BDT_Patyegarang_Greg BarretCelebrating its 25th anniversary in 2014, Australia’s multi-award winning dance theatre company Bangarra Dance Theatre tells the story of Patyegarang, the inspirational journey of a potent Indigenous spirit alive in Australia’s past and present.

Patyegarang marks the first time that Bangarra has told a specific Sydney story. Expressed in the beauty of Artistic Director Stephen Page’s distinctive choreography and based on historical events and documents, Patyegarang celebrates Bangarra’s unique ability to tell stories through the prism of our contemporary experiences, enriched by our shared history.

This powerful and historically important new work acquaints us with Patyegarang, a young Aboriginal woman of intense and enduring courage, and an inspiration today for the respect of Aboriginal knowledge and language.

As the colonial fleet arrived on Eora country in the late 18th Century, Patyegarang befriended Lieutenant William Dawes, gifting him her language in an extraordinary display of trust and friendship, which now inspires our imaginations about ‘first contact’. Staying apart from the early Sydney settlement in a place called Tar-ra (now Dawes Point), Dawes, an astronomer, mathematician and linguist, faithfully recorded his encounters with Patyegarang in his notebooks.

Rediscovered in 1972, these notebooks are transcripts of this remarkable cultural exchange. Patyegarang‘s words are a window into a rich, complex and utterly different view of her world, its values and its sacred meanings. Bangarra liberates Patyegarang from the library shelves, putting spirit into her heart, as a striking visionary and educator.

This deeply moving production is told through the acclaimed creativity of Stephen Page’s choreography and David Page’s soundscape, in a powerful and meaningful dance theatre experience.

Of his new work, Artistic Director Stephen Page says “Patyegarang is a story that has been lingering in my mind for a long time. This young Aboriginal girl was from the Eora nation, the custodians of the land on which Bangarra has created and performed dance theatre works since 1989.”

“In the year of the company’s 25th anniversary, Bangarra honours the Eora, through Patyegarang’s story, celebrating the significance of this place and its first peoples.”

“Through discussions with local communities, and thanks to an ever-inspiring team of designers, story tellers and dancers, this story gives us an opportunity to reflect on our future as a new nation.”

The role of Patyegarang will be played by Bangarra dancer Jasmin Sheppard who joined the company in 2007 and has performed in eleven Bangarra productions internationally and nationally. Sheppard’s first choreographic work Macq debuted as part of Bangarra’s Dance Clan 3 in November 2013.

South Australian born physical performer Thomas Greenfield will join Bangarra as a guest artist, performing the role of Lieutenant William Dawes. Greenfield’s performance with the company marks the fourth time in Bangarra’s history that a non-Indigenous dancer has performed with the company.

Tickets for the world premiere season of Patyegarang are now on sale and will be performed at the following venues: Sydney Opera House (13 June – 5 July), Canberra Theatre Centre (17 – 19 July), State Theatre of Western Australia, Perth (30 July – 2 August), Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane (15 – 23 August) and Arts Centre Melbourne (28 August – 6 September).

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Image: Jasmin Sheppard as Patyegarang – by Greg Barrett