Dancers in step with complex issues

Headshot of Carly Laden
Carly LadenBroome Advertiser
The cast of Jurrungu Ngan-ga performing the ideas they created at the Broome Civic Centre.
Camera IconThe cast of Jurrungu Ngan-ga performing the ideas they created at the Broome Civic Centre. Credit: Carly Laden

A long, intense and creative journey has begun for local dance company Marrugeku as it starts developing its latest project.

A cast of dancers from Sydney, Fitzroy Crossing, Broome, Perth and Belgium came together at the Broome Civic Centre to begin work on their next production, Jurrungu Ngan-ga (Straight Talk).

The dancers spent three weeks brainstorming choreographic ideas to get their new message across, influenced by real-life events such as the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre investigation and reports about asylum seekers on Manus Island.

The first phase of the creative journey culminated in a special viewing held on Good Friday, in front of the public intrigued by what’s in store for Marrugeku.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


Marrugeku co-artistic director Dalisa Pigram said the new project came about during conversations she had with her grandfather, Senator Patrick Dodson.

“We had an initial talk about what might be a good subject matter to focus on and his suggestion was looking at the fear of the other and difference in general,” she said.

“This fear has been a big player that has prevented the government and our nation going forward to reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people in the sense of both parties having the fear of what the other exists as.

“Patrick was also getting a lot of phone calls about what was going on at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre so we then looked at the supposed inherent need to lock away what we fear.”

Ms Pigram said because the subject matter they were dealing with was intense, she and fellow artistic director Rachael Swain had to be careful in choosing the cast for the upcoming dance work.

“These sorts of projects that deal with complex and intense issues require a certain type of artist that can take all of that on board,” she said.

“We’re very happy with the cast we have and they’re very keen to come along this journey.

“(Our cast) is a mixed bag of multi-skilled artists, so developing Jurrungu Ngan-ga is going to be very interesting.”

During the three weeks of developing the first phase of Jurrungu Ngan-ga, the artists were filled with knowledge including reading Manus Island refugee Behrouz Boochani’s award-winning novel No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, looking at what happened at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and having guest speakers talk about the relevant issues.

Ms Pigram said knowledge was then converted into tasks for the artists to undertake to develop a “first draft of ideas”.

Once the ideas were developed, they were put in front of an audience at a special viewing, which was met with positive reactions despite the intense nature of the choreography.

Ms Pigram said she was very touched to see an impressive number of people watch the viewing despite the public holiday.

“We all thought people would be away camping, so we were very grateful for the people that came along to support us,” she said.

“We could see some people were taken aback by the intensity of what was on display but with the issues we’re exploring, there’s no way of tiptoeing around it.

“I was concerned about the number of kids that were in the room but in the same respect, it is what some kids are facing and dealing with every day.”

The next stage for Jurrungu Ngan-ga will be in Sydney, with a four-week workshop in December to continue developing the work, followed by another six-week workshop before its opening in 2020 as part of the company’s 25th anniversary.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails