A group of Orange Indigenous dancers will perform in the First Nations dance competition as part of the sixth annual Dance Rites Festival this week, a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island dance and culture.
The all-female Dyiraamalang (Wiradjuri for ‘leader’) Dance Group will join 27 other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance groups in the event, which coincides with NAIDOC Week and brings together more than 350 performers spanning generations, nations and clan groups.
The festival is usually held at Sydney Opera House, however, due to the pandemic this year it will be presented as a free digital event over four nights, from November 11 to 14, on the opera house’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.
Supported by Orange City Council’s Youth Services program, Orange Aboriginal Lands Council and Orange Aboriginal Medical Centre, Dyiraamalang was formed three years ago and is made up of students from Orange High School, Canobolas Rural Technology High School, James Sheahan Catholic High School and Catherine McAuley Catholic Primary School.
Aged between 11 and 18 they will be one of the youngest groups performing in the festival.
Orange Mayor Reg Kidd congratulated the dancers on their hard work and dedication in learning and sharing traditional dance.
“I wish the group all the best in the competition and urge the Orange community to tune in to watch the broadcast and support our dancers,” Cr Kidd said.
Orange City Council Youth Development Officer Katrina Hausier said the dance group was formed when a group of Indigenous girls showed an interest in learning traditional dance and had since grown in popularity, performing at many local events.
“They wanted to share their knowledge with the Orange community,” she said.
“They are taught by contemporary Aboriginal choreographer, dancer and teacher Jo Clancy, from Darug and Gundungurra country in the Blue Mountains.
“Jo has developed the dances specifically for them and they have different meanings.”
“Orange City Council Youth Services continues to support the group with transport, funding applications and booking dance performances, and all girls are members of the Youth Action Council.”
This is the second year the girls have performed in Dance Rites and the first year they have competed as a stand-alone group, performing as part of Jo Clancy’s Wagana Dancers last year.
This year’s broadcast will include two dances by the group, a traditional welcome and a ‘wildcard’ dance, that fuses contemporary dance and music with tradition. These were filmed at Borenore Caves in September.
Their welcome dance was performed to live music by Wiradjuri musician Shane Riley of Dubbo, while the wildcard dance was performed to the song ‘Stomping Ground’ by Northern Territory musician Emily Wurramara.
The dancers made parts of their costumes by working with local weaver Talara Croker to make armbands and skirts.
Dyiraamalang’s traditional dance will be broadcast as part of Heat One, from 8pm on Thursday 12 November, and their wildcard dance in Heat Two, from 8pm on Saturday 14 November.
Groups will be assessed on authenticity, reclamation work, use of costumes and revitalised crafts and cultural materials, along with fusion of language and music.
If the Orange group is successful, it will progress to the finals, which will air on Saturday, November 21, in partnership with NITV.