Saturday, March 2, 2013


Mirramu Dance Company in association with artists from Arnhem Land
John Fairfax Theatre, National Gallery Of Australia
1 March to 3 March, 2013

Review by Len Power

It’s particularly stimulating to experience an indigenous dance production that leaves you wanting to know more about the culture you’ve just had a glimpse of. Mirramu Dance Company’s current production certainly does that.

According to the program, ‘Morning Star’ follows one sacred song line of the Yolngu people of North East Arnhem Land.  Between sunset and sunrise powerful songs and dances of ancestral spirits, the butterfly, the brolga, the praying mantis and the little bat are danced and sung in this age-old ceremony, which affirms the complex and intricate cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.

Eight dancers draw us into this fascinating and mysterious world through a program consisting of seventeen separate songs and dances.  There are solo, duo and trio items as well as others with the full cast.

All eight performers introduce themselves directly to the audience early in the show in a section called ‘Kinship’.  Learning of their relationship to each other gives us a greater understanding of the dances and songs about the cycle of life that follow.  Particularly memorable items included ‘Layers’, danced by Albert David, Miranda Wheen and Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal, the traditional brolga dance – Mulung, Mulung – by the whole cast followed by the contemporary brolga dance by Jade which combined traditional movement with modern dance techniques.  The finale – Gunaro – crying for the Morning Star as it returns back to the promised land, performed by the whole cast, was especially moving.

Composer, Airi Ingram in collaboration with Albert David, provided a fascinating fusion of traditional and electronic music to provide a haunting atmosphere that enhanced each item in the show.  The costumes designed by Peta Strachan were a highlight of the production especially those signifying animals and birds.  I liked the fact that there was just a suggestion of a particular creature in the costumes and the rest was provided by the performer and our imaginations.  The lighting design by Rodney Bates complemented the whole production.  Particularly effective were the pools of light provided for some of the items.

Artistic Director, Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, who also dances in the show, has produced an excellent production in collaboration with her artists.  Do buy the informative and attractive program as it provides a lot of interesting background detail.

Mirramu Dance Company’s ‘Morning Star’ is an electrifying and very entertaining production.

Also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 3 March 2013

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