Djaadjawan Dancers preparing for Dance Rites at Sydney Opera House

The Djaadjawan Dancers of Narooma are preparing for another appearance at the Sydney Opera House’s groundbreaking national Indigenous dance competition, Dance Rites.

The Montague Arts and Crafts Society is again helping with the costumes for the all-female dance troupe, with an ocean theme this year, using black netting over blue-coloured material. Last year the MACS members created a sandy-coloured costumes for the dancers.

“This year we want to to see go one better and get first place,” costume designer and MACS member Judy Glover said.

MACS members and the Djaadjawan Dancers have been working together on the costumes at the society’s new creative space at the Narooma Men’s Shed complex.

The third annual Dance Rights competition will be held at the Opera House on Sunday, November 26.

Dance Rites aims to safeguard and revitalise vanishing cultural practices – language, dance, skin markings and instruments – to ensure they are shared from one generation to the next. Dance groups from around Australia – many spanning several generations – are expected to join the high-profile event competing for a winner’s prize of $20,000.

Dance Rites is the community highlight of the Opera House’s annual celebration of First Nations music, art and culture, Homeground.

Dance video

More than 180 participants from 12 communities participated in last year’s Dance Rites competition, culminating in a stunning final watched by a capacity crowd, which can now be experienced in a compelling virtual reality clip Dance Rites 360°.

Transporting audiences to the very heart of Dance Rites 2016, the clip was produced in partnership by the Sydney Opera House and SBS Digital Creative Labs and is free to watch by downloading the SBS VR app.

“Dance Rites invites audiences to engage with language, dance, skin markings and traditions of diverse First Nations cultures,” Sydney Opera House head of First Nations programming, Rhoda Roberts AO, said.

“By engaging with culture, we preserve and celebrate it – but the experience isn’t just about the audience – participants reconnect and reclaim their personal histories through dance as well as build connection in their communities.”

John-Paul Marin, Manager, SBS Digital Creative Labs, said virtual reality and 360° storytelling provided new opportunities to engage with audiences, immersing them in other worlds and visual stories that drive an emotional connection through shared experience.

The standard of performance in 2016 was incredibly high. Koomurri - a dance group made up of members from the Yuin, Bundjalung and Gamilaroi Nations - was declared the winners after a hard-fought competition, receiving a $20,000 prize and the opportunity to perform at Homeground 2017.

The second prize of $5000 was won by Nupitjii Nupitjii of Cowra (Wirajduri and Gomeroi Nations), and a Wildcard prize of $3000 went to ALLKUMO Malpa 2 Paman from the Cape York area (Kaantju/Ayapathu Nations).

Koomurri demonstrated their commitment to the ethos of Dance Rites by sharing a part of their prize money with the fourth and fifth placed groups, the Djaadjawan Dancers of La Perouse and Narooma (Eora and Yuin Nations) and Mayi Wunba from Far North QLD (Djabugay & Walpara clan groups).

During the 2017 registration period, Rhoda Roberts AO and Sydney Opera House First Nations Associate Producer, Travis De Vries travelled to remote, rural and regional areas in Northern Territory and South Australia to work with individuals, community groups, Aboriginal Land Councils and local councils to engage participants and local communities.

Dance Rites is inspired by the highly successful Pow Wow Circuit in North America and Kapa Haka Festival in New Zealand.

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