Friday, July 10, 2015


Bangarra Dance Theatre
Canberra Theatre Centre to July 11, 2015

Review by Len Power 9 July 2015

Bangarra Dance Theatre’s latest show is a double bill of extraordinary depth and power which will haunt you for hours afterwards.

The first half of the program is a work called I.B.I.S. by choreographers Deborah Brown and Waangenga Blanco.  The Island Board Of Industry And Services, or I.B.I.S., is a local store found on some of the Torres Strait islands.  The dance takes place in a fictional I.B.I.S store where the people are modern day hunters and gatherers.  From moments of day time reality as customers meet and interact, we also experience the store at night time when some of the produce on sale, like crayfish, turtles and jellyfish, comes to life.

This is a thrilling work danced magnificently.  The Turtle sequence and the section showing the contents of the freezer cabinets coming to life was a very appealing fusion of dance, light and music.  The dancing was very precise and clear in its purpose.  Music by Steve Francis created a perfect soundscape.  Not just pre-recorded, there are sequences where the dancers sing live and provide the percussion as well.

The second half of the program, Sheoak, was choreographed by Frances Rings.  The Sheok tree in this work is a symbol and a warning that indigenous languages, customs and lore are just as threatened as our flora and fauna.  The work has three sections – Place, Body and Spirit – which display a dreamlike progression of loss, challenge and the optimism of renewal.  This was an imaginative, energetic and beautifully realized work with an especially stunning final sequence where ancestors call to us from beyond.  In this sequence, the combination of the staging both behind and in front of a scrim curtain, the music by David Page and the lighting was a great achievement and stunning finale to the program.

Jacob Nash gave the show a magnificent, constantly changing design that was visually pleasing and was complemented by Karen Norris’s excellent lighting.  Costumes by Jennifer Irwin were fascinating with great attention to detail.

Bangarra’s productions present a window into our indigenous cultures that is accessible, thought-provoking and immensely entertaining.  This current production is one of their best.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast in the ‘Artcetera’ program on Artsound FM 92.7 on Saturdays from 9am.