For those of us who have been eagerly awaiting Indigenous dance company Bangarra Dance Theatre’s latest offering, Terrain does not disappoint. From start to finish, the 14-member troupe takes us on an hour-long spiritual journey exploring the landscape of Kati Thanda, or Lake Eyre, and the relationship of people to country.
The piece is unusual in its total absence of props, the only set being the striking backdrops of designer Jacob Nash. Despite this minimalism, Terrain is visually spectacular; captivating the audience with a simple but flawless unity of music and movement. The dances, from the opening ´Red Brick´ to the finale, ´Deluge´, are demarcated by the shifting backdrops, and draw heavily on the themes of the elements and of the connection between man and nature. The accompanying musical score, composed by David Page, sets the changing tone of the piece, moving between powerful drum beats and mellow electronic rhythms.
Award-winning choreographer Frances Rings, one of Bangarra’s artists-in-residence, draws on a wide range of influences from classical ballet to breakdance, and brings a strong female perspective to the work. Nash describes the piece as a ´translation of land and country into dance and theatre´ and speaks of the artistic responsibility of passing on stories and preserving knowledge, essential to the conservation of indigenous culture. The integrity of the work was aided by Arabunna elder Reg Dodd, in his current role as Terrain´s cultural advisor. The work comes at an important and celebratory time for the Arabunna people of Lake Eyre, whose native title rights were recognised just two months ago.
Terrain opened last night at the Playhouse of Melbourne´s Arts Centre to a standing ovation, and will run until July 7, before touring nationally.