|Riki Hamaguchi and Company in "Sandsong"
by Stephen Page, Frances Rings and the dancers of Bangarra Dance Theatre.
Steve Francis – Costumes designed by Jennifer Irwin
by Jacob Nash - Lighting design by Nick Schlieper
Theatre from 15th – 17th July 2021.
Perhaps its most
political offering to date, and certainly one of its most ambitious, Bangarra’s
first full-length work in three years, “Sandsong”, traces the history of the indigenous
inhabitants of the Great Sandy Desert over the centuries.
is encapsulated in sixteen episodes, some of which are harsh, starting with an
uncomfortably loud filmed sequence with a deliberately grating soundtrack incorporating
archival images of men in iron chains, prison scenes and gunshots. Some
sequences are literal, involving traditional dances and initiation ceremonies. Others
depict people being auctioned to work as labourers on stations, and station workers
rising up against their treatment by the landowners.
|Riki Hamaguchi - Baden Hitchcock in "Sandsong"
Lyrical episodes include a beautiful sequence involving a lost boy which concludes with a lovely duet between the boy and his sister, memorably performed by Rika Hamaguchi and Baden Hitchcock.
flow seamlessly in a kind of living
tapestry depicting significant events and customs relating to the Great Sandy
Desert and ending in a spectacular finale for which the entire company was costumed
in costumes splashed with gold against a gorgeous shimmering gold backcloth creating,
perhaps incongruously, the effect of an exotic Klimt painting.
|Bangarra dancers in the finale of "Sandsong"
Irwin’s costumes for the various sections ranged through simple brief earth-coloured
trunks and tops, through trousers, skirts and shifts, until finally the afore-mentioned
spectacular finale costumes and always perfect for the events being portrayed.
So were Jacob
Nash’s beautiful moody sculptural settings, beautifully lit by Nick Schlieper to
create sympathetic environments for each of the episodes.
Bangarra is a
proud ensemble company, but since its last visit to Canberra there have been
some significant changes in the line-up of dancers. The choreography for “Sandsong”
is attributed to Stephen Page, Frances Rings and the dancers of the company. It
was danced with extraordinary commitment and skill by the dancers, perhaps as a
result of their involvement in the choreography.
the familiar faces, Beau Dean Riley Smith and Rika Hamaguchi both continue to exhibit
that special charisma and presence that draws the eye to them whenever they are
entitled “Build up/ Walk off” featured aerial work performed by Rikki Mason and
Lillian Banks. Although marginally interesting, the necessary clumsy apparatus caused
it to become an unwanted intrusion on the otherwise mystical atmosphere of the rest
of the piece.
Bangarra Dance Theatre is unique in that it is devoted to telling indigenous stories through the medium of dance. “Sandsong”, with its stories of the Kimberley and the Great Sandy Desert, is a compelling addition to its extraordinary repertoire.
Photos by Daniel Boud
This review also appears in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www.artsreview.com.au