Bangarra – Ochres – Sofia Canestro
In the year 1991, Stephan Page was appointed the Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre. Through the many works Stephen Page established the Indigenous Aboriginal production work known as Ochres. First Performed in 1994, it brought an awakening turn out of this iconic work which revealed Bangara Ochres to the world. Through dance, Bangarra Dance Theatre reflects the lives and attitudes of those indigenous people living 40, 000 years ago. This unique company blends traditional aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture, with international contemporary dance influences. Page’s unique choreographic style moulds past and present, bringing urban concepts and current techniques to ancient culture.
As soon as the accompaniment began, the dim lighting evoked the traditional mood as the male dancer wiped ochre on his whole body. His subtle yet dynamic movements gave me a clear understanding to what the work would be about. I was intrigued for my first impression as I have not seen any work so symbolising and meaningful as the light, background and props reflected the Indigenous Aboriginal Torres Strait islanders. This four-part contemporary dance work of yellow, black, red and white, is a portrayal for each colour of this earthy substance, its purpose and the spiritual significance to Aboriginal people. I found that each section told us different stories with ‘Yellow’ being about women’s involvement in life, ‘Black’ being about men’s business, ‘Red’ demonstrating relationships between friends, family and partners and ‘White’ being about the close connection with Indigenous and earth.
As soon as the ‘Yellow’ section was presented, I was able to straight away identify the obvious yellow colour of the ochre. The accompaniment of the traditional percussion of clap sticks, made me feel like I was emotionally connected to the dancers. The lyrics “Pulling me closer” in the first section identified the natural indigenous connection with the land and habitat as the male dancer wiped the yellow ochre all over his body, symbolising the importance of ochre to Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I felt as though the dancers were narrating a story through each movement. Further on within this section, it made me feel very composed due to the female dancers moving in a very relaxed and sustained manner provoking the positive emotions as the dancers controlled their movements with good use of accents. I was very interested to a fan beside the stage, blowing on the yellowy cream coloured dresses, symbolising the wind flowing through each grounded and high movement. This gave me the impression that they were in their natural environment (‘Home’). As the female dancers worked together, they were very grounded, symbolising their close connection to the earth’s environment.
I very much enjoyed the ‘Black’ section due to the theme being about men’s business. It showed a completely different tone...