Friday, July 21, 2023

Yuldea - Bangarra Dance Theatre


 Yuldea Bangarra Dance Theatre at Canberra Theatre Centre July 20 – 22, 2023.

Reviewed by Frank McKone


Choreographer – Frances Rings and the dancers of Bangarra Dance Theatre
Set Designer – Elizabeth Gadsby; Costume Designer – Jennifer Irwin
Lighting Designer – Karen Norris; Composer – Leon Rodgers
Guest Composers – Electric Fields
Miming Cultural Consultant – Clem Lawrie


Rikki Mason          Ryan Pearson                      Lillian Banks
Bradley Smith       Courtney Radford              Kallum Goolagong
Kassidy Waters     Kiarn Doyle                         Maddison Paluch
Daniel Mateo         Emily Flannery                   Janaya Lamb
Jesse Murray         Chantelle Lee Lockhart     James Boyd
Lucy May               Amberlilly Gordon    

Program Note:
Yuldea reflects the truth-telling of the Indigenous experience in Australia and
reminds us that there are two stories to the making of this country. Yooldil Kapi
is the traditional name for a permanent waterhole situated on the traditional lands
of the Kokatha people. It is recognised as one of the most important Aboriginal
sites in Australia. With the federation of our nation, Yuldea, and cultural life
would forever be changed. The precious permanent water source became highly
sought after by the explorers and settlers, and then used for the creation of the
Trans-Australian railway line. For many Anangu, it was a site of first contact and
a dramatic change to their traditional existence. People were displaced and
forced to leave their ancestral home.

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Frances Rings’ and the Company’s choreography has grown from within the story of the essential water, stolen from the people who had learned to understand their place and how to live with confidence on their Country.  It becomes a story of Biblical proportions of a free and independent people facing the pestilence of invasion by the locusts under the Crown, of their determination to survive near destruction, and to regain their rightful standing under the arch of reconciliation.

Yuldea is an outstanding work of dance-theatre, as powerful visually in the set design as in the sound and music; in the symbolism of imagery in costume design; in the emotional quality of the dance, in group, pair and individual scenes.  Yuldea is a great poem of the past, present and future which looks forward with confidence for new understanding across the cultural divide of colonialism.

Frances Rings, now Artistic Director of Bangarra, following the 33 year leadership of Stephen Page, has created a mature work for the Company, grounded in her personal history as she explains: Within my family lineage lies the stories of forefathers and mothers who lived a dynamic sophisticated desert life, leaving their imprint scattered throughout Country like memories suspended in time.  Their lives were forever changed by the impact of colonial progress….The story of Yuldea asks us to look beyond the narrative of our Nation’s modernisation to reconcile fraught history, and to affirm a future that no longer hides behind its truths but grows because of them.

In the introductory Welcome to Ngunnawal Country, where Canberra Theatre is situated, two things were made clear.  The traditional First Nations Welcome is an invitation to all with good intentions based on respect.  For the upcoming referendum on a constitutional Indigenous Voice to Parliament, each one of us should inform ourselves and vote as we see fit in good conscience.

I must say I hope the success of the great work of art,Yuldea, presages another – political – positive success this year.

Photos: Kate Longley