The 2024 Adelaide Festival opens with the world premiere of Baleen Moondjan, a contemporary ceremony from creative visionary Stephen Page in his first major commission since leaving Bangarra Dance Theatre.
Inspired by a story from Stephen’s grandmother from the Ngugi/Nunukul/Moondjan people of Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island), Baleen Moondjan celebrates First Nations’ relationships between baleen whales and communities’ totemic systems. The signature elements that have defined Stephen Page’s career are all present in this work with dramatic storytelling, striking choreography and haunting live music integrated into a stunningly designed world from Jacob Nash.
Set amongst giant whale bones on the sandy shores of Glenelg, Baleen Moondjan tells the story of a proud Elder, a curious granddaughter and the day a baleen whale comes close to shore. The whale is there to catch Granny Gindara’s spirit and carry it out to sea – a farewell, a celebration, a poignant start to a final journey. Baleen Moondjan recognises the intertwining relationships between all living creatures and our connection to earth, sky and sea.
A former Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival, Stephen Page combines contemporary dance and narrative storytelling with songs in English, Jandai and Gumbaynggirr/Yaegl as he conjures up the elements of theatre in the dynamic outdoor setting of Glenelg’s iconic beach. His long-term collaborators – designer Jacob Nash, co-writer Alana Valentine, composer Steve Francis, costume designer Jennifer Irwin and lighting designer Damien Cooper – help to bring this vision to life.
Visually spectacular and beautifully told, Baleen Moondjan kickstarts the Festival with a celebration of our First Nations’ stories and culture, the bonds between humans and animals, and the sacred resilience of Country.