Yuldea @ Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide 10/8/2023

Bangarra Dance Theatre’s new major work, Yuldea, is a truth-telling reflection of the Indigenous experience in Australia.

In Tarntanya/ Adelaide, for a strictly limited run, the opening night performance of Yuldea was memorable. Bangarra’s Artistic Director Frances Rings was joined on stage by Anangu woman and Yatala Cultural Consultant Maureen ‘Mima’ Smart, who shared the stories from which the production emerged. Describing it as a “mess” but “important that these stories are told for our next generation”, the insight she offered was priceless.

Yuldea explored the moment traditional life collided with the industrial motivation of an expanding country. In 1917, two halves of the Transcontinental Railway intersected at Yooldil Kapi, or Ooldea as it is commonly known, a permanent water soak on the traditional lands of the Kokatha people. For many Anangu, this was the location of first contact and a dramatic change to their traditional existence.

Approximately forty years later, nuclear testing occurred at Maralinga north of Oodlea with devastating long-term effects to the land and community.

These two historically significant events were captured by Bangarra in a sixty-minute, four Act ceremonial affirmation of annals and culture.

Ring’s artistic direction offered flow. Her choreography was innovative. From the delicate and fluid Kapi routine by Lillian Banks and Kallum Goolagong to the chilling yet spine-tingling Letters Patent routine featuring standout dancers Rikki Mason, and Jesse Murray plus Janaya Lamb, Amberlilly Gordon, Lucy May, Ryan Pearson, and Kiarn Doyle, Ring efficaciously progressed a narrative while encapsulating raw emotions.

Elizabeth Gadsby’s set, while minimal, was compelling. A multitude of large, roof-to-the-floor textile strips acted as a semi-circular curtain positioned upstage. Dancing occurred in front of, behind and through them, adding a layer of mystique and intensity to the performance. When paired with Jennifer Irwin’s sublime costumery and Karen Norris’s lighting design, Yuldea highlighted the unity of storytelling and creativity.

Composed by Leon Rodgers and the award-winning South Australian duo Electric Fields, the music was a showpiece. Each composition complemented the other creative elements and tied the production together.

With Yuldea, Bangarra Dance Theatre delivered a dynamically commanding and poignant production. One that is innovative with its emphasis of the plight of the Anangu to keep strong their philosophy of land and sky while honouring their infinite connections of kinship between people and place. It is an hour of dance theatre, uniquely enthralling and thought-provoking.

Theatre Review By Anita Kertes

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