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Mother Turtle

From the moment a green turtle hatches and scurries across the sand to the relative safety of the ocean, to returning many years later to lay eggs of her own – on the very same beach – turtles face many perils during their lives.

By Kate Conway

Carelessly discarded fishing nets, hunters, predators and climate change impacting natural habitats are just some of the obstacles along the majestic creature’s journey. 

This month, renowned First Nations performing arts company Bangarra Dance Theatre brings to stage the life cycle and creation story of the endangered species in Waru - Journey of the small Turtle. This magical performance is Bangarra’s first dedicated children’s work. 

Inspired by the green turtle’s significance in the Torres Strait Islander’s totemic system, the show draws on the Kalaw Kawaw Ya language spoken on the region’s western islands – Mabuiag, Badhu and Thursday Islands. 

Director Stephen Page, formerly Bangarra’s Artistic Director, enlisted son Hunter Page-Lochard as writer to help bring the vision to life. An accomplished stage and screen actor, dancer and director, Page-Lochard got the call up thanks to a recent gig in children’s television. 

“He brought some great skills in terms of how to talk to children, how to talk to the audience of children, and that really was because he just came off the freshness of being part of Play School,” Page says. 

The father and son duo co-created the performance in collaboration with Bangarra Alumni dancers and choreographers, Sani Townson and Elma Kriss, drawing inspiration from the company’s back catalogue of works during Page’s tenure as Artistic Director. 

“I kept getting drawn back to a work we did in 2001 called Corroboree, an umbrella of three different works and one of those works was called Turtle. It was a much more contemporary dance form, so we looked into the songs and the stories from that work, and it became the inspiration to shape Waru, the children’s story,” Page says. 

“The great thing with Bangarra is all our works are great companions and inspirations for each other, it’s like Bangarra has this one serpent of stories that all inspire each other. It was really great to look into that world of creation stories, totemic stories and the relationships between land, people and creature.” 

Waru follows little green turtle hatchling Migi on a journey to learn about the life cycle of her people and the land and sea they call home. Watch as the stage is transformed into the lush, humid land and seascapes of the Torres Strait Islands through evocative lighting, projection and sound elements that bring the vibrant colours, music and rhythms of the environment to life. 

In Bangarra’s signature blend of traditional with contemporary, Waru - Journey of the Small Turtle is an immersive and interactive introduction to Torres Strait Islander culture for children aged three to seven years. Throughout the performance, little ones are invited to join the fun from their seats, learning traditional language, songs and culturally inspired dance moves. 

“It’s not purely contemporary children’s dance, it’s storytelling from a First Nations perspective about the life cycle of the green turtles. First Nations creations storytelling isn’t in our education systems a lot, and I think [children] get an awareness from a First Nations perspective.” 

Delighting audiences young and old, Waru - Journey of the Small Turtle is a heart-warming tale about hope over adversity. Interspersing traditional cultural values of caring for Country with themes of climate change, little ones will love this performance that empowers the next generation to make a positive difference in the world. 

Bangarra Dance Theatre: Waru - Journey of the Small Turtle 
WHEN THU 9 & FRI 10 NOV, 9.30AM | THU 9 NOV, 5PM
COST $25 | $20 MEMB

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