BlakDance 2012Left – Albert David, Tyrel Dulvarie & Kenny Johnson (Choreographer Albert David). Cover – Nicola Sabatina, Hannah Scanlon, Keira Ah-See, Nathan Leslie, Beau Dean Smith (Choreographer Tammi Gissell). Photos – Anja Ali-Haapala

The BlakDance 2012 International Showcase is a warm and open sharing of cultural experiences and storytelling presented through First Nation contemporary dance. The stories are diverse, rich and resonant and allowed the audience to visually and aurally immerse themselves momentarily in a fragment of the world experienced through each choreographer and dancer's cultural lens.

Each piece celebrates the breadth and width of First Nation contemporary dance. To even begin to provide an in-depth picture of all of the dances performed within the walls of the Queensland Theatre Company's Bille Brown Studio is a mammoth task. However, I will endeavour to share highlights from each of the choreographer's work to impart some of what I took away from the evening.

Choreographer Ojeya Cruz Banks (of Gauham/Guam and African American heritage) created a solo dance piece titled Espritu Tasi/The Ocean Within/I respect water, an entrancing and gentle piece that was beguiling and beautiful to watch. Projected images of oceanic water and a gentle and soothing soundtrack accompanied the dance. The dance, projected images and music conveyed the emotional and physical properties of the ocean so effortlessly that the ocean's caress was tangible for the audience. 

Albert David (Country: Iama (Central) Torres Strait), choreographer and performer well known for his work with Bangarra Dance Theatre, created a heady, powerful and percussive dance piece. The contemporary indigenous dance and dancers were exciting and invigorating to witness. The audience members who personally and culturally connected with this piece vocalised their approval many times throughout the dance. This only added to the fire and excitement of the piece, heightening my experience of David's work.            

Independent performer and performance therapist Tammi Gissell (descending from the Muruwari nation of North-Western NSW) choreographed a piece titled Feather & Tar: a cabaret of sorrows. A fantastic mix of spoken word and dance, this piece juxtaposed sultry night club cabaret and jazz motifs with poignant political and environmental statements. The result was a humorously dark and at times absurd contemporary dance piece that seduced the audience through its articulate and cheeky stage pictures, use of props, and skilled dancers who doubled as actors. 

New Zealand choreographers Jack Gray and Cathy Livermore created and performed Manawhenua Manamoana. This dance piece took the audience on both a tender and troubling journey through the elemental connection of land and water and some of the abuses these environments have suffered from a Maori perspective. This deeply moving work was a joy to watch as Jack and Cathy's movements morphed through representations of the flora and fauna, the earth, the sea. Including spoken word, the dance was set to a beautiful soundtrack of music and silence. Jack and Cathy made an intimate connection and communicated their ideas so vividly it was truly a pleasure to watch.   

Rita Pryce (Country: Australia – Torres Strait Islands) choreographed Warupaw Uu – Echo of Drums. This performance piece evocatively portrayed the lifestyle and culture of the Torres Strait Islander people. A superb and lyrical journey through the elements and the seasons, that was warming, highly engaging and visually stunning. 

There was so much to take in and internalise as I watched the BlakDance 2012 Showcase, it's difficult to do it adequate justice on the page. Traditional dances welcomed the audience to the array of performance moments that ranged from explosive and powerful, to serene and enchanting, from the outright funny and to the highly charged environmental and political messages. From my seat in the theatre I was awash with the tide, pulled down into the earth, tickled and provoked and reminded of old friends whom I've encountered on my own journey and time in Far North Queensland. A showcase of First Nation dance choreography and dancers of this calibre is a rare event. This is a glorious milestone for BlakDance Australia, for the Queensland Theatre Company, and of course for the Australian Indigenous Dance practitioners and international artists who have come together to extend their art form and share their stories, passion and joy with their audience.                


Venue: Bille Brown Studio, Queensland Theatre Company, West End, Brisbane

Dates: 7 – 9 Jun 2012
Tickets: $25.00 – $38.00

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