Join the circle and dance: Joel Bray and Chunky Move present ‘Garabari’

Chunky Move in Joel Bray's 'Garabari'. Photo by Jeff Busby.
Chunky Move in Joel Bray's 'Garabari'. Photo by Jeff Busby.

Garabari, a new large-scale immersive performance work choreographed by Joel Bray, one of Australia’s fast rising stars, will have its world premiere at Arts House in North Melbourne from Thursday 1 until Saturday 10 December. 

Across the globe, First Nations cultures have harnessed the enduring power of ritual to transmit knowledge. Countless generations have undergone rites of passage that have left them changed – closer to others, and more attuned to themselves. 

In a contemporary celebration inspired by corroboree – an Aboriginal dance ceremony often performed as a festive and sacred ritual, Bray (a proud Wiradjuri man) presents an amalgamation of bodies, sound and light, revealing hidden meanings inspired by the ancient ceremonial practices of his ancestors. 

Five Indigenous and non-Indigenous dancers will perform in a contemporary bora carved out of sound and light, driven with melodic beats by Byron Scullin, otherworldly lighting by Katie Sfetkidis and lavish costumes, designed by First Nations fashion designer and entrepreneur Denni Francisco. 

This work has been crafted in close collaboration with Wiradjuri elders, including Bray’s father, Uncle Christopher Kirkbright. Bray has visited the Wiradjuri region around Wagga Wagga regularly over the last year, exploring ancient corroboree sites, and working with the community to create artworks that will be incorporated via projection and costume into the performance. 

Joel Bray. Photo by Daniel Boud.
Joel Bray. Photo by Daniel Boud.

Bray said, “For First Nations artists, inviting community into the creative process, consulting with elders and securing cultural permissions are vital first steps in making work. However, never have I had the resources to undertake that labour in the patient and considered fashion it truly deserves. This contemporary performance work is made hand in glove with community, celebrating the fact that we, as Wiradjuri People, have gathered together for thousands of generations to do ceremony, to trade, to reconnect with family and, yes, to party!”

Presented in partnership with Chunky Move and supported by the Tanja Liedtke Foundation, Garabari is the creation of Bray’s time spent as Chunky Move’s inaugural Choreographer in Residence, which commenced in 2021, with a $80,000 fee over two years. 

“Chunky Move’s Choreographer in Residence program is a unique opportunity for established Australian choreographers. It grants the appointed artist unparalleled financial and organisational support, offering them the rare situation of being fully immersed in their artistic work in a paid capacity. We’ve been thrilled to support Joel Bray, as our inaugural Choreographer in Residence, to develop and present Garabari,” said Chunky Move Artistic Director Antony Hamilton. 

Chunky Move will present Joel Bray’s Garabari from 1 – 10 December at Arts House Melbourne. For tickets, head to www.artshouse.com.au/events/garabari.

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