• NAIDOC Awards 2016 Lifetime Achievement award recipient, Stephen Page. (Event Photos Australia)Source: Event Photos Australia
The Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre for the past 25 years, Stephen Page has made an invaluable contribution to the cultural and artistic landscape of our country.
By
Karina Marlow

8 Jul 2016 - 11:04 PM  UPDATED 7 Jun 2021 - 3:17 PM

Stephen was born the tenth of twelve children in Brisbane and is descended from the Nunukul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh Nation from South East Queensland. He attended Cavendish Road State High School, which later named a school house after their high-achieving former student.

He studied dance at the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) and graduated in 1983.

Starting his performing career with the Sydney Dance Company, Stephen choreographed Mooggrah for them in 1991.  The same year he was appointed as the Artistic Director for Bangarra, a fledgling Indigenous contemporary dance project which had been founded in 1989.

This year will mark his 25th year in the position. Under his tenure the dance theatre has grown into a major performance company with an international reputation, having toured North America, Europe and Asia. 

“I have been fortunate to have worked with so many inspiring communities, artists and creatives during my 25-year tenure as Artistic Director of Bangarra. It is a truly unique Australian company and I am so proud of everything we have achieved,” he told the Helpmann Awards after receiving the JC Williamson Award for his outstanding contribution to Australia’s performing arts industry in 2016.

“The stories we share are sacred and I feel privileged to play a role in the vital care taking of these stories, through the intimate weaving of culture and contemporary dance.”

The company has won numerous Helpmann Awards for their productions, which combine elements of traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance in contemporary performances, including Skin (2001), Bush (2004), Mathinna (2009), Fire – A Retrospective (2010) and ID (Belong) (2011).

Stephen has also been involved in other performing arts projects; he choreographed Rites, Alchemy and Warumuk – in the dark night for the Australian Ballet and coordinated the Indigenous sections of the 2000 Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies. He also revamped the Adelaide Festival of the Arts in 2004 as Artistic Director and has directed and choreographed numerous theatre productions and films. 

In 2008, Stephen was named the NSW Australian of the Year for his pioneering choreography work, his effects to bring cultures together through art and his role in mentoring the next generation of Indigenous storytellers and dancers. He received the NAIDOC Award for Artist of the Year in 2012.

He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Creative Arts by the University of Technology in 2015. Stephen directed his first full-length feature film Spear the same year which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Stephen has provided numerous opportunities for young Indigenous storytellers through his personal mentoring of young dancers and choreographers and through Bangarra’s youth program ‘Rekindling’. The program teaches dance and culture to thousands of school students from disadvantaged parts of Australia through workshops and state-based performing arts showcases.

Choreographing his 23rd work for Bangarra in June 2016, Stephen has made an invaluable contribution to the cultural life of our nation and to the advancement of Indigenous people in the arts. 

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