December 11, 2014
By Lynne Lancaster of Dance Informa.
Directed by Frances Rings, Your Skin My Skin is the end-of-year performance by the fabulous NAISDA students at Carriageworks. It is NAISDA‘s (National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Association) 40th birthday and this is their end-of-year production. It was an interesting blend of traditional Aboriginal/Islander dances, re-establishing the dancer’s backgrounds, cultural heritage and contemporary dance. A series of short, delicately curated ‘traditional’ items are linked by cultural dance and music under the leadership of tutors Heather Mitijangba and Tony Mudalyun, and musicians Shane Dhawa and Timothy Djirrmurmur. They are interwoven with contemporary dance style. Not a pointe shoe in sight.
First, we were welcomed to the country by ‘Uncle’ Raymond David. The programme began with Rika’s Story, choreographed by the nine performers of the piece, and Shaun Parker coordinating in his distinctive style. The piece acts as an introduction to the college and the evening, with graduating student Rika Hamaguchi’s powerful, assured verbal narration, sometimes quite funny, providing insight into the group’s thoughts about their work and study experiences, and their feelings at this time of major change for them. Through Hamaguchi’s explanation, we obtain an understanding of the meaning and origins of the movements being shown, as well as insights into the psychology behind them. Also graduating are Hans Ahwang, Czack Ses Bero, Casey Natty, Kyle Shilling and Philip Walford, who have all completed NAISDA’s four-year Diploma of Professional Dance Performance. The quality of movement of the dancers was glorious, fluid, rippling and powerful.
The traditional dances for men were short and full of vibrant, exotic displays of fishing, birds, etc. The men were in red loincloths (if that is the correct term) and white face makeup. The women’s dances were soft, long floral outfits, were far more line dancing like, and displayed sweeping, sowing/gathering, etc. At one point in one of the dances it was as if the whole community was out fish spearing and everything lead to a circle pointing inwards.
A major highlight of the contemporary style side of things was the stark, dramatic, very powerful segment Museum, an extract from Artefact by Bangarra. This was a twisting, swirly, sculptural male duo with a possum skin coat about the handing down of tradition. Tea Party choreographer Pamela Williams used Alice In Wonderland as a basis for surrealist political comment. My Community developed and performed by Ryan Pearson, Steven Quinlan and Johnny Brown was fun, three men joshing but with a dark side, and the audience greatly enjoyed it. Shilling‘s Justice? the only solo piece of the programme is a searing, stark meditation on Aboriginal deaths in custody, with intriguing choreography and music. Another highlight to mention would be the mysterious men’s dance Grinding Stone, also an extract from Artefact.
Lighting, sound and music might possibly be regarded as subservient to the final product, but they are as enchanting and dramatic as the dance that takes place centre stage. There is marvellous dappled light and also the ‘leaf boat’ from Artefact for example.
Dance enthusiasts would greatly enjoy this celebration of the work of the excellent staff and students. There was much exuberant cheering and excitement at the curtain calls.
Photo (top): Your Skin My Skin. Photo by Branco Gaica.