Traditional dance lives on through performance

INDIA: A classical 'odissi' dancer at the Ananta Vasudeva, a Hindu temple, enjoys performing the tradional dance for spectators. Photo: Shutterstock.
INDIA: A classical 'odissi' dancer at the Ananta Vasudeva, a Hindu temple, enjoys performing the tradional dance for spectators. Photo: Shutterstock.

ACROSS the globe, traditional or folk dancing is used to perpetuate culture, enable storytelling and create social connection.

From the oldest surviving, classical performance by women in eastern India, called odissi to the indlamu dance in South Africa and the well-known haka performed by the Maori people of New Zealand, dancing has long been a source of ritual, celebration and entertainment for participants and onlookers alike.

In Australia, many European settlers brought their love of dance with them, establishing what we know today as the bush dance.

Dances such as the Pride of Erin, Strip the Willow and The Waves of Bondi were the go-to toe-tappers at relaxed social events, with many of the dances derived from styles from England and Ireland.

AUSTRALIA: A group of Yugambeh Aboriginal warriors perform a ritual using dance in Queensland wearing traditional paint and costumes. Photo: Shutterstock

AUSTRALIA: A group of Yugambeh Aboriginal warriors perform a ritual using dance in Queensland wearing traditional paint and costumes. Photo: Shutterstock

In contrast to the European style of dancing, which was much more of an excuse to socialise, Indigenous tribes in Australia developed ceremonial dancing as part of their unique and ancient culture.

Varying from tribe to tribe, Indigenous dancing is often teamed with ritual and song, along with beautifully elaborate body paintings, decorations and costumes, such as headdresses.

Referred to most commonly as a 'caribberie' or 'corroboree', Indigenous performers gather together to engage with Dreamtime through song and dance in public - differentiating from ceremonial dance which is only carried out at important events where guests have been invited.

Ceremonies are also held as part of initiation as young Indigenous people are welcomed into adulthood by being trained in the knowledge and skills of their particular tribe - this often involves learning dance, stories and sacred songs.

Each tribe across Australia has their own word to refer to their traditional dance events with the dances at each occasion involving structured choreography, requiring knowledge of local culture and skill in order for the performers to engage and tell a specific story to the audience.

EAST AFRICA: Travellers to Tanzania and Kenya may have seen the 'adamu' or 'jumping dance' with dancers reaching heights of more than 80cm. Photo: Shutterstock.

EAST AFRICA: Travellers to Tanzania and Kenya may have seen the 'adamu' or 'jumping dance' with dancers reaching heights of more than 80cm. Photo: Shutterstock.

The body paint displayed during these performances is indicative of the type of public and ceremonial dance being practised - all the while helping to educate young children about their heritage and Australia's oldest culture.

The evolution of Indigenous dance has taken it away from the traditional corroboree to the world stage with many modern dance organisations such as Bangarra incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance techniques from more than 65,000 years of culture, into contemporary theatre performances.

These modern dance companies create their pieces on Country with help from respected community Elders - ensuring the connection to the land and people lives on for many years to come.

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