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Bangarra: OUR land, people, stories

Heather Wallace

His dancing career may have taken him far from Canberra 10 years ago, but when Luke Currie-Richardson asks about the weather, you know he is still a local boy at heart.

Talking about the snowfall last week is a good icebreaker (pardon the pun). When I mention the snow he laughs and says Bangarra’s cast thought Sydney was cold! So when Bangarra comes to Town on 28 July, we’ll need to give them a big heart-warming welcome.


Luke Currie Richardson

Bangarra is all about heart, something that is obvious when talking to Luke. Dedicated to protecting and passing on Indigenous culture, the company is touring a triple bill titled OUR: land, people, stories. Three stand-alone pieces each tell a unique story.

Macq, choreographed by Jasmin Sheppard, shows a different historical perspective on Lachlan Macquarie, colonial governor of New South Wales. It is emotional and political, about an 1816 event that decimated the Aboriginal community around Sydney.

A hint of the confronting story to come is in the cast listing notes, with Luke as one of the “bodies in the tree”. Luke describes the silence at the end of the performance, with audiences not sure whether to applaud. “They are hesitant and the silence sounds awkward, but it’s an honest and respectful reaction,” he says.


Not only is the subject matter powerful, the piece is emotional for another reason. Its music was composed by David Page, the talented musician and brother of Bangarra’s artistic director Stephen Page, who passed away in April. “David composed the music for Macq in 2013, my second year with the company,” Luke says. “It’s tough without David. As Stephen has said we don’t move as one, we move as one mob. This is my family away from my family.”

Family is the core of the second piece of the tour, Miyagan.

Meaning “our family”, it maps the cultural heritage of the Wiradjuri people from New South Wales. Dancers Beau Dean Riley Smith and Daniel Riley created it after meeting at Bangarra and discovering they share a great-grandfather. Against music by ARIA award winner Paul Mac, they explore their family tree and the Aboriginal kinship system. The third piece, Nyapanyapa by Stephen Page, is inspired by the life and work of artist Nyapanyapa Yunupingu from North East Arnhem Land.


Luke performs in each of the three pieces. “I’ve always wanted to represent my culture, be it on basketball court, football field or dance stage,” he says. Luke started dancing in Canberra to learn about his own heritage. “I was performing traditional Torres Strait dances from the age of 11, trying to grasp any culture I could find.”

Originally interested in a basketball career, he tried out for local youth dance company QL2, which he describes as “being thrown into the deep end to see if I could survive.” He explains that changing his mindset from being a sportsman to an artist was particularly hard, as well as adapting his athletic frame to the lithe moves of a dancer.

“Art is an interesting world, I’m still navigating it, 50 different people can see the same thing and get 50 different stories. For me going from basketball to dance is about chasing a dream. No matter how small it’s possible. Dreams are your own, no one can take it but not one can give it to you either.” Luke credits Canberra’s QL2 and its artistic director Ruth Osborne with helping him make that leap.

For Luke being part of Bangarra is all about exploring his heritage and culture. “As dancers we want to stay true to the ancestors. A few years ago Stephen Page said we’re not here for reviews, it’s about keeping our culture alive. I live by that.”

the essentials

What: OUR land, people, stories, by Bangarra Dance Theatre
Where: Canberra Theatre Centre
When: 28-30 July
Cost: Adult $45 – $65
Concession $35 – $55
Group 8+ $35 – $55
Under 27s $30 – $50
Find out more and purchase tickets:

All photography by Jhuny-Boy Borja


Heather Wallace

Heather’s career in arts and heritage PR spans 15 years, with highlights including working for Sean Connery at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and promoting Australia’s World Heritage places. Her blog, Myths and Misadventures, (, is about life lessons we can learn from the Romans. You can follow her on Twitter @Missmythology. More about the Author

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