dance Ensemble. Photo by Greg Barrett

TERRAIN opening night, after much preparation, was a great success. Back stage the dancers felt high levels of nervous energy, uncertain anticipation, and moments of quiet concentration. There’s always a lot to process on the eve of a world premiere. I don’t think I was the only one to take time out to picture in my mind the great expanse and curious moods of Lake Eyre. We have had the privilege to have a local elder from Lake Eyre come to watch our interpretation of the incredible landscape, and just knowing that we have his blessing to go out and portray an image of his traditional land is really quite special. I think it has given all of us an extra push of encouragement. As I pinned in the spindly arms of my spinifex headpiece I imagined the dry wick of lonely gums by the lake, awaiting the first drink of water for the season. The lake provides so much visual inspiration that it becomes easy to disappear into a different world and landscape onstage. The performance went by so quickly and I must say that I am going to treasure the experience of performing TERRAIN every night.

Jasmin Sheppard

June 25, 2012

Dancers’ Blog – Night Stories in New York

At six am on a crisp Saturday morning, Bangarra and The Australian Ballet dancers congregated outside the Ballet Centre, anticipating a twenty hour flight to New York City. Slowly the ballerinas began to line up their luggage to be checked off and counted – a process that our small family of 13 dancers are not accustomed to! The Aussie Ballet move like a well oiled machine, and were hitching a ride with them to the Big Apple. We had four days and two shows at Lincoln Centre, and we were armed with high hopes for our New York performances. Our show Warumuk – in the dark night, is a magical and sensory journey of Yolgnu astronomy.
Our rehearsals were short, as was our time onstage to space and tech – barely enough time to take in the great expanse of the David Koch Theatre and its endless tiers and rows of seats.
Opening night was exhilarating- and we received a standing ovation! (rarely heard of at Lincoln Centre). I feel like I closed my eyes, opened them again and it was all over. Before we knew it Bangarra were boarding the plane to Sydney to open our new show, TERRAIN at the end of this week. Deep breaths all!

Jasmin Sheppard

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