The full house was buzzing. The audience had gathered for just one thing, to see a YouTube sensation that has spanned the globe and compressed centuries of culture into one rather hilarious dance routine.
Apart from The Chooky Dancers’ signature performance of ‘Zorba the Greek’, we didn’t really know what to expect from Djuki Mala.
The show opened with a performance by dancers from the Aboriginal Centre for Performance Art (ACPA), who opened the the show with their particular take on contemporary Aboriginal dance
Enter the Chooky Dancers. Immediately there was a sense that these Yolgnu boys from Elcho Island were holding out on us. They knew what we wanted, but they were going to start where they wanted to, at the very beginning. They had a tale to tell about a journey that began way back before time. The story of when their culture, which more recently has seen the edges of extinction, existed whole and unharmed. In bare feet, loin cloth and ceremonial white paint, their language is movement. At times fierce and at times menacing, they float through space and time. They clearly respect their ancestors’ spirits and are moved by the stories that created them.
Between dance routines a documentary of sorts plays, showing extracts from interviews with Margaret (wife of Frank Djirrimbilpilwuy who posted the now world-famous video online) and out-going dancer Wakara Gondarra. They reveal the touching history of the boys and what they’ve faced together
But things don’t stay too serious for long. The fierce warriors suddenly down their weapons and delight the audience by performing their now world famous version of ‘Zorba the Greek’. The audience laughs, cheers and hoots as ‘Zorba’ launches us into a crazy orbit around history, old and new. The culture of dance bounces from a magnificent Bollywood-inspired number to an uncanny impersonation of Michael Jackson. However every dance from outside the Yolgnu culture is given a distinctively Chooky bend, incorporating traditional moves with the modern ones. These dancers are not only highly entertaining but they are also seriously talented and diversely skilled.
Watching the two performances I was struck by the thought that whilst the Chooky dancers have come from ‘with-in’ their culture and worked their way out, no doubt many of the ACPA students are coming from ‘with-out’ their culture and, through dance and performance, are working to find their way back home. Art, performance and indeed dance are powerful ways through which we are able to ‘find’ our true selves.
The season at the Judith Wright Centre is sold out, however the Chooky Dancers are touring Djuki Mala nationally until September this year.
For more about the tour or about this wonderful troupe head to their website www.chookydancers.com