ASB Waterfront Theatre, 138 Halsey St, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland

15/03/2023 - 18/03/2023

Auckland Arts Festival | Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki 2023

Production Details

Bangarra Dance Theatre, choreographed by Stephen Page & Frances Rings

Presented by Bangarra Dance Theatre

An Australian national treasure, Bangarra is one of the most respected First Nations companies on the planet.

SandSong is a powerful, deeply moving story, drawing on stories, knowledge and memories of past to create a new narrative for Indigenous futures.

Between the 1920s and 1960s, many Aboriginal people were removed from their Country onto pastoral stations where they were forced into hard labour, usually for no wages and only minimal rations. Despite this displacement and cultural disruption, the Traditional Peoples of the Western Desert have maintained unbroken connection to Country, keeping songs, stories, kinship and lore strong.

SandSong is created in consultation with Wangkatjungka/Walmajarri Elders from the Kimberley and Great Sandy Desert regions, presenting a story of resilience and connection that is both specific and widely resonant – an ambitious, adroitly executed performance that equally “celebrates” and “pulls no punches” (Limelight).

This work honours the legacy of Ningali Josie Lawford-Wolf (1967–2019) and her family – past, present and future.


Dance , Dance-theatre ,

90 minutes

Themes of cultural belonging, ancient organic connections to land and nature, and thousands of years of emerging stories.

Review by 16th Mar 2023

Now in their fourth decade as Australia’s first major Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performing arts company, Bangarra Dance Theatre presents SandSong, a co-choreographed work by Stephen Page and Frances Rings. In addition, the ensemble of dancers are credited with their artistic contributions. SandSong premiered in 2021 with the same profound commitment the company holds to develop works based on themes of cultural belonging, ancient organic connections to land and nature, and thousands of years of emerging stories.

SandSong is divided into four acts: Makurra – The cold dry season, Parranga – The hot dry season, Kartiya, a devastating human auction, and Yitilal – The wet season. This is a powerful work about what happened in the 19th century to First Nations people living around Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley region, inland and north of Western Australia. Oddly, traditional dance vocabulary seems influenced by Southeast Asian movement vernacular. Award winning set design of fiery gum trees on tarnished cloth by Jacob Nash, with classical theatrical lighting by Nick Schlieper provide scenic backdrops for fragmented stories expressed of Bunuba Country and the magical floodplains and tributaries of Bandaralngarri.

The crew behind the scenes of this fascinating performance are seasoned collaborators. A drastic film by David Bergman and cacophonous music jolts us into thinking about what really happened to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Music and song throughout the evening is a mix of composer’s Steve Francis’ penchant for combining complex rhythms of traditional embodied stamping, songs of love and sanction and seamless electronica to move the dancers through their extensions, or frenzy. 

While born of various Aboriginal peoples, each of the dancers Amberlilly Gordon, Chantelle Lee Lockhart, Courtney Radford, Daniel Mateo, Emily Flannery, James Boyd, Janaya Lamb, Jesse Murray, Kallum Goolagong, Kassidy Waters, Kiarn Doyle, Lillian Banks, Lucy May, Maddison Paluch, Rikki Mason, and Ryan Pearson are confident with all ways of moving of Bunuba Country.  In this evening’s sharing, dancer Lillian Banks, dances an expressive range. Her natural rhythms, delicate glances, shoulders hunching and fiercely beautiful focus, seem as though she is coming home. Another dancer, Ryan Pearson catches attention with his precise embodying dancing.

The recent pandemic period may have felt like tribulation in harnessing creativity driving the choreography, but weaving of contemporary and traditional dance has the longevity of sophistication in Bangarra Dance Theatre. Embedded in the performance, the work pays tribute to the legacy of care, artistry and activism inspired by Wangkatjungka woman, N. Lawford-Wolf, further supported by Wangkatjungka and Walmajarri Cultural Knowledge Holders. Bangarra people are practiced in the blend of authenticity and urgency.  SandSong is a reconciliation between selves and a much hoped for cultural revitalising of the whole of Australia – Country.


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