There is a strong and proud tradition of song and dance in the remote community of Lockhart River on Cape York Peninsula. Lockhart River dance embodies traditional stories, history and cultural truths that are vital to the passing on of culture. Seven of Lockhart’s young people and three Elders showcased and transformed this tradition in Melbourne in September as part of the Wilin Spring Intensive program.
A very exciting partnership between the Lockhart River Art Centre, IDJA Dance Theatre, and the Wilin Centre for Indigenous Cultural Development, Faculty of VCA and MCM, at the University of Melbourne is seeing one of the oldest continuing cultures reinterpreted in unique contemporary forms.
Lockhart’s young dancers engaged in a week-long program of learning contemporary dance, acting, puppetry, mime, voice and sharing traditional dance with local community members. Lead choreographer and 2013 Wilin Artist in Residence Jacob Boehme led the dancers through a process of reinterpreting individual and collective memories into mime and then applied the new contemporary dance techniques the students had learnt to the creation of new work. The result was the development of an exciting and unique dance theatre piece set to be showcased in Lockhart River and beyond in 2015.
Lockhart Elders have embraced these new forms of contemporary expression. Uncle Lawrence Omeenyo, Elder, song man and dancer said, “We have so many dances… we’ve been doing them for a long time, the star dance, dance about hunting and collecting sugar bag, catching bullock and branding them, and the one about Yanthimini – a greedy olfella. Now we are doing modern dance too”. It is through his invitation to this year’s four Indigenous choreographers to Lockhart River in 2014 that this program will continue and be shared with the wider Lockhart River community.
17-year old dancer Franziska Omeenyo said of the week-long Melbourne program, “I get fit and I get the joy of dancing, it’s how I grew up, I just love to dance.” Dance may also be helping to build resilience in Lockhart’s young people. “That’s how we’re comfortable doing whatever else is thrown at us, through dance,” said Omeenyo who has now auditioned and been accepted into the Aboriginal Centre for Performing Art (ACPA) in Brisbane where she will study in 2014.
The trip to Melbourne was also an opportunity to share Lockhart’s proud traditional dance culture with several audiences including at the opening of the Festival of Ideas.
Skytrans continues to provide discounted airfares to the Lockhart River Art Centre, helping to make programs such as this one possible.
Images copyright and courtesy Jorge de Araujo Photography.