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Open Letter From Bangarra Dance Theatre Artistic Director About Bennelong

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Open Letter From Bangarra Dance Theatre Artistic Director About Bennelong Image © Vishal Pandey
Bangarra Dance Theatre is presenting a new full-length work celebrating life and culture with Australia's most acclaimed dancers.

'Bennelong' celebrates Woollawarre Bennelong, a senior man of the Eora from Port Jackson in Sydney. Bennelong led his community to survive a clash of cultures and left a reverberating legacy.

Here, Artistic Director Stephen Page writes about the performance.

“I was born into a family of storytellers. Many a night was spent in the Page household dreaming up characters, fashioning props from whatever items were on hand, making costumes from mum and dad’s wardrobe, putting a record on and playing pretend. I would be bossing my brothers and sisters around, despite being one of the youngest. Getting a reaction from our audience – a mad bunch of extended family, aunties, uncles, cousins and unsuspecting neighbours – was our reward.

BangarraPhoto DanielBoud2
Image © Daniel Boud

That childhood thirst for stories has never left me; in fact, it has only intensified. I’m fortunate that I have a strong connection to culture to draw upon, a rich songline of ancestors who were extraordinary in their tenacity and survival. I’m surrounded by artists who are equally as passionate about our culture and who use their own experiences as contemporary Aboriginal men and women to bring a new perspective to ancient lore.

The remarkable story of Woollarawarre Bennelong is one that resonates deeply. He was a traditional man who was, against his initial will, shown a European way of life, and became an intermediary between his clan and the colonialists. It was a duality that cost him dearly on both sides. Never quite belonging to his new tribe, and earning suspicion from the old, Bennelong paid the price of first contact by being exiled from both communities.

BangarraPhoto DanielBoud1
Image © Daniel Boud

The question of how we move forward while still being connected to our culture and heritage has inspired much of my life’s work. Bennelong is in all of us, as we navigate the ancient and the modern elements of our lives. More than two centuries after his death, telling his extraordinary story and sharing his journey is a powerful reminder that there is a still a long way for us to go before we can say we’re at a place of true equality.

I am indebted to the talents and generosity of Bangarra’s dancers, who have helped me create this work. They inspire the stories we tell, coming from a multitude of clans from across the country, bringing language, songs and dances from their Elders to enrich our songline. Their spirit makes Bangarra, and 'Bennelong', stronger.”
– Stephen Page


'Bennelong' Tour Dates

25 August-2 September – Queensland Performing Arts Centre
7-16 September – Arts Centre Melbourne

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