Posts Tagged ‘Dance

12
Dec
17

Dance: A Double Bill

 

Dance: A Double Bill

Sarah Aiken & Rebecca Jensen

Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre

6 – 9 December 2017

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

Explorer looks at the material world in relation to the rapidly shifting digital world through an anti-humanist lens … An entitled explorer arrives in a half imagined world of formless potential, navigating a series of shortcuts simulating memories.

Rebecca Jensen

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Aiken looks at how we live in the world, the versions of ourselves we curate, our ouptut, achievements and the versions that others hold of us; how much we control these variants, and how much they shape us.

Sarah Aiken

 

The two works on this program, Sarah Aiken’s Sarah Aiken (Tools for Personal Expansion) and Rebecca Jensen’s Explorer were both finalists in the Keir Choreographic Award for 2016. The Keir Foundation supports new and emerging practitioners across a range of art forms, including contemporary dance.

 

A leaf-blower, enormous pieces of fabric, two mysterious faceless figures, a ball of ice glowing with red light, a ladder, a dead tree branch, and an assemblage of ropes, plastic pipes, styrofoam, and a couple of kitchen bowls all make a surreal appearance in Explorer.

 

As the explorer, Jensen is a strong and striking figure, simply dressed in tracksuit pants and a T-shirt. She navigates a dreamlike path through this mysterious landscape, appearing to be unaware of the two beings (Michael McNab and Harrison Ritchie-Jones) who support her and shape her path.

 

McNab also created the sound for this work, with electronic siren-like noises, oscillating blares of sound, the leaf-blower, and performers hitting the floor, walls, and some of the props with drumsticks.

 

He and Ritchie-Jones work with Jensen to perform arresting physical feats, supporting her as she runs up a wall, and then ‘walks’ along the wall, lying across her partner’s shoulders.

 

Do the two men represent the ‘rapidly shifting digital world’ Jensen mentions in the program notes? They are completely dressed in white, including their heads, looking a little like fencers.

 

One then strips off this outer layer to reveal a similar costume, but made of pale blue fabric marbled in brown and orange. The same fabric, conveying an incongruous old-world elegance, forms a backdrop for Jensen and this figure.

 

It’s hard to interpret Explorer as the program notes describe – for example, ‘The landscape slips in and out of disappearance’ – but Jensen certainly conveys the sense of trying to find her way through a puzzling world, while calmly accepting its challenges.

 

The piece ends more mysteriously than it begins, with Jensen harnessing herself to a collection of random objects, and climbing the ladder towards the suspended ball of ice.

 

In Sarah Aiken’s eponymous work for three female dancers (Aiken herself, Claire Leske and Emily Robinson), her name is heard many times. Each dancer announces the name into a microphone as she appears, and the sound is recorded and played back over and over again, with other voices added later. Muffled bell-like chords are also part of the sound design by Daniel Arnott.

 

The three dancers are dressed in leggings and tops, each in a different shade of pink. The impression is of different attenuated versions of the same person, reinforced by the frequent use of movement in canon.

 

The movement is simple and naturalistic: walking, crawling, kneeling, raising the arms, sitting on the floor and using the hands to shuffle backwards …

 

The action culminates in one of the dancers filming the others, using a smartphone, and projections of the film distort the images, amusingly extending parts of the dancers’ bodies. This image is then carried through back to the dancers, with the arms of the pink costume being stretched to many times the length of human arms.

 

Some of the program notes about this piece are obscure, and grandiose. While Aiken may have intended, for example, that it ‘critiques the gendered occupation of space and the worship of progress, development and continual growth, observing what retracts as we reach further’, this was hard for me to see in the actual performance.

 

In presenting this season, Metro Arts is certainly fulfilling its purpose of championing contemporary arts, supporting artists and providing opportunities for them to show their work to new and existing audiences.

 

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21
Jun
13

EDC: Natalie Weir’s R&J and Carmen Sweet

 

Natalie Weir’s R&J (Act 1 – Passion) and Natalie Weir’s Carmen Sweet

Expressions Dance Company

The Noosa Long Weekend Festival

Thursday 20th June 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

 

Rhiannon McLean Carmen Sweet

 

See Barry Alsop’s images here

 

NATALIE WEIR’S R&J (ACT 1 – PASSION) 
From age to age, one classic story is as timeless as love itself… 

Winner of Outstanding Achievement in Choreography at the 2012 Australian Dance Awards, Natalie Weir’s R&J presents three versions of events inspired by the star-crossed lovers at the heart of Shakespeare’s greatest love story. Exclusively for the Noosa Long Weekend, EDC will revisit the explosive first act, transporting audiences to the beating heart of the modern-day club scene where passion and desire erupt in a dangerous and tragic love triangle.  



 

 

NATALIE WEIR’S CARMEN 
This iconic tale of Spanish heat and gypsy passion unravels when naïve soldier Don José has his heart ignited by the fiery Carmen, discarding his childhood sweetheart and deserting the army. Josè’s attempts to tame the freedom-loving beauty are futile, and when she leaves him for the famous toreador Escamillo, all three are engulfed in the flames of jealousy and revenge. Opera’s most famous femme fatale is stripped. Weir’s Carmen is a free spirit; dangerous, volatile and vulnerable, brought to vivid life by three dancers playing her different states of mind and alter egos.

 

The only dance event of the Festival in 2013, Expressions Dance Company (EDC as the rebranding goes), could have sold out twice over. The full house included many young dancers and their mums and dance teachers, from various Sunshine Coast schools and studios. With the Noosa area schools best represented (NPDA REPRESENT!), I couldn’t help but wonder where the rest were. Surely, a chance to se the acclaimed Queensland company on home turf is more appealing than making the trek to Brisbane on a cold, rainy night? I know, sometimes I make that trek up to four nights a week, and it’s really not as bad as many Coasties make out, but I also appreciate seeing so much top notch stuff, so much closer to home during the Festival.

 

Actually, it’s moving day today (can you believe we’re moving house in between rehearsals for West Side Story and The Noosa Long Weekend?), so I haven’t been tweeting much! Tonight I have the opportunity to see David Pomeranz’s Chaplin: A Life. In Concert & Meow Meow, and I’ll be letting you know how both those shows go.

 

EDC did not disappoint (they rarely do). This was indeed, as the Festival program promised, “a delectable double-bill of two enchanting short works.” Poppy and I were excited to see so many young friends in the audience and we enjoyed the buzz before the show began. (We also enjoyed our own little “supper club” at Gaston after the show had ended. Poppy and Jason swapped magic tricks, and we had the best duck spring rolls, dumplings and dessert!).

 

Natalie Weir’s R&J (Act 1 – Passion)

Natalie Weir’s R&J is, I believe, just one version of three – the first act revisited for this performance – and now I wish I’d seen the other two at some stage. It’s not new news, but nevertheless, it’s a bold statement to set this age-old tragic tale in the throbbing modern day dance club scene. Something about setting the story in this environment seemed cruel! But even Poppy, at seven, missed nothing and look, I’m never sorry to have taken her to a more sophisticated re-telling of any classic story…it’s never too soon to start talking about making good choices when it comes to party drugs.

 

Representing a mass of moving bodies on a dance floor can be a challenge, can’t it? But EDC opened this piece with a stunning cinematic scene of writhing figures under coloured lights, which established immediately, a sense of intimacy, urgency and helped to build the anticipation for a well-known story. It’s not like we don’t know how it ends, but the thing about a new take on anything is that we like to see how we GET to the end!

 

The star-crossed lovers are superb in their roles, the passion is there, and we really feel for them, as Juliet becomes the prize in a fight on the dance floor between Romeo and a Capulet dude, whose final blow is a king hit, knocking Romeo unconscious. This gives Juliet the opportunity to demonstrate her grief in a beautifully executed solo before taking a few too many party pills and dying in Romeo’s arms.

 

I’m under the impression we have no new young male dancers on the Coast at the moment, because if we did, they could would should have been there to see these guys. This is the kind of contemporary dance that is easy to watch and wonderful to remember. We know the story, despite the twists and turns in its retelling, and the dance is so good that, unlike when I was growing up dancing and wanted to be living that life on stage, I watch now and want to live that life IN MY LIFE. That applies more to Carmen though. Obviously, I don’t want to OD at a dance party.

 

Natalie Weir’s Carmen Sweet

I love Bizet’s Carmen. It was my first favourite opera, and for me it still trumps all the rest in terms of story, character, sound, and entertainment value. And this reading of his Carmen absolutely blew me away. With three Carmens in one last night, we were able to consider the various aspects of the famous, flirty, fiery woman. Her vulnerability doesn’t always come through in the opera, but we see it in Weir’s piece. We see the passion, the ambition, the determination, and with just six EDC dancers, to the sumptuous sound of Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite, we see the jealousy, rage, and the ultimate revenge. It was a double-bill of bold love affairs and death!

 

After seeing Sheridan Harbridge perform during her sold-out Supper Club at berardo’s on Wednesday night, her own sexy version of Habanera: “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” (Love is a rebellious bird), I wasn’t sure how hot this show would be, but hot it was! The dancers are in fine form, and it’s easy to see why Elise May received the Outstanding Performance by a Female Dancer Award for her work in this production. She seems to channel every aspect of the sultry, sexy Carmen, and watches while her two alter egos (Michelle Barnett & Riannon McLean) play ruthlessly with her heart and mind. The performances by Daryl Brandwood, Benjamin Chapman, Thomas Gundry Greenfield and Jack Ziesing are equally compelling and technically proficient. I’m so impressed with this show; it left me on a high, and not the Juliet pill popping one. I’m continually impressed with Natalie Weir’s work and I can’t wait to see more from this company. Let’s hope we see them back in Noosa next year.

 

Again, I’m going to say to Sunshine Coast artists and teachers, FIND A WAY TO SEE THE BEST IN YOUR FIELD! When the shows come to you there’s really no excuse. The Noosa Long Weekend Festival showcases artists who you can’t afford to miss if you’re truly serious about teaching and/or working on your craft, and the ticket prices are excellent value (it was just $55 for EDC’s 90-minute performance at The J Theatre).

 

Unfortunately, considering the number of dance lovers on the Coast, that’s it for dance at this year’s Festival! But there are still plenty of events happening over the final three days of the Festival, including the sensational Festival Highlights Celebration Concert on Sunday at the Outrigger from 12pm – 4pm.

 

Book online noosalongweekend.com

 

And what’s next for EDC? When Time Stops September 6th – 14th at QPAC’s Playhouse.

 

Book online expressionsdancecompany.org.au

 

20
Mar
12

the eastside belles

If I were not already committed to seeing Ignatian’s Sweeney Todd on Saturday night, I’d be in Albion, enjoying dinner and a first class show from the newest vocalising vintage vixens to sweep into town, The Eastside Belles. If you’re quick, you can still book tickets for this one night only event. From what we hear, the venue, the vino and the fare on offer is all pretty fine too so if you can, spend your $80 each and get 3 courses and the show. There’s a $35 show only ticket too, if you’re opting for 2 minute noodles and pop tarts (do they still make pop tarts?) before you leave the house so you afford a cab. That’s okay too because the important thing is to see these girls. Performance Studies students, you should see these girls. With influences ranging from the Andrew Sisters to the Puppino Sisters and numbers from Cabaret, Chicago, The Color Purple and Jekyll and Hyde, there’s no one else like them in Brisvegas.

These are true triple-threat, versatile performers. (You might have seen Katie on a burlesque stage and you’ll soon see Cath in QMT’s upcoming production of Oliver!). You may already have seen The Eastside Belles perform with Big Bands Scream and Brassroots.

With an ecclectic 6 octave range, Cath Belle (Cath Toomey,) manages to capture the sultry to the sublime in her soulful vocals.

She’s known for her versatility and dynamic performance style which has taken her around the world.

She was based for almost 7 years in Europe where she fronted various Jazz, blues and Funk bands, held leading roles in a variety of touring musicals as well as co-ordinating opera and gospel music at the Vatican and key European Cathedral events.

Though having studied singing under a variety of European Gurus as well as training classically at Sydney’s Conservatorium of music, her natural ability for music was first fostered by her family and began creating a traditional soul, jazz and lyrical repertoire from the age of 5!

Originally trained as a pianist & violinist by Suzuki method, Catherine’s primary love is singing.  She attended MacDonald Performing Arts College as a Dancer and Musician and has Degree in Media and Communications from Macquarie University.

Katie ‘Blue-Velvet’ Belle appears sweet and timid at first… but wait until you really get to know her!

After studying piano and music theory as a child, at the age of 14 Ms Velvet wrote her first song and discovered she enjoyed belting out a tune.

Since then she has studied classical and jazz, and pursuid her passion for original music as a vocalist in rock bands for the past 10 years.

This creative gal has a degree in Graphic Design from Griffith University, and performs regularly on the local burlesque scene, swanning in feathers and sequins.

Her glances, sultry vocals and ‘bumps and grinds’ really capture the playfulness of yesteryear.

 

She is full of attitude and exuberance with a big voice to boot! Tash Belle (nee Tash York) has been involved in Brisbane’s entertainment scene for over 5 years and has been in over 15 stage/musical productions.

With a great passion for making music and voice work Tash’s love lies in Musical Theatre. Her theatre credits include Lady of the Lake (Spamalot), Ellen (Miss Saigon) and Sally Bowles (Cabaret).

She gigs in a variety bands and vocal groups but finds great joy in experiencing the harmonies and plethora of music genres that the Belles explore.

In 2010 she graduated from a double degree in Business (Human Resources) and Fine Arts (Drama) and instead of pursuing a steady job she has decided to follow her passion and study a Full time Music Theatre Course at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music (aka “the Con”).

Our Newest Belle brings an ‘old world class’ with a ‘new world edge.’

You don’t know what impresses you more, her emotional vocals, adorable movements or stunning looks.

This is an opportunity to meet The Eastside Belles in a more intimate setting.

Limited seating. A few tickets remaining. Bookings (07) 3262 3738

17
Mar
12

Bloodland or Dear Australian Theatre Industry, Be Careful What You Wish For

Bloodland 

Bangarra Dance Theatre with Sydney Theatre Company  & Adelaide Festival Production

QPAC Playhouse 

14th – 18th March  

“BEING AN ABORIGINAL PERSON IN THIS COUNTRY IS HARD.”

Wayne Blair, Writer.

  

When Cate and Andrew ask for a product, you give it. They asked for a show about indigenous issues and here it is. Are you ready for that? I wasn’t. I thought I was seeing a dance production, which may or may not have alluded to land rights, tribal war and racism in this country. But this is the new Bangarra Theatre. This is Bangarra with less of the dance and more of the issues. This is, without doubt, what the future of indigenous theatre looks like. It’s a rich mix of (some) dance, song and theatre, which lets us in, though some of us are welcomed just as far as the door, on the traditional lore and the urban reality of our indigenous people. In case we’re still in denial about any of those issues.

Tomorrow's Dreaming by Jandamarra Cadd

“THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL”

Larissa Behrendt, Professor of Law.

Larissa Behrendt, Chair of Bangarra, explains, “The medium of theatre adds a different dimension to Stephen’s storytelling craft with extra layering of language, ceremony and silence.” The Stephen she refers to is, of course, Bangarra Artistic Director and choreographer, Stephen Page, who, along with writer, Wayne Blair, hails from Brisbane. Their lively characters, who live “between two worlds, with one foot in each”, and have come into existence through the collaboration of Page, Blair and cultural mentors, Kathy Balnganyngu and Djakapurra Munyarryun, share the stories of North-East Arnhem Land’s original inhabitants, the Yolgnu. They are familiar stories and very funny scenarios to many in the opening night audience.


The language is the thing. Wesley Enoch explains that the Yolgnu language has “very limited use of adjectives…very complex metaphors…it’s like heightened poetry.” With a smattering of Pidgin English thrown in for good measure and more (traditional) song than dance incorporated (more dance again next time, in Terrain), we can follow most of the story. But I feel…marginalised. Yep. I feel like I’m missing out, like I don’t get the punch line; I feel like I’ve walked into somebody else’s party and I don’t know where the kitchen is. And what the hell is that everybody’s drinking?! You know what? I bet I feel the same way a Yolgnu woman might feel in the audience of any one of the RSC’s productions, which have recently come under fire again for being old-fashioned and elitist, among other things (and juxtaposed, quite rightly, against La Boite’s AYLI, by commentator, Stephen Collins, who has probably seen more than the West End Whingers have, only he doesn’t have a blog)! Watching Bloodland, I feel, quite probably, the way an Eora descendent might feel during a performance of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll at Belvoir St or perhaps how a local Gubbi Gubbi woman might feel when she comes to see David Williamson’s Travelling North at Noosa Arts in April. Yikes. The tide has turned.

Aboriginal clans divided by the outside interests of the mining corporations, who’ll pay whoever can prove to a Tribunal, their undisputed ownership of the land. Beneath that layer is another, of the Southern Star-crossed lovers and another, of the comedy of modern technology and deeper down again, the inconceivable tragedy, which we might have felt angrier or sorrier about had we seen more of the love story. Reality bites down hard in our indigenous communities, refuses to loosen its grip and shakes its bone angrily, like a mongrel dog (one of the highlights of the show is David Page as the mongrel)! But loss is loss. And though some of us may wail louder and longer than others, we each feel to some degree, the heavy, heavy impact of trans-generational hate and its myriad consequences.

Because the characters of Bloodland are drawn so clearly, because the key moments are not left to the language alone, because the soundscape is so haunting – stillness in the silence and otherwise, birdsong and an undercurrent of incessantly buzzing flies and heat rising from the earth (think of the languidness of Picnic at Hanging Rock before the ascent and then go listen to Camille to hear the one note sustained for the length of an album) – and because we might as well be experiencing the whole thing in GOMA (how about a MONA season too while we’re finding new audiences?) we get that these are essentially not Anglo, not Aboriginal, but human stories, crossing race, culture, custom, creed. I don’t think that’s what we are meant to get  (I think the stories are seen as belonging to the Yolgnu and it feels almost blasphemous to claim them, or even to recognise them) but that’s what we get. And I wanted to get that more.

Bloodland is a landmark production. It blurs the lines, both in form and content, between what contemporary, indigenous and “traditional” or “conventional” storytelling within a theatrical context can be. It throws dancers, actors and storytellers together into the same big pot on the fire and stirs occasionally, letting the contents bubble away until thick, rich broth reaches the top of the pot and boils over, streaming down the sides and sizzling as it hits hot coals beneath.

By all means, continue to claim the stories! Your stories. We acknowledge, respect and value your stories, your connection to the land, your ceremonies and your culture that might seem strange sometimes, to some of us. We desperately want to know more, hear more, feel more (it’s too easy to be dispassionate about issues from which we feel disconnected).

Gilbert by Jandamarra Cadd

The personal is political, remember?

Why not make it more personal for more of us? My fear is that a devoted non-indigenous audience might slowly wean themselves off this exciting new theatrical form. Share the story with us or don’t. Let us in on the joke or don’t. Once you’ve decided which it is, we can go with you on your journey (or not), feel empathy for your characters and be moved and inspired to find out more about those issues you, rightly, feel so strongly about. Or not. And that’s the magic of theatre, past, present and future. I do like to see as many people as possible, being offered the opportunity to experience the magic of theatre.

Bloodland is a Jandamarra Cadd canvas: “the spirit of reconciliation” evident in its creative process but ultimately, the eyes, revealing eons of despair, give the impression that the lines in the sand, between clans and between colours, are still deeply, irrevocably marked.

If this is what the future of indigenous theatre looks like, we have a whole new world, complete with many of the same old issues turned directly on their heads, to sort through next. Well, BRING IT.

Working Progress by Jandamarra Cadd

The images and stories of 12canoes.com.au make the story a bit more personal. If you haven’t found them already, by clicking on the links within the text, take a look and listen now.

05
Mar
12

bloodland opens next thursday

GROUNDBREAKING NEW INDIGENOUS THEATRE WORK COMES TO BRISBANE 

Queensland Theatre Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre present

Bloodland

 

Concept by Stephen Page

Story by Kathy Balngayngu Marika, Stephen Page and Wayne Blair

Written by Wayne Blair

A Sydney Theatre Company and Adelaide Festival production in association with Bangarra Dance Theatre 

A partnership between Queensland’s premium performing arts centre and state theatre company will bring a significant new Australian work by high profile Queenslander Stephen Page to Brisbane this March.

Bloodland is a Sydney Theatre Company production created by Stephen Page, Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre and award-winning choreographer, in collaboration with writer, director and actor Wayne Blair and Bangarra artist-in-residence and cultural consultant, KathyBalngayngu Marika.

Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) Chief Executive John Kotzas said that Bloodland is the first production to be presented as part of a three year commitment between QPAC and Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) towards the development and presentation of Indigenous work.

“We are proud to present this culturally significant and unique performance piece which follows a successful première season in Sydney.”

QTC Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said that Bloodland is one of the most complex cultural projects created in recent time, conceived by the cream of Indigenous theatre making talent.

“It is a landmark production and part of our partnership with QPAC to build significant Indigenous works and a long term strategy to expand the current scope of audiences, artists and producers,” he said.

The work vividly dramatises a bitter tug-of-war taking place in a community which, despite being wracked by pain and division, divided by moiety, nevertheless hums with hope.

From three photographs that formed the seed of an idea, Stephen and Wayne developed this original work for over a year, collaborating with local storytellers in Arnhem Land.

A groundbreaking piece of theatre, Bloodland examines the classic theme of forbidden love, while also exploring issues of black-on-black conflict, and the challenges of observing traditional lore in a community permeated by Western culture.

Featuring an Indigenous cast of twelve including established urban actors as well as traditional Yolngu storytellers; the production fuses traditional languages and Pidgin English as well as dance and song to tell the story.

“The language of this production is not restricted to the verbal, Bloodland incorporates spiritual and physical languages, ceremonial traditional dances and mimicry of modern western culture, filtered through aboriginal tradition,” Stephen Page said.

Director: Stephen Page. Set Designer: Peter England. Costume Designer: Jennifer Irwin.

Lighting Designer: Damien Cooper. Composer/Sound Designer: Steve Francis

Cast:

Kathy Balngayngu Marika, Elaine Crombie, Rarriwuy Hicks, Banula Marika, Noelene Marika, David Page, Hunter Page Lochard, Kelton Pell, Tessa Rose, Meyne Wyatt and Ursula Yovich.

Queensland Theatre Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre present a Sydney Theatre Company and Adelaide Festival production in association with Bangarra Dance Theatre

Bloodland

When: 14-18 March (5 performances only)

Where: Playhouse QPAC Cultural Centre, South Bank

Tickets: From $42 to $79, Youth $33

Booking: www.qpac.com.au or call 136 246

Warning: Mild Violence

*Ticket price includes GST and Booking Fee. Please note transaction fees will apply

 

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF INDIGENOUS THEATRE LOOK LIKE?

 

WHAT DOES THE STATE THEATRE OF THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?

 

OPENING OF QTC’S GREENHOUSE

 

 

 

15
Jun
10

The Dreaming Festival

It was our first time at The Dreaming Festival. In previous years, we have been curious about what happens there but each time it has come around we have been otherwise occupied. The Dreaming is a relatively new festival and we are long-time Woodford Folk Festival supporters so this year, with no prior commitments, we were determined to go for just a day to check it out.

Now, any die-hard festival goer will tell you that one day is never enough (this one ran for 3 days and four nights). And they are right. Next year I would love to stay and do the whole thing properly. Also, was it not ironic, that we attended our nation’s largest indigenous cultural celebration on the Queen’s birthday holiday? Hmmm. The first of a few contradictions.

I didn’t look at the program, I didn’t look at ticket prices; I trusted that anything happening on sacred Woodford Folk Festival site soil (the land of the Jinibara people) would be fantastic. We dressed warmly, stopped for coffee, chai and hot chocolate and took off up the highway to the tune of the four year old’s latest version of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” (“Lizards are a girl’s best friend” and yes, I have tried to convince her otherwise but she is stuck on lizards at the moment)!

Unlike Woodford (I refer to the folk festival), there was ample parking, very little dust and no wait time at the gate. Unlike Woodford, I didn’t know exactly what we were paying to see (usually I pour over the folk festival program for months, working out how to not miss anything…much) so the sharp intake of breath at the ticket price was swallowed quickly and replaced with a smile. Perhaps the cost to camp for the duration of the festival better reflects my value for money, especially with regard to experiencing the festival and that tricky festival programming thing they do, with one thing you love on one day and the next thing you can’t leave without seeing on the next…as the website suggests,

The Dreaming Festival 2010 programme booklet is essential for maximum enjoyment of the festival.

Yes, well. Look, sometimes I don’t mind wandering around, soaking up the atmosphere and stumbling across new and amazing acts. But lesson learned today. There were a few things that, had we planned our day around them, would have been terrific to see. What we did see was wonderful, particularly for Poppy, though typically, she was just as happy to climb the bleachers to eat her Byron Bay Organic Donut

or play in the hay at the place-where-the-chai-tent-should-have-been

(no, not the same place as during Woodford, but by the Dancestry venue, which appeared to us to be just about the centre of the world).

In the Dancestry space, we enjoyed people watching as well as the traditional dances, stories and songs from Aboriginal mobs from Mornington Island and Doomadgee (the first time they’d danced together in 32 years), from Vanuatu and from Canada’s Kehewin Native Dance Theatre.

There was something fun and carefree and bold and inviting about the Vanuatu performance

There was something colourful,

magical,

mystical,

well rehearsed, proud, generous and celebratory about the Kehewin clan’s performance.

And something very grounded, tough, strong and yet slightly insecure and a little self-indulgent about the Doomadgee and Mornington Island performances. I enjoyed them but just saying.

One little girl – four years old – was truly celebrated, as she “shook her booty” for a rather long display of booty-shaking, even in my humble opinion, which involved: “the girls put a big, loud music box in somebody’s uncle’s front yard and shake their arses…or, as we say, their booty.” Sure you do. Thanks for sharing that aspect of the culture. It was fun and cute to begin with and then it felt like a cheap trick at the end of the show. Gotta have a gimmick, right?

She even made an encore appearance at the end of Busby Marou‘s gig. The crowd went wild!

But seriously, all they need in Doomadgee and Mornington Island are a couple of artistic directors. And somebody else to find the funds to get them here. That way, the talent can spend less time fund raising and more time rehearsing. They had good material, they did. See the guy in the dress? Well, speaking of gimmicks, they had a great story, which evolved organically, about a bloke who had actually visited from far away and he had 8 wives and 12 children and…I can’t remember the actual point of the story but it seems he was a cool guy and so the young boys had learnt the story as it was told and re-told and they could all play the role and…as I said, a director may be what’s needed.

And speaking of blokes in dresses (and the need for some direction), this bloke did a whole act, singing and dancing and yarning…and I was bemused and then irritated because IT SEEMS IT IS ENOUGH FOR A BLOKE TO PUT ON A DRESS. It was an ordinary unpolished show. The fact that his ensemble appeared incomplete (stockings and sky-high heels, gentlemen, when wearing a dress, please; thanks) and that I have seen and fallen about on the floor laughing at Miranda Sings’ Single Ladies meant that I was not as impressed as some, by this brave, bold, out-there, whatever, whatever performance…

An empowering performance, okay, sure.

By singling out and celebrating indigenous cultures at yet another festival (one they can call their very own), are we doing them a disservice?

Bill Hauritz, the “folk festival fixer” and the true brains, heart and soul behind both festivals, touches briefly on this notion in a wonderful interview that I’m quite sure, it having appeared in The Hinterland Times, hardly anybody has read. Read it here.

The energy, the workshops on offer, the friendly atmosphere, the groovy market stalls and the great selection of food, from a cross-section of cultures…look, it was all awesome. It made this festival, to me, seem like a Little Woodford; just like the Woodford Folk Festival was once. And by once, I mean once it moved to the new site (that’s right, kids, once upon a time we only had to trek up the hill to Maleny and it was a quaint, tiny thing where everyone knew everyone and during which we just drank chai and jammed and celebrated peace and the trees and the special plants; and some celebrated more than others, the very special plants that could be cut up, rolled up and smoked)…

The Dreaming Festival is young, very young. It’s a baby. Clearly, we need to nurture it, support it and help it to grow. And it will grow. I hope it does so under those watchful eyes of both the creative friends and the business friends; those who have the talent and the time to build it slowly and carefully, just as they have done with the Woodford Folk Festival, so we can continue to share and celebrate our indigenous cultures by embracing (and learning from), over several generations, their extraordinary traditions and talents and stories.

There must be a very fine line between keeping the traditional ways sacred and special and up-selling just enough to make a good show great…




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