Marrugeku: Telling That Story


25 years of Trans-Indigenous and Intercultural Performance

Edited by Helen Gilbert, Dalisa Pigram and Rachael Swain


Published by Performance Research Books 2021. Paperback, 384 pages. Full colour illustrations throughout.

SKU: 9781906499099 Category:


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.



Patrick Dodson


The Company

Helen Gilbert, Dalisa Pigram and Rachael Swain


Chapter 1

Marrugeku in Kunbarlanja

This Was Not a Fly-by-night Project, Michael Leslie

Making Mimi, Rachael Swain

Magic Followed Us, Raymond Blanco

Telling That Story, Thompson Yulidjirri

Children Are Sacred, Djon Mundine

Darwin’s Art of Darkness, Nicholas Rothwell


Chapter 2

Crossing Borders

From Stone Country to Saltwater Country: Dramaturg Peter Eckersall in Conversation with Dalisa Pigram and Rachael Swain

Marrugeku’s International Touring, Justin Macdonnell


Chapter 3

Burning Daylight

Revelation Found in Broad Daylight, Rosemary Sorensen

Tangled Histories, Haunted Streets: Asian–Indigenous Relations in Broome, Jacqueline Lo, with script excerpt ‘Black Flowers’

Strategic Obfuscation in Marrugeku’s Burning Daylight, Vicki van Hout


Chapter 4

Intercultural Music

Yarning about the Musical Journey: Musicians Matthew Fargher and Lorrae Coffin in Conversation with Dalisa Pigram

Sound and Song: Cultural Collaborations, Mathew Fargher


Chapter 5

Research 1: Decolonizing Dance

Trans-Indigenous and Intercultural Dance Praxis, Rachael Swain and Dalisa Pigram

Animal Pop: An Interview with Dancer/Choreographer Jecko Siompo

Taking Things into Your Own Hands: An Interview with Dancer/Choreographer Serge Aimé Coulibaly

The Unbearable Stasis of Colonialism, Alison Croggon


Chapter 6


Time/Land/Seasons/Place/Country, Dalisa Pigram

Buru script


Chapter 7

Gudirr Gudirr

A One-woman Dance Show of Evolving Aboriginal Repression, Martha Schabas

The Tide Is Turning: New Choreoaesthetics in Indigenous Intercultural Dance, Rachael Swain

with Dalisa Pigram

Script Excerpts: ‘Lingo Story’, ‘This Is the Time’, ‘Warning’ and ‘Uncle Fuck Fuck’

Cosmopolitan Encounters and Diplomatic Interventions, Helen Gilbert


Chapter 8

Research 2: Listening to Country

Traces in the Landscape, Rachael Swain

Hear the Country Speak to You: An Interview with Bunuba Cultural Leader June Oscar

Listening to Other Peoples’ Country, Hildegard de Vuyst

Listening to Country Forum: Selected Statements


Chapter 9

Cut the Sky

Cut the Sky Programme Notes

Unpredictable Shifts: Rehearsal Process and Climate Change, Rachael Swain, with script excerpts: ‘Crocodile Poem’, ‘Hanky Panky’ and ‘Nature Is on Speed’

Looking Back on Cut the Sky: An Interview with Dramaturg Hildegard de Vuyst


Chapter 10

Burrbgaja Yalirra

Critical Mimicry and the Deadman Dance: Marrugeku’s Burrbgaja Yalirra, Jonathan W. Marshall

Ngalimpa script

Script Excerpts: ‘Miranda Speaks’, ‘Language Poem’ and ‘Great Grandfather Poem’


Chapter 11

Jurrungu Ngan-ga

Horrific Surrealism: New Storytelling for Australia’s Carceral-Border Archipelago, Omid Tofighian


Chapter 12

Finding a Meeting Place

Future Thinking, Future Dancing: An Interview with Yawuru Cultural Leader Patrick Dodson

Seeing the Process, Rachael Swain and Dalisa Pigram in Conversation with Richard Gough



Company Highlights 1996–2020



Marrugeku Productions and Research Laboratories


Author Biographies

Additional information

Weight 1.272 kg