Director's Note by Stephen Page: Bush

  • North East Arnhem Land
  • Choreography, Program, Resources

The main inspiration for Bush is really my relationship with Arnhem Land over the years. My traditional mothers from Arnhem Land like Kathy Balngayngu Marika have supported and inspired me ceremonially and spiritually for a long time now. Bush reflects the poetic experience and beauty I have enjoyed over my fifteen years of being linked to Arnhem Land - its magic, its sacred grounds.

The more I hear of all these creation stories and the older I get, the more I digest. It’s the longest university degree you can ever have. It is a great honour to be accepted and given this gift, to put these stories in a public domain in an abstract way –there’s a wonderful trust there.

In Bangarra, we bring these stories to a western context and present them with integrity. Our work is similar to the development with Indigenous visual art, from painting on rocks to painting on canvas. It is a modern way of presenting traditional stories -placing them in a live theatre experience. Bangarra has worked with these traditional stories and land inspirations for a long time now –we are celebrating our own ritual over the past 13 years. We have come through our first life cycle. I wouldn’t say we are ‘mastering’ it but we have been initiated and respect our experiences of the journey.

With Bush it is a wonderful thing for us, the Bangarra creative clan, to rejoice in the cycle. There is my traditional family on the one hand and my creative professional family on the other - Peter England, Jennifer Irwin, David Page, Steve Francis – who have all worked with me now for ten years. And of course Frances Rings, who has collaborated with me on pieces within this work. An integral part of the Bangarra life cycle is Fran’s emergence as a choreographer. She is such a powerful presence she is impossible to ignore! Fran has been the sister muse through a long journey – from being a student, then dancer and now choreographer. She brings a different spirit to the work but at the same time she has a beautiful intuitive understanding of what it is to create that unique Bangarra theatrical experience. Like Kathy, Fran brings an incredible feminine energy to this work. Bush is very much about respecting the role of women in our tradition –they are the nurturers and the keepers.

This work is a bush galaxy of poetic imagery and stories that make up our history –ranging from the comic mimicry of stick spirits, to the power of rocks and land formations, to the ritual and medicine of fresh water, the transformation of a caterpillar into a moth. Bush embraces all those diversities and inspirations that come from living from the land.

I do consciously try to nurture an optimistic spirit. Even when I get angry at the world and the way society is going, and I do ‘social frustration’ works as a result, I always try to inject a sense of optimism and hope out of those experiences. I think with Bush it is purely about letting the audience into the spiritual glory box of what is sacred, communicating how special this land is to us through certain specific inspirations such as Arnhem Land, my traditional family’s stories and my relationship to them. It is a personal endeavour. It is also about maintaining an honest respect for land creations and peoples.

Stephen Page
Artistic Director & Choreographer