Telling That Story details twenty-five years of intercultural performance-making by renowned Australian dance company Marrugeku, whose restlessly inventive work reaches from remote Indigenous communities in northern Australia to international audiences around the world. This work began in the small Kunwinjku community of Kunbarlanja in Arnhem Land and now continues in Yawuru Country in the Western Australian coastal town of Broome and in the urban centre of Gadigal lands in Sydney.
The productions brought into dialogue for the first time in this book range in style from large-scale outdoor explorations of Kunwinjku spirit worlds to trans-disciplinary expressions of global ecological collapse to intimate dance solos on the theme of decolonization. Extending this significant body of work is an ongoing series of research laboratories, which functions as a key platform for strengthening dance in the Pacific region through trans-Indigenous exchange. Critical to the company’s success is its development of new choreographic and dramaturgical processes that are both intercultural and Indigenous in principle, practice and ethos. Such work draws on the experiences, stories and embodied practices of diverse artists, but is indelibly grounded in the specific places and communities where the day-to-day collaborations unfold.
Marrugeku’s unique artistic and cultural journey is traced here through a words-and-pictures story co-curated by leading postcolonial settler scholar Helen Gilbert and the company’s co-artistic directors: Yawuru/Bardi choreographer and dancer Dalisa Pigram and settler director Rachael Swain. A rich array of essays, scripts, interviews, photographs, reviews and reflections make up the story’s strands, each opening windows on the performances at issue. These contributions by company members, critics, scholars, collaborators and Indigenous leaders shed light on the processes of cultural attunement at the heart of Marrugeku’s work. Collectively, they offer a compelling multivocal assessment of the power and appeal of political dance theatre in our times.