• Bangarra's 'Wudjang'.
    Bangarra's 'Wudjang'.
  • 'The Rite of Spring', photo by Maarten vanden Abeele
    'The Rite of Spring', photo by Maarten vanden Abeele

“We have come back from Europe full of optimism having witnessed audiences return with gusto to theatres, fully masked, double vaxed and filling every seat, but we’re all too aware that this sunny ideal has as its dark twin inevitable illness, anxiety and super-human demands on health workers. In the face of all this, our commitment to deliver a festival that energises, comforts and reasserts the necessity of human creative imagination remains.”

Thus write co-directors Rachel Healy and Neil Armfield in the introduction to their 2022 Adelaide Festival program, which was officially unveiled yesterday, “a feisty festival that won't lie down and shrink” as they say, in defiance of the wreckage of the pandemic.

The program includes a number of international acts, despite the limits of travel limits and quarantine. The largest of these is a dance coup: Pina Bausch's Rite of Spring recreated on 38 dancers from 14 African countries.

This inspired restaging is the result of a collaboration between Salomon Bausch, who is responsible for continuing his mother's legacy, and Germaine Acogny, dubbed the “mother of African dance”. 

Acogny was born in Senegal and trained in France, eventually setting up her Mudra Afrique in Belgium with the help of Maurice Bejart. She returned to her hometown and opened École des Sables in 1998, which is where this group of dancers has rehearsed the production. Last year she was awarded the Golden Lion for Dance at the Venice Biennale.

Australian audiences will have the chance to see her dance in a duet called common grounds, created especially for this program. She will perform with Malou Airaudo, a founding member and icon of Bausch’s company

Also big in scale is another dance highlight of the Festival: Stephanie Lake's Manifesto, involving nine dancers and nine drummers. This work has been co-commissioned by all Australia's major festivals – a rare event, says Healy, and a sign of the widespread admiration for the choreographer. Featuring dancers with diverse techniques from hiphop to ballet, and top percussionists, it begins with the premise that drumming and dance are inseparable and is described as “blurs of frenzy alternating with thrilling unisons”.

Also on the Festival program is Bangarra's Wudjang, Not the Past, conceived and choreographed by Stephen Page (which premieres first at the Sydney Festival). The company is joining forces with Sydney Theatre Company to present the world premiere of "an epic-scale contemporary corroboree, and Bangarra’s largest stage production to date".

Wudjang: Not the Past will bring together 17 dancers, four musicians and five actors and combine poetry, spoken storytelling and live music. The work is directed and choreographed by Bangarra’s Artistic Director Stephen Page and co-written with award-winning playwright Alana Valentine (Bangarra’s BennelongBarbara and the Camp Dogs).

On a smaller scale, soloist Daniel Jaber will be performing a seven-hour sculpture installation/contemporary dance called Rite for one day only at the Samstag Gallery.

Adelaide Festival will run from March 4 – 20. View the full program here.


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