• Dancers from DRILL performing The Stance by Liesel Zink.
    Dancers from DRILL performing The Stance by Liesel Zink.

Tasdance/David Manngenner Gough: mapali – Dawn Gathering, Devonport Bluff, 8 March 
pakana kaniplili /Bunna Lawrie: Opening ceremony - Nyari Niara Good Spirit Festival, lunnawanna alonnah Bruny Island, 9 March 
Stompin/Caitlin Comerford/Yolande Brown: Nowhere, wetlands of kanamaluka Tamar River, 13 March
Dancenorth/Kyle Page/Amber Haines: Dust, Don Bosco Theatre Glenorchy, 22 March
DRILL/Liesel Zink: The Stance, nipaluna Hobart City Mall, 23 March 

In 2019, Tasmania's Ten Days on the Island festival was directed by Lindy Hume and dance was given a central role in conveying a celebration of community, of Country and culture.

mapali – Dawn Gathering opened the festival. Right on sunrise at Devonport Bluff in Tasmania's North West, this large-scale community work is the first collaboration between David Manngenner Gough (Aboriginal Sharer of Knowledge) and Adam Wheeler (Tasdance). At its heart, the work is a complex weaving of stories, dance and cultural activities, brought to life by the artists and local community as performers, resulting in a rich cultural experience and community-based contextualised learning, which links Tasdance and Indigenous culture to a much broader audience.

Hume’s program encouraged audiences to also experience the Nayri Niara Good Spirit Festival at lunnawanna alonnah, Bruny Island. This proved to be a powerful opportunity for Indigenous and non-indigenous people to share knowledge and ceremony, with dance again taking a pivotal role. Both Sinsa Mansell from larapuna, the Northern region of Tasmania, and Craig Everett performed with Tasmanian Aboriginal dance group pakana kaniplila. Over the past fifteen years, these dance artists have been working to reclaim cultural dance within Tasmania. Joining them in reclaiming ceremony on Bruny was Bunna Lawrie who is a Mirning elder, raised on Koonibba Mission, near Ceduna, South Australia. A significant moment in the opening performances saw the return of the whale dance to the dancers of pakana kaniplila; an experience rarely shared with non-indigenous audiences.

Moving back to the north, 10 Days continued with Nowhere, by Stompin, on the wetlands of kanamaluka (the Tamar River). Co-created by Artistic Director/choreographer Caitlin Comerford, guest choreographer Yolande Brown and the seventeen strong cast of Stompin youth dance company, the first section of this work uses the length and very narrow breadth of the boardwalk to guide a procession, made up of audience members, to slowly weave its way out to a “secret” island. Allowing space for contemplation of ownership and belonging, and of land and waterways, the audience experiences very personal text and environmentally based audio, created with local writer Adam Thompson, delivered through wireless headphones. Once on land, the audience is gathered for the ensemble performance. Closely mirroring the surrounding landscape, the cast is united in a simple, strong image of shared discovery through leading and following, and rolling spiralling motifs.

With strong focus, the young dancers wove through the audience and developed themes in layers of movement with a ceremonial commitment. As each duo was completed, individuals melted away from the space towards the blindingly beautiful sunset.

Shifting again to another landscape, Dancenorth arrived in the south of Tasmania to present Dust (reviewed by Dance Australia here and here). Well into a tour of this work, the collaborative team of creatives (Amber Haines, Kyle Page and the amazing dancers Samantha Hines, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Ashley McLellan, Georgia Rudd, Felix Sampson and Jack Ziesing) dug deep in this very personal investigation into the architecture of inheritance.

While experiencing the full impact of a packed evening performance of Dust, I also took the opportunity to join a more intimate audience of young students and their parents/carers. I was delighted to hear the depth of discussion in response to the work from an audience who, in the main, had never experienced any contemporary dance. Invited for their involvement in schools’ workshops with youth dance company DRILL, through which they were developing their own dances in response to the key themes of Dust, this audience seemed to appreciate the work with fresh eyes, delighting in the personal, social, cultural and political references from the mundane to deeply philosophical.

In many ways the final dance work of Ten Days, The Stance, drew many of the previous events’ themes together. Created by Liesel Zink, The Stance is an Australian Dance Award winning project that has been performed with different people in different cities around the world since its first iteration in 2015. This important work examines the choreography of bodies in protest.

This version of The Stance has been made in collaboration with the dancers from youth dance company DRILL. The movements and ideas are drawn from discussions of protests in Tasmania, as well as larger global protests both past and present, with a focus on how we make our voices heard. The seven young dancers of DRILL chose to focus their own creative contributions to the work on a reflection of how, particularly as women, we can respect the movements that have come before us and acknowledge all that we still need to take a stand against.

The strength of the performers was highlighted by the very public space in which they performed (nipaluna/Hobart City Mall). Surrounded by the pedestrian “life” their gesturing, running and determinedly place-holding presence cut through the everyday. Passers-by stopped and realised that there were others standing watching.

In this work, a section of the audience is engaged on another level, via headphones that play live-streamed audio by sound artist Mike Willmett. Shared with the performers, this audio includes selected sound bites from local contemporary and historic protests including land rights, youth climatic action and vigils for the rights of women to be safe on our streets. The combination is electrifying; the impact and messages challenging our community’s direction.

- Lesley Graham

Pictured top: Dancers from youth dance company DRILL in Liesel Zink's 'The Stance'. Photo: Joshua Lowe.

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