Garabari to premiere at Arts House this December

AAR-CM-Garabari-photo-by-Jeff-BusbyGarabari, a new large-scale immersive performance work choreographed by Joel Bray, one of Australia’s fast rising stars, will have its world premiere at Arts House – North Melbourne Town Hall this December.

Across the globe, First Nations cultures have harnessed the enduring power of ritual to transmit knowledge. Countless generations have undergone rites of passage that have left them changed – closer to others, and more attuned to themselves.

In a contemporary celebration inspired by corroboree – an Aboriginal dance ceremony often performed as a festive and sacred ritual, Bray (a proud Wiradjuri man), presents an amalgamation of bodies, sound, and light, revealing hidden meanings inspired by the ancient ceremonial practices of his ancestors.

Five Indigenous and non-Indigenous dancers will perform in a contemporary bora carved out of sound and light, driven with melodic beats by Byron Scullin, otherworldly lighting by Katie Sfetkidis, and lavish costumes, designed by First Nations fashion designer and entrepreneur Denni Francisco.

This work has been crafted in close collaboration with Wiradjuri elders, including Joel’s father Uncle Christopher Kirkbright. Bray has visited the Wiradjuri region around Wagga Wagga regularly over the last year, exploring ancient corroboree sites, and working with the community to create artworks that will be incorporated via projection and costume into the performance.

“For First Nations artists, inviting community into the creative process, consulting with elders and securing cultural permissions are vital first steps in making work,” said Garabari choreographer, Joel Bray. “However, never have I had the resources to undertake that labour in the patient and considered fashion it truly deserves.”

“This contemporary performance work is made hand in glove with community, celebrating the fact that we, as Wiradjuri People, have gathered together for thousands of generations to do ceremony, to trade, to reconnect with family and, yes, to party!” said Bray.

Presented in partnership with Chunky Move and supported by the Tanja Liedtke Foundation, Garabari is the creation of Bray’s time spent as Chunky Move’s inaugural Choreographer in Residence, which commenced in 2021 with a $80,000 fee over two years.

“Chunky Move’s Choreographer in Residence program is a unique opportunity for established Australian choreographers,” said Chunky Move artistic director, Antony Hamilton.

“It grants the appointed artist unparalleled financial and organisational support, offering them the rare situation of being fully immersed in their artistic work in a paid capacity.”

“We’ve been thrilled to support Joel Bray, as our inaugural Choreographer in Residence, to develop and present Garabari.”

Joel Bray is a proud Wiradjuri man who trained at NAISDA and WAAPA before pursuing a career in Europe and Israel with Jean-Claude Gallotta, Company CeDeCe, Kolben Dance, Machol Shalem Dance House, Yoram Karmi’s FRESCO Dance Company, Niv Sheinfeld & Oren Laor and Roy Assaf. He returned to Australia to work with Chunky Move under Anouk van Dijk.

Joel’s choreographic practice springs from his Wiradjuri cultural heritage. His works are intimate encounters in unorthodox spaces, in which audience-members are invited in as co-storytellers to explore the experiences of fair-skinned Aboriginal people, and the experiences of contemporary gay men in an increasingly digital and isolated world. His body becomes the intersection site of those songlines – Indigenous heritage, skin-colour and queer sexuality.

Since returning to Melbourne, Joel has created numerous critically acclaimed solo works, including Biladurang (winner of three Melbourne Fringe Awards); Dharawungara, (commissioned by Chunky Move) and Daddy (commissioned by the Yirramboi Festival, Arts House and Liveworks). Joel’s works have toured extensively across Australia.

Joel was the 2019 National Library of Australia Creative Arts Fellow, and is continuing this Burbang research into Wiradjuri ceremony through a series of Australia Council Signature Works grants. In 2020, he was commissioned to create a new work as part of Sydney Dance Company’s New Breed.

Arts House – North Melbourne Town Hall, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Season: 3 – 10 December 2022 (previews: 1 & 2 December)

For more information, visit: or for detail.

Image: Garabari – photo by Jeff Busby