Arts & Entertainment

Burrbgaja Yalirra (Dancing Forwards)

Eric Avery in Dancing with strangers. Photo: Jon Green

Burrbgaja Yalirra is a triple bill of solo dance works connected by a common thematic thread. Produced by leading indigenous intercultural company, Marrugeku, it deals with ideas around national identity, history, and relationship to land. Each work is diverse. Edwin Lee Mulligan’s Ngarlimbah is a traditional indigenous story told using spoken word and animation. Dancing With Strangers is an examination of colonialism and the abrasion between two cultures. Miranda takes its name and basic concept from the character in the classic Australian novel, Picnic At Hanging Rock, and is danced by Miranda Wheen. 

“She’s always kind of loomed in my world…” says Wheen, referring to the first name connection. Her work explores the dissonance between white Australians and the bush. Hanging Rock has a lot of historical significance for the local indigenous people with an abundance of stories, yet the myth most associated with it is the fictitious mysterious disappearance of a white private school girl. Wheen thinks there’s a certain irony in the posthumously released final chapter of the book, which deals with abstract concepts around time travel.

“I found it an interesting parallel to what I feel a lot of White Australia is like dealing with its history… unable to make a leap into a different understanding or a different way of thinking about something,” she explains.

For her work, she’ll be wearing a simple white dress, similar to a Victorian undergarment, which will actually transition towards the end of the dance. The backdrop will be lit to give “a real sense of the rock – this sort of looming landscape in the back.”

“You really have a sense of the presence of this big, natural force behind the performance,” says Wheen. 

Composer and sound designer, Sam Serruys has written original music for the piece which perfectly underscores the emotional journey, beginning with a sense of mystery and awe, then getting increasingly intense.

“It’s a bit gross, actually, towards the end. It has a real heavy sense of confusion,” says Wheen. 

Wheen’s work, as with the other two pieces, is open to interpretation and doesn’t rely on familiarity with Picnic At Hanging Rock. 

“People will read it depending on their knowledge of the book or not. It starts off with Miranda from the book and ends in a much more contemporary place.”

May 30-Jun 1. Carriageworks, 245 Wilson St, Everleigh. $35+b.f. Tickets & Info:


By Rita Bratovich

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