• Bangarra dancers at the Knowledge Ground launch. Image: Daniel Boud (Daniel Boud)Source: Daniel Boud
Bangarra Dance Theatre is sharing 30 years of performances with the world via a new digital archive.
Rae Johnston

18 Dec 2019 - 12:45 PM  UPDATED 18 Dec 2019 - 12:50 PM

The iconic Bangarra Dance Theatre has celebrated three decades of storytelling with the launch of a new immersive online experience. 

Knowledge Ground is described by Bangarra as a place for the sharing of culture, story and creative practice, and a place to reawaken the past and inspire future creatives. 

This first-of-it's kind digital archive features the company's award-winning work, songlines, and continual relationships with family and communities. 

Bangarra's Head of Design, Jacob Nash, told NITV News that Knowledge Ground is a celebration of the company and the stories it has told over the past 30 years that have drawn on 65,000 years of culture. 

The company's Artistic Director, Stephen Page, said the digital platform had "a vital role to play as caretakers of these stories" and the decision to share them with a global community wasn't one taken lightly.

"We live in this social, virtual, digital world. It was always scary to think how our stories would sit in that digital platform...We probably couldn't have done this ten years ago," Mr Page said.

Yolande Brown, previously a Bangarra dancer herself, was tasked with gathering the creatives, consultants, dancers and relationships formed by the company to coordinate the digital archive.

The digital archives give a closer look at every element that goes into a Bangarra performance, split into four categories: people, productions, places and journey.

Viewers can see the creation of set pieces and costumes, listen to language recordings, and watch interviews and footage from generations of dancers.

Watching how Ms Brown brought this knowledge together made Mr Page certain that going hi-tech was the right decision to make, at the right time.

"We can care for the integrity of our stories while they sit in this digital world," Mr Page said. 

Digital preservation to empower the future

Mr Page said Knowledge Ground also highlighted the importance of preservation.

"It means so much to our cultural customs... we preserve. Land, people, stories, language – we are constantly in this cycle of preserving. It's innate. It's in our First Nations DNA," he said.

"People have passed on, and their spirit and their legacy lives on, in that platform."

As Bangarra enters its fourth decade, the digital archive will continue to expand, and for Mr Page the platform's potential to influence younger audiences is the most exciting element.

"I just hope this next generation of Indigenous youth are able to tap in and really be immersed with the knowledge that's there. Where they can tap into their imagination.

"I just want it to inspire and empower their own creation story in them," he said.

As for Bangarra's future in the real world, Mr Page said the company is "in a really good place". 

"Its future leaders are here. We are ready to take on another 30 years." 

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