writers on dancing


Aboriginals and Authenticity

Bangarra Dance Theatre
Eisenhower Theater
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, DC, USA
Saturday, November 6, 2004

by George Jackson
copyright © 2004 by George Jackson

Twentyeight years ago, a group of Aboriginal Australians visited Washington. This was their first travel away from the Outback. They hadn't even seen Sidney. Several of them wandered off and were lost for a while but got back in time to dance on the Ellipse. The sunset that day glowed like a huge campfire as the 17 or so figures, short and squat enough to look like a distinct species of humanity, gathered into a knot in which each individual visibly began to concentrate. It was a mental act this first step of the dance that was meant as a gift to us, their hosts. From thought arose movement that was sparse. Nothing was wasted, every shift proved to be necessary. Yet within such economy it seemed there was unlimited possibility. The seed of every dance ever trod was contained in those dry, dense motions. The sky was still burning when the visitors stopped. Their appearance became casual again, and a bus took them off to dinner. Their audience dispersed, harboring a sense of wonder. To me it felt as if we now knew the entire history of dance, past and future.

Bangarra isn't anything like that. It belongs to Western Civilization. It is modern dance theater doing a little cultural anthropology and a lot of entertaining. "Bush" is a bang up primitive show with the requisite sleek bods.

Volume 2, No. 42
November 8, 2004

Copyright ©2004 by George Jackson


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