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Waŋa: Spirit

At the moment of death, according to Yolŋu, waŋa (spirit) takes a journey that follows the sunset and the morning star back to the east, where it is meant to be.

By Kate Conway

The latest work from NT Dance Company’s Artistic Director, and Larrakia man, Gary Lang, explores this pilgrimage in a performance featuring classical ballet choreography and a glimpse into traditional Yolŋu funeral rites.

In Lang’s signature style of Indigenous ballet and traditional dance, two cohorts of dancers perform separately to portray the spirit’s journey, as interpreted by Lang.

“In the dance itself, the traditional dance represents the physical world and my choreography represents the spirit world and how I see that,” he says.

“It is like a veil that we can’t see. We are living in the same space as spirit, but we just can’t see them. It is only when they choose to show themselves to us, or when we are in a frame of mind to see spirit.”

Steeped in culture and inherently Territorian, the expressive story-telling style of the performance is designed to help with healing for any audience members touched by loss. Deeply spiritual, and at times joyful, Lang endeavours to allay any feelings of concern for departed loved ones.

“Everybody wonders, are their family members safe? What I feel is there is just pure love in the spirit world,” he says.

“I tell my dancers, what you do on stage is what the audience has to feel. If you exude love, they will feel love.”

With a star studded cast of local and interstate dancers including graduates from the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, students from NAISDA Dance College, and ballerinas from Darwin School of Ballet, the outstanding artistic collaboration is accompanied by a string quartet from the Darwin Symphony Orchestra, performing classical numbers by Phillip Glass and Bach.

No stranger to navigating haunting, emotive subject matters, with 2014’s Mokuy (Spirit) sensitively responding to youth suicide in remote indigenous communities, Lang is a master at intuitively weaving culture with the contemporary. Don’t miss this stunning, soulful exhibition of spirituality and dance.

Waŋa: Spirit
COST $38.25-$45

Photo: Paz Tassone

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