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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Blak – Bangarra Dance Theatre

With sinuous physicality and a dynamic stage presence, 14 dancers explore what it means to be blak in a bustling metropolis.
By Hilary Simmons
May 06, 2013
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By Hilary Simmons
May 06, 2013
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Bangarra is a dance theatre company that uses music and movement from the contemporary urban world to explore the stories of Australia's Indigenous people. Since 1989 they have been creating extraordinarily muscular and beautifully choreographed performances; 40,000-year-old songlines and bloodlines transported to a modern context.

In their latest production, Blak, the relationship between old and new — tension and possibility for change — comes under intense and uncompromising scrutiny. Composed in three movements, Blak begins as a gang of seven boys test the constantly shifting boundaries of inner-city life as they prepare for traditional rites of passage and initiation ceremonies. Wearing hooded jumpers and skinny jeans, they appear profoundly disenfranchised within a gritty city of gridlocked boundaries that plays host to their sometimes unpredictable behaviour.

In the second movement it’s the women's turn to deal with the recurring conflict between city dwelling and Indigenous connection to country. The female sense of disempowerment is different in that it specifically relates to the difficulty of speaking out on fundamental issues like birth, loss, language and powerlessness. How these 'blak' women can make their voices resonate clearly for future generations is a question that lingers beyond the physical performance.

In the final movement all 14 dancers take to the stage to celebrate and pay homage to their heritage to powerful, sensual and utterly compelling effect. The soundscape, composed by internationally renowned choreographer Stephen Page and electro-pop king Paul Mac, links each individual movement of the dancers into a vital whole, visibly transporting the audience.

Bangarra is a Wiradjuri word meaning “to make fire” — in Blak, the burning desire for spiritual connection is rekindled.

Image via Bangarra Dance Theatre

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