Over the last two hundred years, aboriginal dance has changed dramatically and has had many socio-cultural influences. Through the years, aboriginal dance has become modernised and contemporised. Tradition is being broken. In this assignment I will be exploring social and cultural change as well as identifying outside influence and the development of a new style. Towards the turn of the century we can see that not only the style of dance has changed but the influence has also changed largely.
For traditional aboriginals composition was not a component in dance. Dance was another way of communication. It was an understanding between tribes and all of these dances were handed down by older generations for all future generations. Dance was ritual, celebration and initiation. Within the vocabulary, the steps have male and female versions and dances were generally segregated by sex. Nowadays, new dances are being composed.
It is no longer for the magic and the belief but as an entertainment purpose for the curious Europeans and oblivious natives. We are now an ever changing community who have influenced and tainted the vision of tradition in our society. Before the European settlement in the days of dreaming, the body had sacred meaning. It was used as an instrument, as a tool for learning and as a vehicle for communication. Dance told stories such as the legend of the rainbow serpent-Main oru as well as When the waratah became red.
(Source A. ) The older people in the tribes taught the younger ones stories of life. They danced the way to live and the younger ones were taught to use dance and movement as a form of communication from the day they took their first steps on the sacred land. To the aborigines, the land and everything living on it was sacred. The creator Biami is the father of creation. When he created the aboriginals he gave them a part of his essence (light / soul ).
However, all came from Mother Natur Nun geena Tya who provides them with nourishment and all the physical needs for a life s journey. They believed that everything that is living on this planet is part of us, we share the same mother and we all share the same creator, therefor we are only part of a great oneness of creation. Dance in the modern day often has the same forms and intentions for meaning, though it has become modernised and contemporised. An example of modern aboriginal dance with a traditional aboriginal meaning is Bangarra- Ochres.
One of the Dances, Yellow has been given this meaning by director Stephen Page: I believe the landscape to be mother. Its flowing rivers she cleanses in, the yellow ochre she dresses in, the sun and the seasons she nourishes - gathering, nesting and birthing along her travels. Ochres first performed Sydney in 1995, proved a watershed production for Bangarra, leading to sell-out shows around the country and more invitations to perform overseas than the company could accept. Ochres is a work in four parts which explores the mystical significance of ochre, inspired by its spiritual and medicinal power: Yellow, Black, Red and White. Stephen page describes his production as a contemporary view of traditional aboriginal communication.
His description of Ochres is as follows: Ochres plays an essential part in traditional life. Working with cultural consultant / dancer Djakapurra Munyarryun has provided us with valuable insight into the presentation of traditional paint up and preparation. As a substance ochre has intrigued us. Its significance and the myriad of purposes, both spiritual and physical have been the driving force behind this collaboration. The portrayal of each colour is by no means a literal interpretation, but the awareness of is spiritual significance has challenged our contemporary expressions.
When watching the show, it is evident that Stephen page has used a mixture of movement qualities to create colour and interest in the pieces. You can often see that he has combined both traditional movement as well as modern movement yet you can see the distinction between the two. Abstraction is readily used in the Bangarra pieces and it gives you a new view into the perfected arts of traditional dance. In one case abstraction is used to resemble the working day of an aboriginal woman.
The dancers are sitting and slowly a picking action becomes evident. The dancers exaggerate this movement largely and it eventually becomes vague and transforms into another movement. This is an example abstraction. The steps that are typically aboriginal tend to be very grounded and the focus is drawn especially towards the feet and often the legs. The motif of aboriginal dance is influenced by nature and if often suggestive of animals.
Everyday life is also a major motif in their dancing. In traditional aboriginal dance the patterns left in the dancing space to show symbolism of animals, actions and rituals. The steps themselves reflect the animals and the stories that they are telling and the patterns of the earth that the individual animals are leaving. For example the twisting pattern of a snake over the dust is left in the dirt by the dancer acting out the animal. The visual setting of the performance is earthy portraying a naturalistic setting. Reds, yellows and blacks are used, symbolic of the national colours.
Oranges, browns and magenta s are also used as symbols of nature. The 1950 s represented perhaps one of the largest influential periods in aboriginal dance. Not only was it to be a change in dance but culture, beliefs and many people s lives. This was to change the aboriginal community forever. The Europeans came to the agreement that there was no point in segregating the aboriginal communities in their towns. There was manpower there yet they seemed useless, as they were oblivious to the white mans way of life.
Teaching them how to be like us seemed to be the solution. Though eventually it proved to be more money than it was worth. The Europeans took the aboriginals and gave them work, though it was generally the work that they didn t want to do. Then the cleansing began. This started by stealing small aboriginals away from their mothers and pretending that they didn t exist by giving them to white families to bring up as their own regardless to the colour of their skin.
The mothers of the children and other aboriginal women were married off to white men and as the generations went on the aboriginal would phase out slowly and the annoyance would no longer exist. It would be a loss of identity. But, the aboriginals were stronger than that and are still fighting for justice today. Though this was a major change of influence to the aboriginals, their style still shines through the white mans influence. Abstracted or not. The remembrance of their unique culture is becoming more and more readily available to the public through such organisations as Naisda.
Naisda - Source A: Teaching Story - When the Waratah became Red We teach our kids about love. A long time ago in the Dreaming, before the first War of the Dreaming, Biami said to all in the forest: In the forest there is everything you need. He warned the little brown birds never to fly above the canopy of the trees because the birds of prey, hawks and eagles, flew there. So life went on for a long time and these two little brown birds fell in love, birds generally mate for life. This is another part of the Teaching; we teach children to honour and respect their life partner. So the two little lovebirds decided to build a nest.
They would fly off and grab twigs and bring them back and weave them around, have a little smooch... until the nest was almost complete. Then she flew off looking for soft feathers for lining while she was gone he decided to get one last, long strand to secure the nest. And in that time, all along the forest floor grew waratah, the most magnificent waratah you have ever seen. The waratah were white, you see, pure white. When she returned to the nest he wasn t there.
Remember she was in love. She panicked. She called and called, flew here and there, no sign of him. In a typical female way she was so concerned about him she didn t think about herself, just about him, where could he be, was he hurt So after calling and calling with no answer she thought I have to fly above the forest floor, I have to find him. It s the only way I ll be able to see clearly. She flew up and up where she had never flown before, looking, looking and looking for her mate.
Finally, way off in the distance she could see him flying towards the nest. Breathing a sigh of relief she started to drop to the forest floor. As she did, she felt the talons of the hawk pierce her chest. Mortally wounded she struggled out of its grip and floated to the forest floor, landing on a waratah. She hopped from waratah to waratah, bleeding dreadfully, until she reached her nest and her mate, where she died.
Her mate wailed and wailed and wailed his song of sorrow. Biami heard it and came down. It was such a sad tale and he said: I told you not to go above the forest floor. But this little bird loved so deeply that no sacrifice was too great. To honour her great sacrifice for love, all birds of your type, for evermore, will have a bloodstained breast to remind all, which live throughout eternity, that love does mean sacrifice. As a reward to honour her, the flower that caught her will forever be stained with her blood.
Go to a forest, hold a waratah, don t break it, pull it down and put your finger inside and turn. Your finger will still be red with her blood today.