Ochres

A Word from Cynthia Lochard

  • New York, North East Arnhem Land, Yirrkala
  • Stories, Highlights, Behind the Scenes
… my sense of respect is undeniable and unwavering.

I am a person with an open mind who is always learning. I guess this explains the variety of things I’ve done so far. I first started training as a ballet dancer in 1963, while I was growing up in New York City. I trained initially with Christine Neubert Ballet at Carnegie Hall then at the school of American Ballet at the Lincoln Center. I learned the foundations of this classical discipline and these roots have set a precedent for all things in my life... my sense of perfection and discipline are carried through everything that I do. This foundation has only ever been an advantage.

I joined the New York City Ballet (NYCB) in 1978. There were so many highlights during my time at the NYCB … while trying to think of one particular highlight, I realise I loved them all; I guess that is the benefit of working for an artistic genius – George Balanchine (NYCB Choreographer and Artistic Director, 1948 - 1983). Serenade, Symphony in C, Violin Concerto, Symphony in 3 Movements, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Divertissement … and the list goes on. The musicality of these works was sublime, as though the music was put to the steps.

I danced with the NYCB from 1978 to 1986 before moving to Australia in 1987 to dance with Sydney Dance Company, an iconic Australian contemporary dance company. This was where I alchemised myself to a technical transition, from classical ballet to the contemporary form. It was humbling to go from such a large institution to a grassroots company like Sydney Dance. The scale is so different, but the emotional outcome and self-discipline is the same … and a live orchestra, opposed to tape – that took some getting used to! An orchestra helps you to stay alive and alert; a tape does not change, requiring you to find and keep a level of motivation by yourself.

Transitioning from NYCB to working with Bangarra was one of my most memorable moments in dance.

Stephen Page invited me to join Bangarra Dance Theatre in 1994. Transitioning from NYCB to working with Bangarra was one of my most memorable moments in dance. I loved my time with the company. I felt a natural affinity to the work and environment. And just like with George Balanchine, I discovered that one of Stephen Page’s extraordinary traits is his musicality.

My favourite work to perform was Ochres (1994); I was a part of the original cast. Djakapurra (Munyarryun) was my partner - a NYCB girl dancing with a traditional man!

Also, we did an incredible remote 'backyard' tour (now called a Return to Country tour) around the time when Bangarra was first finding its feet – very early 1990s – with David (Page), Russell (Page), Stephen (Page), Cheryl Stone and Aku Kadogo through the centre of Australia and to all the remote Aboriginal communities along the way. Wow! This was one of the best tours I’ve done - and there have been many! I remember being so humbled by the beauty and abundance, both with its people and land!

The only difficulty I felt was that, at the end of the day, I was not an Indigenous Australian … how could I really understand? However, my sense of respect is undeniable and unwavering.

I remember being so humbled by the beauty and abundance, both with its people and land!

Bangarra, with Stephen as its director, has remained completely committed to its Indigenous roots while striving to improve and, as always, achieve a high standard of excellence.

Most recently, I love the new fresh energy in Bangarra. I look forward to seeing how this intake of talented, ambitious and enthusiastic dancers grow. It’s exciting!

Article by Yolande Brown