01/02/2018 - 12:08

Ballet dances Dreamtime

01/02/2018 - 12:08

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Collaboration is key for the launch of the West Australian Ballet’s 2018 season, as ballerinas and indigenous dancers come together to perform the contemporary work Milnjiya, while opera singer Deborah Cheetham provides support with a score of traditional indigenous sounds.

WA Ballet's Reika Sato (left) with NT Dance Company's Darren Edwardes rehersing Milnjiya, Milky Way. Photo: Sergey Pevnev

Collaboration is key for the launch of the West Australian Ballet’s 2018 season, as ballerinas and indigenous dancers come together to perform the contemporary work Milnjiya, while opera singer Deborah Cheetham provides support with a score of traditional indigenous sounds.

Milnjiya means ‘Milky Way – river of stars’ in the Yolngu language from East Arnhem Land, one of five regions of the Northern Territory and home to the two dancers from Gary Lang’s NT Dance Company.

WA Ballet executive director Jessica Machin said artistic director Aurélien Scannella had been aspiring to work with choreographer Gary Lang since seeing him work with WA’s indigenous dance company, Ochre.

“Aurélien saw his (Gary’s) work and was really struck by its lyrical nature; he had not seen Aboriginal work like that,” Ms Machin said.

She said Milnjiya was based on a Dreamtime creation story about how the Milky Way, the river of stars, was created.

“In Aboriginal culture they believe as you pass on it’s the stars that show you the way into whatever’s next, so the work explores the journey of the soul,” Ms Machin said.

“The opera represents the spirits, the traditional music represents the earthly plane, and the dancers, we’re looking at their journey from death into the next life.”

Three dancers from the West Australian Ballet will be working in unison with two of NT Dance Company’s dancers, she said, while a digeridoo player, a song man who sings in his native language, and Yorta Yorta opera singer Ms Cheetham perform live.

Milnjiya will be the leading performance of four short works for the West Australian Ballet’s contemporary segment, Milky Way: Ballet at the Quarry.

The four works are packed together for a single event that runs as part of the Perth Festival calendar, showing from February 9 to March 3.

Ms Machin said one of the works, Les Indomptés, was a male duet that would be performed by twins.

Gumtree will be a duet with two women, while The Paradise Within will be a new creation by the West Australian Ballet.

For the production of Milnjiya, Ms Machin said she raised $350,000 to allow for a long preparation period and to fund the collaborators.

“We got support from the Australia Council (of the Arts), the Catalyst Community Arts Fund, and some private donors to enable Aurélien and I to go up to Darwin and East Arnhem Land and seek formal permission for the work to be created and actually danced on this country,” she said.

“Because as you can imagine there are a lot of cultural protocols that go with Gary taking essentially what is a creation story and contemporising it.”

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