Entering into Umbrella Revolution in The Garden of Unearthly Delights you would be forgiven for thinking you walked into a club at 2 am instead of an Adelaide Fringe Festival performance. With beats thumping and disco lights twirling the maximum capacity crowd jovially awaited North-East Arnhem Land’s Chooky Dancers to take to the stage in Djuki Mala on Friday 22 February 2019.
After a heart-warming and welcoming introduction by performer Tibian Christopher Wyles, and a passionate history lesson by Baykali Ganambarr, the remaining Chooky Dancers, Yalyalwuy Gondarra and Watjarr Garmu joined them both on stage to rapturous applause. What occurred over the course of the next hour was an unpredictable eclectic fusion of traditional and contemporary dance; a celebration of 60,000 years of Yolngu Culture and modern pop-culture intertwined to create an exuberant experience guaranteed to leave you feeling like you’ve been heart punched by a disco ball.
From traditional Yolngu dances with Gara (spears) and Galpu (spear thrower) filled with heart and soul seamlessly transitioning to a high energy rendition of Zorba the Greek, you would be forgiven for thinking you had entered the twilight zone. But it is exactly this juxtaposition of culture that is Djuki Mala. With Gara replaced by umbrella’s the Chooky Dancers take us through routines to songs such as Singin’ in the Rain (and its techno remix!), Get Ur Freak On, Billie Jean and My Girl; they dazzle with a myriad of dance styles including Bollywood, Hip Hop and Breakdance against a backdrop, a simple white screen, that plays film footage explaining the Chooky Dancer’s history and rise to international fame thanks to Frank Djirrimbilpilwuy’s decision to upload a video of the boys on YouTube in 2007.
Djuki Mala was born out of passion. A passion for dance, for entertainment and for the Yolngu Culture which is steeped in Indigenous tradition in addition to clowning. Wyles, Ganambarr, Gondarra and Garmu are born performers and their sheer love of entertaining is evident by their energy, dedication and the immense smiles on their faces. Their attitude is infectious and carries over into the audience who in turn smile, cheer, clap and whoop enthusiastically throughout the duration of the show.
Djuki Mala is more than a dance performance. It is also a history lesson; a comedy show and a purging of sentiment. It is a celebration of the finest calibre and a must-see of this year’s Fringe Festival.
Fringe Review By Anita Kertes
For tickets, show dates and times to Djuki Mala head to Fringe-Tix