Bangarra Dance Theater

Last night, we went to see the Bangarra Dance Troupe, an Aboriginal dance company from Australia performing in the Budapest Spring Festival. This was the first time we had been to the Festival Theater at the Performing Arts Center.

There was a bit of a mix-up with seating. Our tickets were for the 2nd row, seats 7 and 8; however, the usherette told us row five. Scrutinizing our tickets, we could not find a five anywhere, but went obediently to row five and seats 7 and 8…until someone else claimed our seats. As it turns out, the first three rows are A, B, C and then row 1 begins. We were not the only confused ones, because there were Hungarians in our seats, and others that were in their assigned seats should have been in a box in the upper part of the theater. At least they speak the language, so they should have understood.

Staging was simple, yet effective. There was what reminded me of a giant mammoth’s rib cage. Smoke was pumped in from the rear of the stage, causing a haunting effect. The first dance was called “Very Old Things” aptly named as it portrayed the traditional culture of the Torres Strait Island people’s customs for hunting, fishing, celebrating the rain, and the power of desire and excitement.

More than half of the dancers looked as indigenous as I do, but this did not detract from the power of their performance. Every movement was breathtaking. While watching, I was wishing I had this on a DVD that I could watch at least fifty times before tiring of it. Their body movements were incredible, incorporating traditional dance with ballet type movements. Just imagining their muscle contortions as they danced has made as sore this morning as days of rehearsal.

After the intermission, their next offering was more somber, a piece called X300. Australia had an agreement with the UK in the 1950s to allow atomic explosion testing on Maralinga Tjarutja traditional lands, assuming they were uninhabited. The code name for the testing was X300. Symbolizing the joy prior, the dance starts out with jubilance, but the captivating lighting alters the mood conveying the bomb has gone off. As the dance progresses, we witness the islanders as they struggle for survival. Beyond the upsetting theme, the movements and costumes of the performers enrapture the audience to feel their pain, while at the same time celebrating the power of the body to espouse such depth of emotion.

The choreographer, Elma Kris, is a Torres Strait Islander herself. The works were amazing.