Dance Rites returns to Sydney Opera House this November

Sydney Opera House Dance Rites 2017 - photo by Daniel BoudAustralia’s First Nations dance competition, Dance Rites returns to the Sydney Opera House Forecourt for a free, two-day nationwide celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island dance and cultures.

Taking place on the weekend of 24 – 25 November, Dance Rites 2018 draws together some 300 performers representing nations from across the country including the APY Lands, Far North Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania.

Groups will travel to Sydney to showcase their unique cultures in one of the world’s most spectacular outdoor performance spaces on Bennelong Point, formerly known as Tubowgule, which has been a meeting place for ritual celebration and dance for tens of thousands of years.

Each group will present three dances: a welcome and a farewell dance – one of which must include a chant in local language – and a ‘wildcard’ dance of the group’s choosing. The winning group will receive $20,000, one runner-up will receive $5,000, and $3,000 will go to the highest-scoring ‘wildcard’ dance.

An expert judging panel including Juanita Duncan, Libby Collins, Matthew Doyle and Waangenga Blanco will assess the participating groups not only on the technical aspects of their performance but also their engagement with language, skin-markings and traditional instruments. New for 2018 is a special award that celebrates a dance troupe’s outstanding contribution to the communication of cultural knowledge.

Each day during the competition exceptional Dance Rites alumni will return to perform exhibition dances, including Kulgoodah Dancers (overall winners 2017), ALLKUMO Malpa Paman Dancers (winners of the Wildcard Award 2017) as well as professional troupes such as the highly acclaimed Muggera Dancers and the inspiring New Zealand dance collective Te Rua Mauri.

Saturday evening will conclude with a performance from electro-pop duo Electric Fields, while on Sunday Canada’s Anishinaabe award-winning singer-songwriter Leonard Sumner will be accompanied by Julian Bel-Bachir, the drummer for OKA.

Dance Rites provides a national platform for the transmission of cultural knowledge from one generation to the next and from one community to another,” said Sydney Opera House Head of First Nations Programming, Rhoda Roberts AO. “From 150 participants in 2015 to double the number of performers last year, Dance Rites has become a significant national event, demonstrating how the world’s oldest living culture continues to flourish, thrive and evolve.”

The Opera House first launched Dance Rites in 2015 as part of its First Nations festival Homeground (2014-2017) to celebrate the richness and diversity of the world’s oldest living culture. Since then, the ground-breaking national Indigenous dance competition has evolved to become a hallmark First Nations event, with participation doubling between 2015 and 2017.

In its fourth year, Dance Rites returns as a stand-alone event and is now the Sydney Opera House’s annual signature First Nations festival taking place: 23 – 24 November. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Dance Rites 2017 – photo by Daniel Boud