When the Chooky Dancers first performed in the Canberra Multi-Cultural Festival more than 10 years ago, they were six wide-eyed Yolngu boys from northern Arnhem Land who had found themselves a worldwide phenomenon as the result of a video-clip that had been uploaded on the internet.
In this clip they performed a hilarious version of Zorba The Greek in which they combined traditional indigenous dance steps with modern dance moves. Their clip attracted not only millions of viewers worldwide, but also invitations to perform their dance around the world.
The Chooky Dancers have now morphed into Djuki Mala, surprisingly, not six dancers as indicated in the pre-publicity, but a highly accomplished trio, Baykali Ganambarr, Wakara Gondarra and Marko Garmu – who perform with disarming joie de vie, an entertaining mish-mash of tightly choreographed dance routines, some traditional cultural dances, others tongue-in-cheek interpretations of familiar pop-songs, interspersed with documentary film sequences of female elders explaining Yolngu traditions, and the history of the Chooky Dancers.
The zany Zorba dance is still there, danced much more professionally these days, and there’s a delightful mash-up of Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain incorporating brightly coloured umbrellas. There’s a Motown medley, a Bollywood dance with dancers wrapped incongruously in gold satin, and a dazzling Michael Jackson moment when one of the dancers was rewarded with excited spontaneous applause for his expert execution of Jackson’s signature moonwalk.
A slickly conceived high energy presentation, Djuki Mala is sometimes silly, sometimes puzzling, occasionally moving, always entertaining, definitely irresistible. It drew a standing ovation from the large appreciative audience attracted to its first Spiegeltent show in Canberra.
The Spiegeltent – Civic Square, Canberra
Performance: Saturday 13 April 2019
Djuki Mala will also play selected dates throughout Queensland in May / June 2019.
Image: Djuki Mala – photo by Sean Young Photography
Review: Bill Stephens OAM