Bangarra national tour commemorates tenth anniversary of award-winning Frances Rings Ground. This dance production is a loving tribute to the landscape of Kati Thunda. Rings’ insightful and timeless choreography explores the Arabunna people’s deep connection to the vast salt basin of Lake Eyre.
Dancers flock to the stage, the style is unique and eloquent, the movements surprisingly original, inspired by Aboriginal and Torres Strait cultures. The audience is quickly taken to another spiritual and environmental realm.
In nine thematically linked movements, each sequence represents another variation of Rings’ artistic direction. For example, ‘Scar’ questions the impact of human actions while ‘Deluge’ traces the regenerative powers of rain. And even, Ground achieves remarkable cohesion, in part because there is no celebration of individual stars. Instead, there are partnerships; duets, trios and dance clusters because the staging favors collaboration.
Complementing the set design by Jacob Nash, the simple and striking sets, the richly designed costumes by Jennifer Irwin. The “gaze” springs from the natural world and favors a range of sepia tones. Sometimes costumes function as moving theatrical props.
In “Spinifex”, inspired by the trees of Lake Eyre and its surroundings, the loose skirts of the women recall the pattern and decay of parched brush. Spinifex shoots through the crown of their hats. As the sequences progress, the once muted hues transform into a green and blue sheen.
Karen Norris’ lighting design adds revealing depth to changing tableaus and weather cycles. In this moving exploration of the natural world, the graceful dancers were earnest and deeply engaged and that and their grace touch the heart. Together they amplify teamwork, togetherness and connectedness.
The dancers become sculptural forms. There are often ambitious and interconnected groups that contract, expand and divide into solos, duos or trios reflecting the growth and power of nature. Ring’s magnificent lexicon of movements is provocative and awakens the senses. Thrilling moments of synchronized unity defy the complexity of the choreography.
Arabunna Elder, Reginald Dodd was consulted about the Arabunna’s culture in the creation of this timeless and authentic contribution to dance-theatre.
Read: Theater Critic: Chalkface
David Page’s electronic score vibrates and whispers. Against the effervescent swell, sustained tones represent continuity through the ages. The haunting, bubbling collage of ambient sounds references insects, classic fragments, everyday sounds and, at one point, a screeching police siren embedded in the thought-provoking montage. Page’s fluid and deliberate musical narrative propels the drama.
It was a powerful and poignant theater very appreciated by the public.
Bangarra Dance Theater
Playhouse Theater. Queensland Center for the Performing Arts
Choreographer: Frances Rings
Cultural Advisor: Arabunna Elder Reginald Dodd
Composer: David Page
Scenographer: Jacob Nash
Costume designer: Jennifer Irwin
Lighting Designer: Karen Norris
Tickets: $29 to $88
Ground will perform until August 13, 2022