LE DERNIER APPEL/THE LAST CRY from Marrugeku ★★★★½
SAME BUT DIFFERENT from DubaiKungkaMiyalk ★★★★
Read the Dance Massive reviews HERE
Same But Different by DubaiKungkaMiyalk. Photo by Emily Wells
The Sydney Morning Herald
By Kim Dunphy
March 15, 2019 — 12.51pm
DANCE MASSIVE Meat Market, North Melbourne, March 13-23
The Meat Market’s substantial spaces hosted two shows for Dance Massive this week that addressed major issues of our times: our connection to land and country and the recognition of First Nations people in society and law. Both were collaborative endeavours, Le Dernier Appel / The Last Cry commissioned by organisations from New Caledonia, Australia and France, and Same But Different from a more informal alliance of Australian First Nations dancer-choreographers.
Le Dernier Appel/The Last Cry was created by the Marrugeku company of Broome and Sydney, a group with a growing history of intercultural performance and collaboration. This was a powerful exploration of colonisation and its aftermath, all embodied in the dancers’ physiques. Their diverse cultural backgrounds and training was a visual delight in this tightly choreographed, strongly technical piece.
One standout performer for his virtuosic command of movement was Krylin Nyugen. His body held the most beautiful sense of flow, twisting and flipping over and around itself and the space seemingly unimpeded by gravity, in various hip-hop-styled sequences.
Co-choreographer Dalisa Pigram, of the famous north-west Australian artist family, was a consistent anchor, alternately quietly present and strongly foregrounded. The intense physical fight between her black and fellow dancer Miranda Wheen’s white woman was hard to watch as it thrashed on and on – a discomfiting and visceral insight into the daily struggles for survival of many colonised people.
The growing intensity of the performance was backgrounded by a signboard hoarding typical of tourist advertisements. This gradually transformed from apparently banal depictions of tropical paradise to increasingly provoking headlines of injustices wrought upon Indigenous peoples over centuries and nations. The dancers’ intensity was highlighted by ever-faster slides of blood-red destruction. Ngaiire, Nick Wales and Bree van Reyk's diverse soundscape provided an evocative sonic backdrop.
Same but Different was entirely different in style, though not in substance. This show was much more personal, sometimes homespun, with each woman sharing an aspect of her life from a different Indigenous country within Australia. The audience tracked the performers through a series of small rooms, each one offering a story-performance-exhibition of one choreographer. Earthy, family themes abounded, such as accounts of time spent camping, fishing and yarning, along with strong evidence of the vital connection to land and country.
Ngioka Bunda-Heath’s solo Blood Quantum, beginning with the dancer's strongly weighted plunging to the earth over and over, was poignant and challenging. Video and voice told the tragedy of children being taken from their mother as Bunda-Heath’s movement gradually intensified to thrashing despair.
The grief-stricken sequence was counterpointed by projected images of her family in both pedestrian and significant activities: three generations swimming in a river, family visits and wedding portraits, in which Aboriginal people were dressed in formal western clothing such as army uniforms. It evoked the sense that Aboriginal people’s life experiences include those that are just like the everyone else’s – and yet so not like everyone else’s, with the ever-present risk of powerlessness in subjection to patriarchal colonisers.
Same but Different closed with four giant portraits of the performers projected on to the walls, a lovely way of honouring and acknowledging their distinct characters and histories.
These two performances offer a welcome perspective of contemporary Australia and our Pacific neighbours; the kind of art we need to be seeing, featuring the diversity and richness of our stories and our people.