I.B.I.S (lore)

Get Moving | I.B.I.S

  • Torres Strait Islands
  • Choreography, Songs & Language, Highlights

Former Senior Dance Artist and I.B.I.S Co-Choreographer Deborah Brown joins Dance Artists Nicola Sabatino and Tyrel Dulvarie in teaching a section of I.B.I.S.

For First Nations people, dance and visual art is a knowledge tool; the cognitive, the visceral and the physical all connect into understanding and memory formation. We invite you to learn the 'sit down' dance, 'Tup Song (Sardine Song)' from I.B.I.S, choreographed by Deborah Brown and Waangenga Blanco.

Traditionally, we’re taught sit down dances first because they are easier, before progressing on to the ‘stand up' dances ... The children’s dances are fun and playful and they always tell a story both with language and movement ... They also help teach the children about our instruments. In these songs, we often use the Warup, Tharam and Kulaps.
- Cultural Consultant, Peggy Misi, 2018.

You might want to refresh your memory of 'Tup Song (Sardine Song)' by listening to the sound track, taking note of the qualities and textures within the a cappella vocals and thinking about what ideas these sounds capture and unravel.

Please note that to modify this activity you can do it seated on a chair instead of on the floor.

Please ensure you have clear space to move around in, that the surface you are on is smooth but not slippery, and that you are wearing comfortable clothes.

This video is divided into 3 sections.

1. Introduction and preparation - Former Bangarra Dance Artist and Choreographer Deborah Brown along with current Bangarra Dance Artists Nicola Sabatino and Tyrel Dulvarie will guide you through a simple, short warm up to ensure your body is ready to move. It is really important that you prepare your body for dancing!

Deborah is a descendant of the Wakaid Clan of Badu Island and the Meriam people of Murray Island and is also proud of her Scottish heritage. Nicola is a descendant of the Kaurareg and Meriam peoples of the Torres Strait Islands and also shares Filipino, Scottish and German ancestry. Tyrel is from Far North Queensland, Cairns and Innisfail. He is a descendant of the Yirrganydji (Cairns), Umpila (Nesbit River), Mamu/ Djirrabal (Millaa Millaa), Kalkadoon (Mt Isa), and KukuTipan (Musgrave) peoples. He also has Malaysian, German and Middle Eastern heritage.

2. Learn a section of I.B.I.S Deborah will guide you through a phrase from 'Tup Song (Sardine Song)', breaking it down step-by-step so that you can practise it slowly and learn it well. Traditionally, sit down dances are taught with the song at the same time. In this video, we focus on the movement, however the synopsis and lyrics are provided below so that you can understand the story behind the song.

3. Time to Dance - Now is your chance to dance the whole phrase, thinking about the motivations behind the choreography and using your imagination to make the connections to the spirit of I.B.I.S.

Tup Song (Sardine Song) Synopsis

'Tup Song (Sardine Song)' is a contemporary ‘sit down’ song and dance about a game of catch between the people and the little fish. It is based on the traditional form of sit down dances, while being created for the purpose of story telling in a typical western theatrical setting. Traditionally, sit down songs and dances are an important and fun means of passing down knowledge to the younger generations - including language and cultural practices, as well as traditional dance technique and movement motifs.

Today we see many Torres Strait Island Artists exploring cultural and social thematics using traditional art and craft forms, while incorporating contemporary objects. This practice is seen in the work of Artists such as Ken Thaiday Senior and more recently in the practice of weaving using debris that is washed up on island shores. Ghost Net art seeks to highlight the tragic environmental impact that the millions of tons of discarded fishing nets has on the the oceans’ sea life.

In Tup Song (Sardine Song), choreographers Deborah Brown and Waangenga Blanco have repurposed sardine tins as rhythmical, percussive body instruments, similar to how the Kulaps, a traditional Torres Strait Island percussive instrument, would be used. The tins playfully catch the light on stage, like little fish swimming under the Island sun. These props also serve to illustrate the irony of imported tinned sardines stocked within the I.B.I.S store, while thousands of local sardines school around the islands.

Lyrics with poetic translation

Please note that this track features both First Nations languages Kala Lagaw Ya (Western Torres Strait region) and Meriam Mir (Eastern Torres Strait region).

Tup is a Meriam Mir word that means sardine or a small fish. All other lyrics are in Kala Lagaw Ya.

Nitha - Ngoi Gar - “you” “us/we”- is a call and response between the seafarers and the fish. The people call out that there are fish here: Wapi Wapi Ina e ... The fish (sardines) have lots of bones: Koi noeral wap. The fish are calling out "we're inside the tins now": Ngoi gar ina tina nu muiinu. But some are over there in the deep water: Wara napa adhal malunu. The little fish out in the deep gleefully call out Ngoelmunika a a gasamka launga: You can’t catch us!

Nitha (call)

Ngoey Gar (response)

Nitha (call)

Ngoey Gar (response)

Waapi waapi ina eh

Waapi Waapi ina eh

Koey noeral waap (men)

Koey noeral waap (men)


Ngoey gar ina tin-ah nu muiinu (women)

Wara napa adhal malunu (women)

Ngoelmunika a a gasamka lawnga, gasamka lawnga.

Koey noeral waap, koey noeral waap (men chant underneath above line)

TUP TUP TUP (men. Women join on final call)

Repeat from

Waapi waapi ina eh ...


Video footage of choreographic material and song lyrics included in Bangarra Dance Theatre online publication is copyright (Copyright Act 1968). Content of this online publication may be used for public viewing in the interest of learning and personal creative use. You may not use the content for any purpose other than as specified above without the express written consent of Bangarra Dance Theatre, and relevant third party copyright holders.

Please understand that when participating in this activity you are responsible for your own safety, and discharge Bangarra Dance Theatre from any and all claims or cause of action, known or unknown, arising out of participation. You are responsible for ensuring a safe dance space free from potential dangers. Participants should be aware of physical limitations and agree not to exceed them.