Theatre Review: Yuldea

A remarkable production, the sharing of story unwaveringly expressive from start to finish!

A remarkable production, the sharing of story unwaveringly expressive from start to finish!

Presented by: Bangarra Dance Theatre
Reviewed: 10 August, 2023

Bangarra Dance Theatre’s mission is to promote awareness and understanding for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations by enchanting audiences with contemporary dance performances that share both story and culture. Yuldea is the story of the Anangu people of the Great Victorian Desert, and the Nunga people of the Far West Region of South Australia.

Following Welcome To Country we hear the story of Anangu descendant Maureen “Mima” Smart. Beautifully voiced, she emphasises the importance of story to be told and retold, so future generations remember the history of their Ancestors and their connection to country. By her side is Artistic Director and co-choreographer, Frances Rings, a descendant of the Wirangu and Mirning Tribes from the West Coast of South Australia, whose own mob form part of the Yuldea story.

There are four main acts in this production, and you can pre-read about each on page ten of the programme. However, it is not a necessity, as the variations in dancing, choreography, costumes and musical composition illustrate the lineation.

Act 1 is the Supernova, the death of a star, which foretells the arrival of change. Almost the entire cast performed in this dance. 

Act 2 is Kapi, which means water, and is the source of life. Drought has forced people to move until they find Yuldea Kapi piti, a source of permanent water. There are five dance numbers in this act. Kapi Spirit is the first, with duo Lillian Banks and Kallum Goolagong. They flow together seamlessly in perfect sync, with Banks’ austere facial expression an inescapable outward reflection of the difficult task being undertaken, in the searching for water. 

The next two dance numbers of this act are the Water Diviners. The Birds are the women, and the Dingoes are the men. The costumes used (Jennifer Irwin) in these dance sets, although minimal in colour, were self-explanatory, in particular the wings of the birds. I enjoyed the distinction between the styles of these two dance numbers, the women like birds, curious and cautious, the men like dingoes, intent and strong.

In the last part of this act, another duo, Daniel Mateo and Kassidy Waters, in Red Mallee, followed by a full cast dance, Yooldil Kapi, which refers to the discovery of the waterhole or soak.

Act 3 is Empire, which opens with Letters Patent, with performers Rikki Mason, Janaya Lamb, Jesse Murray, Amberlilly Gordon, Lucy May, Ryan Pearson and Kiarn Doyle. The terror is felt in the music and dramatic change in the movement of the dancers – in particular for me, the thundering voice of the colonial was constant throughout Letters Patent and created this real sense of reality for the audience members. The musical composer Leon Rodgers, and guest composer Electric Fields continued their artistry in a similar fashion with each context. 

Steel snake, Mission, and Black Mist are the remaining three dance numbers in Act 3. The loss of freedom with the chaining of dancers with rope was particularly visual.

Finally in Act 4, the full cast comes on stage again with Ooldea Spirit. I really enjoyed the use of the curtains at the back of the stage (a curtain consisting of long ropes) which was an integral part of this piece. In fact, in several of the acts was a seamless blending of landscape (prop sets, which was aptly minimal) with dancers as part of the performance and exemplified the connection to land in a visual or sensory way for us as an audience. Set Designer Elizabeth Gadsby, lighting designer Karen Norris, Aerial and Acrobatic creative consultant Joshua Thomson allowed for this stage design.

A most brilliant way to share history, and it ended with a standing ovation!

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

Photo credit: Daniel Boud

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre
Season: 10 – 12 August, 2023
Duration: 1 hour 5 mins
Tickets: $69-$99.00

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