August 6, 2013

BANGARRA’S YEAR OF ACHIEVEMENTS RECOGNISED IN A WEEK OF AWARDS

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Over the past week, the Australian arts industry has recognised the outstanding artistic achievements of Bangarra Dance Theatre and its artists, with four awards across the Helpmanns, Australian Arts in Asia Awards and last night’s Australian Dance Awards.

On Monday July 29 2013, Bangarra Dance Theatre received two Helpmann Awards at the prestigious Sydney Opera House ceremony. Dancer Deborah Brown was awarded the Helpmann for Best Female Dancer in a Dance or Physical Theatre work for her performance in the 2012 work Terrain. Terrain also received the Helpmann Award for Best Ballet or Dance Work. Artist-in-residence David Page was also nominated for Best Original Score for Terrain.

On Thursday August 1 2013, the inaugural Australian Arts in Asia Awards took place at Luna Park in Sydney, recognising Australian artists who have engaged with Asia and who have contributed to strengthening cultural links between Australia and Asia. Bangarra Dance Theatre performed at the ceremony and received the inaugural Australian Art in Asia Award in the Dance category for their production Spirit and its recent tours to Mongolia, Thailand and Vietnam. Bangarra shared this award with Annalouise Paul for Game On.

Bangarra’s Artistic Director Stephen Page said, “These awards are a wonderful affirmation for the company that we are achieving artistic excellence while we pursue the equally important role of building connections. Whether Bangarra is performing on stage at the Sydney Opera House or a theatre in regional Victoria, running an indigenous youth workshop in remote New South Wales or presenting a performance for brand new audiences in Vietnam, the high quality of our work is what helps create meaningful engagement. During our recent South Asian tour of Spirit, audiences were fascinated by Bangarra’s fusion of traditional culture with modern dance theatre. There was an instant connection with the spiritual, grounded nature of Bangarra’s work and they understood the story-telling that strongly influences our productions.’

Last night the annual Australian Dance Awards took place in Canberra. Shane Carroll one of Australia’s most outstanding contributors to dance received the Services to Dance Award. Over the last two years Shane Carroll has overseen the development and implementation of Bangarra’s new youth program Rekindling, designed to connect Aboriginal young people with their culture through story-telling and dance. Rekindling has been successfully established in four communities across New South Wales during 2013 and planning is underway for further communities in New South Wales as well as Queensland next year. Ms Carroll’s expertise has also been felt by independent Aboriginal artists working with an important sector capacity building program supported by Bangarra and the NSW Government Birrang – expanding Aboriginal dance horizons in NSW.

CEO Catherine Baldwin says, “Bangarra recognises the valuable insights and knowledge Ms Carroll brings to these innovative initiatives, working with artists to deliver significant benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Both Birrang and Rekindling programs provide opportunities for dancers to build resilience that supports their professional career development.”

Bangarra Dance Theatre is Australia’s premier national Indigenous performing arts company. Under the brilliant and inspirational artistic direction of Stephen Page, Bangarra has strived to maintain the cultural integrity and spirit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tradition, combining it with contemporary expressions of stories, dance and music to create unique theatrical experiences, and to deliver these experiences to audiences across Australia and around the world.

July 31, 2013

2013 Helpmann Awards

Congratulations to everyone who was recognised at the 2013 Helpmann Awards, especially Bangarra artist Deborah Brown for winning Best Female Dancer in a Dance or Physical Theatre Production for Terrain and choreographer Frances Rings, the Terrain creative team and the Bangarra ensemble for winning the award for Best Ballet or Dance Work.

Read the full list of 2013 Helpmann Award recipients HERE.

Congratulations also goes to composer David Page for his nomination for Best Original Score for Terrain, Frances Rings for her nomination for Best Choreography in a Dance or Physical Theatre Production for Terrain and to the Bangarra ensemble for their nomination for Best Regional Touring Production for of earth & sky.

Read the full list of 2013 Helpmann Award nominees HERE.

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

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

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 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 20, 2012

Dancers’ Blog: Sydney season wraps up

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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

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 31, 2012

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

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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 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 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 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

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 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

June 15, 2012

Bangarra Clip 2012

Stephen Page has worked closely with cinematographer Bonnie Elliot and editor Rochelle Oshlack to create a Bangarra digital experience.

“Playing with a moving camera and eight of our wonderful dancers one Saturday, I looked for the essence within each individual – their special movement quality that reflects each personality and their own creative journey”. Stephen Page.

Bangarra’s new work TERRAIN premieres in Melbourne on June 29 and then continues nationally in 2012

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