Bangarra_Patyegarang_photo by Jess BialekBangarra Dance Theatre is like no other dance company performing in Australia today. It dances to the beat of its own drum, guided by the clear-eyed vision of Artistic Director, Stephen Page.

Page is not only one of the country’s most respected and innovative choreographers, but also able to clearly and ingenuously articulate his vision, as demonstrated in the standing-room only first-night pre-show forum.

For his newest work, made to celebrate Bangarra’s 25th Anniversary, and presented in Canberra directly after its inaugural six-week Sydney season, Page has incorporated all the elements which make Bangarra unique. Highly skilled dancers with a distinctive movement vocabulary, fluid, idiosyncratic choreography, superb design, original music, and excellent production values are all on show.

Determinedly abstract in its telling of the relationship between an Eora woman and an officer in the first fleet, and performed to a stunning soundscape by David Page which includes snippets of the Darug language, Patyegarang is both visually and aurally arresting.

Within an evocative textural landscape created by Jacob Nash and lighting designer, Nick Schlieper, and echoed in Jennifer Irwin’s gorgeous sculptural costumes, the work moves fluidly and seamlessly through a series of mesmerizingly beautiful episodes, which include at one point, the smell of burning eucalypts.

Jasmin Sheppard is luminous as Patyegarang, and Thomas Greenfield, the only non-indigenous member of the cast, impresses as William Dawes. Both Waangenga Blanco (Ngalgear) and Elma Kris (Burulalalalung) are stand-outs for their strong presence in what is essentially an ensemble masterwork.

Canberra Theatre – Canberra Theatre Centre, London Circuit, Canberra
Performance: Thursday 17 July 2014
Season: 17 – 19 July 2014

Patyegarang will also be presented in Perth (30 July – 2 August), Brisbane (15 – 23 August), and Melbourne (28 August – 6 September). For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Thomas Greenfield and Waangenga Blanco in Patyegarang – photo by Jess Bialek

Review: Bill Stephens