Tales from Sydney’s colonial past largely come, it is impossible to deny, from one viewpoint – that of the colonisers, and often focus on conquest over cooperation.
Australia’s largest Indigenous performing arts organisation, Bangarra Dance Theatre, now brings to the stage a tale of trust and friendship from the opposite vantage point.
Patyegarang is based on the true story of a young Eora woman, who befriended Lieutenant William Dawes when he landed on Sydney’s shores in the 18th century.
Dancer Jasmin Sheppard, who plays the title role, reveals feeling inspired by her character, “I’m really fascinated with the fact that the two of them both really saw beyond the exterior and connected on a much deeper level which had nothing to do with the worlds they both came from,” she says.
For Sheppard, the medium of dance was ideal to describe the story of a woman who was, “not separate from her environment. She breathed the Eora land of Sydney Cove…and it’s more about creating an essence, and a spirit, rather than spoon-feeding the audience.”
Performing this piece at the Sydney Opera House is of particular significance for Sheppard, as she notes, “Bennelong Point was a traditional site, which has been really amazing to learn of. I hope that [this piece] will really empower Sydney Aboriginal people to feel that there is a sense of reclaiming the whole city, the harbour, the Opera House. This is their story, this is their place, their stomping ground and it is time for them to have the limelight.” (SW)
Jun 13-Jul 12, Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, $29-89, (02) 9250 7777, sydneyoperahouse.com
BY SIRI WILLIAMS