Image: Carlita Sari

Burrbgaja Yalirra 2


Marrugeku is an unparalleled presence in Australia today, dedicated to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians working together to develop new dance languages that are restless, transformative and unwavering.

Marrugeku builds bridges and breaks down walls between urban and remote dance communities, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists and between local and global situations. Our works are created out of urgent and insurgent reciprocities, believing, on our watch, we face major change in Indigenous Australia and that telling stories together is one of the simplest and hardest things we can do.

Marrugeku is led by co-artistic directors: choreographer/dancer Dalisa Pigram and director/dramaturg Rachael Swain. Working together for 27years, they co-conceive and facilitate Marrugeku’s productions and research laboratories, introducing audiences to the unique and potent structures of Indigenous knowledge systems and the compelling experience of intercultural performance. Marrugeku’s performers come from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, collaborating to co-create each production. Marrugeku’s patron is Yawuru cultural leader and national reconciliation advocate Senator Patrick Dodson.

Working from our bicoastal operations in the remote town of Broome Western Australia and the urban Centre of Carriageworks, Sydney, Marrugeku harnesses the dynamic of performance exchange drawn from remote, urban, intercultural and trans-Indigenous approaches to expand the possibilities of contemporary dance. Our productions tour throughout urban and remote Australia, to other Indigenous contexts internationally and throughout the world.


Burrbgaja Yalirra 2 is a triple bill of short works curated by Marrugeku’s co-artistic directors Yawuru/Bardi choreographer Dalisa Pigram and Anglo Pākehā director Rachael Swain. Burrbgaja Yalirra 2 establishes other ways of knowing Country through portals of change that connect place through time and the presence of ancestors. Each of the three works evoke shadow worlds reflecting histories of relocation, cultural adaption and survival. Together they reconnect cultural lineages and embody longing, renewal, rage and resilience to share new ways to belong in a changing world. The dual world premiere will be presented by Carriageworks, Sydney 21-29 April and PICA, Perth 17-20th May 2023.

Filipinx performance artist Bhenji Ra’s mesmerising solo, set in the moments before, during and after a lunar eclipse, is co-choreographed with Javanese-Australian choreographer Melanie Lane. Ra takes power, dominance and resistance as starting points to channel colonial histories, epic narratives, and flora and fauna of the Philippine archipelago. Working through Filipino stick fighting, the sensory systems of animals and Ra’s own unique gestural hyper-expressivity, she invokes the transformation of the body of the mother as land and sea.

In uncanny constellations of the mythic and the mundane she summons the Bakunawa who swallowed the moon, a serpent-like dragon believed to be the cause of eclipses, earthquakes, rains, and wind. Ra’s voice echoes through time in a dystopian truth telling that warns of catastrophe invoked by failing to hear the wisdom of aunties, the agitation of tiny animals and messages contained within ancient stories.

Bloodlines channels the maritime histories of the Melanesian diaspora in a breathtaking duo by Broome based Aboriginal (Kunjen) and Torres Strait Islander (Erub/Meriam) dancer Ses Bero and Nouméa based Kanak/Ni Vanuatuan/Papua New Guinean dancer Stan Nalo. The work is co-created with Torres Strait Islander director Ghenoa Gela (of the Aubaith Clan of Wagadagam Tribe; Mualgal of Poid; Aragan Tribe to the West and Samsep Clan; Peidu Clan; and descendant of the Rebes Line and Tribe to the East) in collaboration with Anglo settler associate choreographer Miranda Wheen. Bloodlines acknowledges the brutal histories of slavery and forced transportation of South Sea Islanders by the British to eastern Australia from the 1860s. At the same time Torres Strait Islander families also moved between the islands and the mainland, meeting Kanak and Ni Vanuatuan workers and their families in the sugar cane plantations in Queensland. Together they navigated their linked but culturally distinct customs, dance, music and language. As descendants of these histories and in a celebration of the soft power of young warriors today, Ses and Stanley have drawn on the power of ancestral presence to explore how cultural memories rupture daily routines to remember places and peoples carried in spirit and in rhythm that are never forgotten. This collaboration was born of Marrugeku’s long term partnership with Centre Culturel Tjibaou, New Caledonia.

Fitzroy Crossing based Bunuba/Gooniyandi/Walmajarri/Wangkatjunka dancer and actor Emmanuel James Brown (EJB) reflects on the extraordinary life of his great grandmother, senior Wangkatjungka artist Nyuju Stumpy Brown, who was amongst the last nomads to walk out of the great Sandy Desert. Nyuju’s paintings capture her tactile, gestural yearning for home. Her longing for her birthplace Ngaparwarla is evoked in mesmerising animations by Sohan Aerial Hayes third generation English settler media artist with extensive experience working with Senior Martu Law Men and Women. Responding to Nyuju’s paintings and conversations with her family, EJB’s captivating movement language and character work, co-devised with Yawuru/Bardi choreographer Dalisa Pigram and Malay associate choreographer Zunnur Zhafirah, embodies generations of connection between dance, art and Country in the central Kimberley. Together they channel the survival skills of EJB’s ancestors as well as his community in Fitzroy Crossing today. Nyuju furthers Marrugeku’s ongoing investigations into new visual and dance languages that reflect and share Indigenous ways of knowing Country.

Session Times
PROFILE: Here’s What We Made
Thursday 8 June


Justin Macdonnell