A group of people in earthen colours create a pyramid of bodies against a red rocky backdrop
Photograph: Supplied/Daniel Boud

Time Out says

This new work from Bangarra celebrates the First Nations peoples of the Kimberley and Great Sandy Desert regions

UPDATE, June 28: As of June 26, the Greater Sydney region including the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains and Wollongong is under a compulsory two-week lockdown until 11.59pm on July 9. Many events in Sydney have therefore been cancelled or postponed until after this period.

Beloved First Nations company Bangarra Dance Theatre, one of Australia’s most revered performing arts troupes, returns this June with a spectacular new work, SandSong: Stories from the Great Sandy Desert. It debuts at the Sydney Opera House on June 10 and runs for one month, before going on a national tour including the Canberra Theatre Centre and Arts Centre Melbourne.

Created by Bangarra in consultation with Wangkajunga/Walmajarri Elders from the Kimberley and Great Sandy Desert regions, the work explores the majesty of this great, open space that glows with red pindan dust. It harnesses the joy of ancient songlines that have been handed down for countless generations, while also addressing the horror of forced removal from Country and the injustice of back-breaking labour with no wage and minimal rations. SandSong celebrates the survival and resilience of the indomitable people who have maintained an unbroken connection to the staggering lands of the Western Desert, and the strength of their kinship.

This is the Country of Wangkajunga woman Ningali Josie Lawford-Wolf (1967-2019), an acclaimed performer, cultural consultant and artistic collaborator of Bangarra whose spirit, stories and artistic contributions have inspired a number of the company’s works and enriched the broader arts landscape. SandSong honours her and her family.

SandSong has been choreographed by national living treasure Stephen Page, a descendant of the Nunukul people and Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh Nation, and the company’s artistic director and beating heart. He has collaborated on this work with incredible associate director Frances Rings, a descendant of the Kokatha Tribe from the West Coast of South Australia. If you’ve never experienced a Bangarra show before, prepare to be mesmerised by their rich visual storytelling conveyed via physical excellence alongside astounding sets, costumes and lighting design by Jacob Nash, Jennifer Irwin and Nick Schlieper respectively. Composer Steve Francis provides haunting music. 

“When we started the research for SandSong, the world was a different place,” Page notes. “Our remote Indigenous communities, once described as ‘lifestyle choices’, became more crucial than ever as they functioned as refuges to protect our most precious resource: our Elders.”

Rings adds, “SandSong is a glimpse into the world of the Walmajarri & Wangkajunga people from the Great Sandy Desert, who survived incredible disadvantage to keep strong a lasting cultural bedrock for future generations.”

Love dance? Also check out traditional Indian musical Anarkali.


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