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Bangarra returns to Carriageworks with 21st anniversary production of its seminal work, Ochres – Herald Sun

November 23, 2015

By Jo Litson
Bangarra is returning to Carriageworks to perform Ochres live for the first time.

EARLY this year Bangarra Dance Theatre spent time at Carriageworks shooting scenes for Spear, Stephen Page’s debut feature film as director.

An arts centre dedicated to contemporary work, the stunning industrial venue at the old Eveleigh rail yards, proved a perfect setting for the movie.

Telling its story through movement and dance, Spear follows a young indigenous man as he tries to reconcile ancient traditions with modern life.

Based on Bangarra’s 2000 dance work Skin and starring Page’s son Hunter Page-Lochard, the film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September and will screen at the 2016 Sydney Festival on January 23 and 24.

Dancer Leonard Mickelo weaves his magic in Ochres. Picture: Edward Mulvihill

Now Bangarra is returning to Carriageworks to perform live, for the first time, with a 21st anniversary production of its seminal work Ochres.

“It was when we shot Spear there that we talked about doing Ochres,” says Page, Bangarra’s artistic director.

“They said it would be great to celebrate the work and ­re-image it for that space. The film was great in that environment. It’s such a beautiful space.”

Ochres was the work that established Bangarra as an exciting addition to the Australian cultural landscape.

First staged at Belvoir St Theatre in 1994 as part of an indigenous festival, it opened at the Enmore Theatre in 1995.

Bangarra is a crossover of contemporary and traditional (indigenous) styles.

Over the next three years, it sold out across the country and toured internationally.

“Ochres was a really important work at the time. It cemented and seeded that wonderful sense of who Bangarra is today with its crossover of contemporary and traditional (indigenous) styles,” says Page. Choreographed by Page and Bernadette Walong, with music by David Page, Ochres explores the significance of ochre within Aboriginal communities.

The work is divided into four sections, each using a different coloured ochre.

In essence, yellow represents mother earth with her flowing rivers, sunshine and seasons, black explores men’s business and initiation, red is about the relationship between men and women, while white shows the white ochre spirits preparing people for the day ahead.

Bangarra’s charismatic cultural consultant, Djakapurra Munyarryun, featured in the original production. Now 42, the Aboriginal elder and Yolngu songman from northeast Arnhem Land, who also features in Spear, is returning to the company to perform in the 21st anniversary revival.

“He’s going to do some Yolngu songs at the beginning and he’ll add some traditional Yolgnu experiences to the work,” says Page. “It’s great to have his presence.”

Ochres, Carriageworks, Eveleigh. November 27 – December 5. Ticketmaster: 136 100

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