DANCE REVIEW: True Stories

Bangarra wows us again with their visually thrilling, thought provoking double bill True Stories, a revival of their 2007 show.
DANCE REVIEW: True Stories
Bangarra wows us again with their visually thrilling, thought provoking double bill True Stories, a revival of their 2007 show. As is usual for Bangara they combine traditional dance and more modern/contemporary style by raising political consciousness. The first work is Emeret Lu choreographed by Elma Kris, one of the company's senior dancers making her choreographic debut. Drawing on her Torres Strait Islander background and with permission from Murray Island elders, she blends traditional dance sequences with contemporary style in vignettes of daily life, work and hunting and gathering. The ensemble is led by guest artist Smilar Sinak. The dancers are in distinctive traditional red, white or black body paint and wear green leafy arm bands. At times the men wear white headdresses or feathers and the women wear grey dresses. There is a wonderful curved, cane set designed by Genevieve Dugard and splendid evacuative, atmospheric lighting by Glenn Hughes. To the insistent pounding of the drums the spirits of the land are invoked. The women move with feline neatness and delight, or yawn and stretch at their daily tasks. In one section depicting fishing, the men are like darting dragonflies with their long cane baskets and are full of brawny grace. Another section features a steamy, slinky pas de deux. 'X300' is choreographed by Frances Rings, a former dancer with the company. The subject of this work is the horrendous atomic tests in the Australian desert area of Maralinga in the 1950's. David page provides an at times bleakly ironic sound score. Dugard's set is sparse and simple, the hanging sculptural designs invoking rusty barbed wire in some sections, at others leaves. There are eerily flickering neon lights as well at times. It opens with a sculptural pile of bodies, the desert people at the water hole, which stretch and grow almost like plants or animals (e.g. a cactus or goanna). It then, segues to townspeople jitterbugging and jiving to the latest trendy dances. The revels are interrupted by a pale, ill figure (shades of Banquo's ghost) who is suffering from the radiation sickness. There is an extraordinary sequence for him with his radiation-suited carers, almost Pietà-like. We see the effect on the people's health in other various ways as well. A section entitled Glass reminds us that the heat of the blasts turned sand into glass - there is some amazing green laser lighting and the dancers in this section are eerie aliens, heavily powdered and appearing almost mummified and burnt. Patrick Thaiday has an extended, anguished solo as the land in mourning for what has happened to the people and the environment which leads to the concluding scenes of community misery and bewilderment. What will happen to the land and the people? How could the Australian government of the time allow it to happen? We ponder such serious questions as we stumble out of the theatre, attempting to absorb the horror of the situation. Riveting stuff. TRUE STORIES BANGARA DANCE THEATRE PARRAMATTA RIVERSIDE MARCH 2009 Running time 2 hours. Riverside Theatre Parramatta NSW season closed. Still touring to at other venues. WA Wed 20 May to Sat 30 May NSW Wed 3 Jun, 8.00pm to Sat 13 Jun

Lynne Lancaster

Thursday 5 March, 2009

About the author

Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.