Tuesday, April 23, 2019

DJUKI MALA - The Spiegeltent

Directed by Joshua Bond

The Spiegeltent. Civic Square, Canberra. 13th April 2019.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens.

When the Chooky Dancers first performed in the Canberra Multicultural Festival more than 10 years ago, they were six wide-eyed Yolngu boys from northern Arnhem Land who had found themselves a worldwide phenomenon as the result of a video-clip that had been uploaded on the internet. In this clip they performed a hilarious version of “Zorba The Greek” in which they combined traditional indigenous dance steps with modern dance moves. Their clip attracted not only millions of viewers worldwide, but also invitations to perform their dance around the world.

The Chooky Dancers have now morphed into Djuki Mala, surprisingly, not six dancers as indicated in the publicity, but a highly accomplished trio, Baykali Ganambarr, Wakara Gondarra, and Marko Garmu,  who perform with disarming joie de vie,  an entertaining mish-mash   of tightly  choreographed dance routines, some traditional cultural dances, others tongue-in-cheek interpretations of familiar pop-songs, interspersed with documentary film sequences of female elders explaining Yolngu traditions, and the history of the Chooky Dancers.  

"Singin" in the Rain" 

Photo: Cam Campbell

The zany “Zorba” dance is still there, danced much more professionally these days, and there’s a delightful mash-up of Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain” incorporating brightly coloured umbrellas. There’s a Motown medley, a Bollywood dance with dancers wrapped incongruously in gold satin, and a dazzling Michael Jackson moment when one of the dancers was rewarded with excited spontaneous applause for his expert execution of Jackson’s signature moonwalk.

A slickly conceived high energy presentation, Djuki Mala is sometimes silly, sometimes puzzling, occasionally moving, always entertaining, definitely irresistible. It drew a standing ovation from the large appreciative audience attracted to its first Spiegeltent show in Canberra.

This review also appears in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.  www.artsreview.com.au