editorial – rt99

Wasana Dixon, Indigenous & Social Circus Skills Workshop

Wasana Dixon, Indigenous & Social Circus Skills Workshop

Wasana Dixon, Indigenous & Social Circus Skills Workshop

While we think of visual art, music and now film as forms in which Aboriginal artists have had great success (if not always enjoying the benefits), theatre and dance have been more problematic. We admire Bangarra Dance Theatre, but it’s the only professional contemporary Aboriginal dance company in the country. In theatre, Perth’s Yirra Yaakin has survived a difficult period with a proud 15-year record, but Brisbane’s Kooemba Jdarra now appears only intermittently. Ilbijerri continues to produce significant work, presenting Jack Charles v The Crown with the Melbourne International Arts Festival and staging an exhibition of its 20 years at the Melbourne Museum (see in the loop). But are there sufficient opportunities for Aboriginal performers, established and emerging? Last year there was heated debate over Wesley Enoch’s proposal for a national Indigenous theatre as a means for coherently developing Aboriginal theatre. Since then he has been appointed Artistic Director of the Queensland Theatre Company, but how much Aboriginal work will he feel he can program? Training is another key issue. The Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts in Brisbane (RT98) and the NAISDA Dance College in Karlong (NSW) provide important opportunities, but in physical theatre and circus, if you can’t get into the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA, Melbourne) and live in remote parts of Australia, what can you do? Simone O’Brien’s report on Heads Up at CarriageWorks reveals a considered and serious attempt to galvanise Indigenous and social circus artists, projects and companies across the country into a supportive network, not only to build careers but also a sense of community, dignity and purpose. Also significant is the need for dialogue between Aboriginal artists: Performance Space’s Indigelab (Oct 28-Nov 5) offers just that. Led by Wesley Enoch, it is designed for “Indigenous artists…keen to develop and extend languages to talk about their practice and in particular issues of cultural identity in relation to interdisciplinary practice.” Other opportunities include cross-cultural collaborations evident in Marrugeku’s considerable body of work and the Elcho Island-Nigel Jamieson collaboration, Ngurrumilmarrmiriyu (Wrong Skin). The major theatre companies also have a role to play: in the 2011 Sydney Theatre Company season, Bangarra’s Stephen Page and director Wayne Blair have united to create Bloodland to be performed in Yolgnu and pidgin, with traditional and contemporary movement and with well-known Aboriginal performers and Yolgnu people.The value of opportunities to come together, to share, to train, to talk, cannot be underestimated.

RealTime issue #99 Oct-Nov 2010 pg. 1

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

12 October 2010