What does winning the award mean to you?
I am always so humbled when recognised for my creative professional being and I truly believe I have one of the most fortunate and privileged position in our arts industry. This prestigious award reaffirms the importance of our culture and our dance stories. Thank you must go to all the incredible artists who have worked by my side over the years - my brothers, my Bangarra family who are with me every day in the studio, and the many cultural consultants we have collaborated with along the way.
What are you currently working on?
We’re currently working on Bennelong, a full-length work that explores the life of Woollarawarre Bennelong, a senior man of the Eora from the Port Jackson area in Sydney. With extraordinary curiosity and diplomacy, Bennelong led his community to survive a clash of cultures, and left a legacy that reverberates through contemporary life. The work will premiere in June at the Sydney Opera House.
What is the best piece of career advice you would give your younger self?
Stay curious in your hunger for cultural understanding. Be open to all experiences. Don’t underestimate traditional family values and respect for elders –always look, learn and listen, they are the keepers of all wisdom. This connection will keep you grounded and strong.
What inspires you or has been the greatest influence of your work?
Preserving culture, preserving knowledge and maintaining the integrity of our traditions. Family gatherings in my younger years were spent with cousins that came off Country, and they were all great storytellers. I knew straight away that I wanted to be in the arts because my family were great storytellers: we always celebrated our culture at home through music, dance and song. These experiences gave me strength, power, values and the principles that ground work I create today.
My brother David was also a huge inspiration – the memories of watching him as a young pop star still stir the creative fire in me today. David introduced me to the great joy of performing and its power to influence and educate.
Can you describe the practical process you use to develop ideas/concepts for your work?
I want to create stories that empower who we are as people. When you know you have a responsibility in the performing arts to caretake traditional stories that are entrusted to you, your process must be mindful and collaborative. There is a unique balance needed when converging contemporary expression with traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories- the integrity of the story must be maintained, while also generating a connection with wide audience. Our works have an intimate lifecycle that evolve over years. Pieces of the puzzle are gathered from the land, communities, elders and our dancers: the heart and soul of my work. There are also a diverse number of clans of Indigenous people who have supported and nurtured Bangarra’s ideas, concepts and vision over the years.