• Koomurri Dancers, the First Prize receipts of Dance Rites. (NITV)Source: NITV
Experience the electrifying traditional dances of the Yuin, Bundjalung and Gomeroi Nations in 360 video.
Luke Briscoe

8 Jun 2017 - 2:32 PM  UPDATED 8 Jun 2017 - 2:49 PM

Preserving and maintaining language and culture has always been at the heart of Indigenous innovation. In recent times, we’ve seen technology being used to digitise culture and now with the latest 360° capabilities, Indigenous stories are much more immersive and engaging.

Mobile media in particular, has created a platform for mass communications changing the way humans both, communicate and access information. It’s estimated that 43 per cent of the world’s population own a smartphone and the global consumption of these devices is on the increase. Additionally, 2.3 billion people worldwide are on social networks with 1 billion people visiting the YouTube site every month.

Today, the United Nations consider the Internet a human right with many calling it a ‘major human achievement’ since the industrial revolution - so it’s no wonder why our Indigenous communities are using it to pass on their ancient knowledge.

This week SBS/NITV launches Dance Rites 360°, an omniview technology experience showcasing the 2016 finalists of Australia’s annual Indigenous dance competition.

Dance Rites, a groundbreaking Indigenous dance competition hosted by the Sydney Opera House, aims to safeguard and revitalise vanishing cultural practices – language, dance, skin markings and instruments – to ensure they are shared from one generation to the next.

More than 180 participants from 12 communities across the country participated in last year’s Dance Rites event, culminating in a stunning final, which can now be experienced in a compelling virtual reality clip Dance Rites 360°.

Sydney Opera House Head of First Nations Programming, Rhoda Roberts AO, said,

“Dance Rites invites audiences to engage with language, dance, skin markings and traditions of diverse First Nations cultures. By engaging with culture, we preserve and celebrate it – but the experience isn’t just about the audience – participants reconnect and reclaim their personal histories through dance as well as build connection in their communities.”

“By engaging with culture, we preserve and celebrate it – but the experience isn’t just about the audience – participants reconnect and reclaim their personal histories through dance as well as build connection in their communities.”

John-Paul Marin, Manager, SBS Digital Creative Labs, said,

“Virtual reality and 360° storytelling provides new opportunities to engage with audiences, immersing them in other worlds and visual stories that drive an emotional connection through shared experience.”

The standard of performance in 2016 was incredibly high. Koomurri - a dance group made up of members from the Yuin, Bundjalung and Gamilaroi Nations - were declared the winners after a hard-fought clash, taking away the $20,000 prize and the opportunity to perform at Homeground 2017. The second prize of $5,000 was won by Nupitjii Nupitjii of Cowra (Wirajduri and Gomeroi Nations), and a wildcard prize of $3,000 went to ALLKUMO Malpa Paman from the Cape York area (Kaantju/Ayapathu Nations). Koomurri demonstrated their commitment to the ethos of Dance Rites by sharing a part of their prize money with the fourth and fifth placed groups, the Djaadjawan Dancers of La Perouse (Eora and Yuin Nations) and Mayi Wunba from Far North QLD (Djabugay & Walpara clan groups).

During the 2017 registration period, Rhoda Roberts AO and Sydney Opera House First Nations Associate Producer, Travis De Vries will travel to remote, rural and regional areas in Northern Territory and South Australia to work with individuals, community groups, Aboriginal Land Councils and local councils to engage participants and local communities.

Dance Rites is inspired by the highly successful Pow Wow Circuit in North America and Kapa Haka Festival in New Zealand.

Transporting audiences to the very heart of Dance Rites 2016, the clip was produced in partnership by the Sydney Opera House and SBS Digital Creative Labs and is free to watch by downloading the SBS VR app.

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