Guruman Dancers head to Taiwan and Scotland taking and talking dance!

When Fred Leone isn’t busy curating Clancestry and working as a guest director for Black Arm Band, you can find him revitalizing cultural practices as Artistic Director of the Guruman Dancers (Guruman meaning Kangaroo in Butchella). Fred is an Aboriginal, Tongan and South-Sea Islander man from the Garawa people of Far North West Queensland into the Northern Territory, and the Butchella mob of Fraser Coast.

Recently we caught up with BlakDance member Fred, to hear more about the Guruman Dancers who are heading off overseas to Taiwan and Scotland this year.

“Our traditional dance group Guruman Dancers have been invited to perform at the Global Indigenous Peoples Performing Arts Festival in Taipei, Taiwan. We will be taking part in a cultural exchange with the Amis (Indigenous peoples of Taiwan),”Fred said. As well as performing in July, the group will be holding workshops and engaging in conversations around traditional and contemporary arts practice.

Interestingly, in this funding landscape, the group have committed to going on this journey without funding support. The Guruman Dancers have approached two potential sponsors for this exchange, however no funding has been confirmed. Regardless of this, the Guruman Dancers are still going and the group is considering applying to the next round of Australia Council funding.

The story of this cultural exchange came about through a connection Fred made while on an earlier trip to Taiwan. The conversation continued at APAM this year, and led to the invitation to perform. Along with Fred as Artistic Director, there are twelve dancers heading off to take part in the tour. Members of the Guruman Dancers come from different nations across the east coast of Australia including: Badjtala, Garawa, Waanyi, Yanuwa, Gungurri, Yugarapul, Birri Gubba, Wiradjuri & Goomeroi.  

The Guruman Dancers have a busy year of knowledge exchange and creative development ahead. After they finish up their journey with the Amis in Taiwan they will be travelling to Scotland. The Guruman Dancers will be collaborating with The National Theatre of Scotland in October. This work is part of collaboration across five different countries called Home/Away that investigates the effects of urbanization on belonging, home, country and land. (You can find the full list of collaborating companies at the end of this article).

Having events that celebrate the contemporary Indigenous dance scene has been critical to the Guruman Dancers making the right connections to tour. The opportunity to collaborate grew from networking at Clancestry in 2014 when artist and Gaelic poet Judith Parrot connected the Guruman Dancers with the National Theatre Scotland. The tour to Scotland will be co-produced by Jorden Verzar and Fred Leone.

Speaking about the collaboration and the work the Guruman Dancers will develop Fred said,

“Our section will address identity within an urban context and explore authenticity of contemporary cultural practice, intergenerational transfer of knowledge and the fracturing that is prevalent in Urban Aboriginal culture but also the parts that are stronger than the roots of the Ironbark tree.”

This collaboration shows how cultural revitalization and language preservation through traditional and contemporary practice of dance and language is central to their work.

Read more about the Guruman Dancers here.

List of companies collaborating on Home/Away with the National Theatre of Scotland:

  • Brazil: Rio De Janeiro, and involve theatre and circus director Renato Rocha, with a new piece to be created with participants from two Rio favelas, working alongside companies Nós do Morro and AfroReggae.
  • United States: Theatre director and Fulbright Fellow Sarah-Rose Graber Adventure Stage Theatre Company.
  • India, New Dehli: The Yuva Ekta Foundation.
  • Jamaica, Kingston: Manifesto JA.
  • Scotland, Edinburgh Scotland: Artlink, Uist and Glasgow Scotland: Artists Rona MacDonald, Gillebride MacMillan and Judy Parrott will work with Glasgow-based director John Binnie and Scotland, Glasgow: The Bangladeshi Association of Glasgow.