Revisiting this beautiful work created by Frances Rings ten years ago to celebrate the handing over of the land rights for Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre to the Arabunna people who had been deeply connected to the lake over thousands of years, one was struck by the realisation of how successfully, despite the changes in personnel over the years, Bangarra Dance Theatre has retained its unique, instantly recognisable, choreographic style.
In a series of nine distinct sequences marked by changes of costume and scenic background, the work, according to the program notes sets out to “explore the fundamental connection between aboriginal people and the land – how we treat our land, how we understand its spirit, and how we regard its future.”
The sequences have titles such as Red Brick, Shields, Reborn, Spinifex, Salt, Scar, Landform, Reflect and Deluge, and while it is not always clear how the choreography represents these titles, the eye is continually pleasured by the succession of mysterious, beautiful and ever-changing choreographic groupings skilfully executed by the talented ensemble.
Among the more memorable sequences is one entitled Spinifex, in which the women perform gracefully in Jennifer Irwin’s remarkable textured costumes, topped by extraordinary headdresses fashioned from twigs burns itself into the psyche.
Another entitled Shields performed by the male ensemble is imaginative and strongly performed although how it represents the struggle for Land Rights and Recognition is left to each individual to interpret.
As always with Bangarra Dance Theatre presentations the production values and performances were impeccable with outstanding design and presentation.
No doubt those audience members able to emerge themselves in the spirituality and significance of the various sequences will find additional pleasure in the performance, but for the rest Terrain remains a masterful choreographic homage to a unique and beautiful piece of Australia.
Canberra Theatre, Civic Square, London Circuit, Canberra
Performance: Thursday 28 July 2022
Season: 28 – 30 July 2022
Image: Bangarra presents Terrain – photo by Daniel Boud
Review: Bill Stephens OAM