• Sisters and performers Caleena Sansbury and Taree Sansbury with six-month-old Aya Lloyd. (Roger Wyman)Source: Roger Wyman
Our Corka Bubs is an Indigenous inspired production that is helping babies explore culture through song, music, dance and storytelling.
By
Laura Morelli

23 Feb 2017 - 5:09 PM  UPDATED 24 Feb 2017 - 11:41 AM

Gina Rings has been able to dance before she could walk. Ever since she was just a little bub, her first memory was of watching beautiful ballerinas on television and wanting to be just like them, but even from a young age, she knew they were different.

“I remember being in my cot and I thought I can’t do that because I’ve got dark skin, but I guess dancing was my calling.”

“Holding the attention of a child for an entire 45 minutes is so powerful... It also proves how this performance is able to entertain and engage.”

Since her teenage years, the South Australian from the Kukatha nation pursued a career in the artistic field, transitioning from performer to choreographer and continuing the journey, now as a program director.

Her latest project is a unique production that creates a special place for babies to explore Indigenous culture through music and dance. Our Corka Bubs aims to introduce babies aged two years and under, to Aboriginal contemporary dance movements, Australia’s First Nation’s culture and sounds as well as captivating storytelling of the dreaming.

After much doubt at first, Gina soon noticed the rewarding impact the show had on children.

“I didn’t think there was much potential to create something for this particular audience, I remember thinking ‘are these babies really going to retain this information?’… and I was so totally wrong,” she said.

“Somewhere in that psyche, the child remembers it – be it in their toes, the music, the sound, and the faces… somewhere in their mind it’s locked away, whether it’s the first experience listening to the didgeridoo, sounds of a clap stick or watching the movements of traditional cultural dances. All those elements transcend and children really do withhold on to that type of performance.”

Over the course of two years, Our Corka Bubs, inspired by Sally Chance’s This Baby Life, was developed in theories of early childhood development and Aboriginal storytelling. The performance is a lot more complex than it looks, despite being choreographed, it is an immersive production whereby the audience and performers are moving to both traditional live and recorded sounds as well as paying attention to the baby’s need to explore and be immersed in Indigenous culture.

The show also consists of Caleena and Taree Sansbury, who apart from performing together as sisters, also are working with their uncle Owen Love and Composer Heather Fran.

Gina says it was a difficult task to produce a piece with so many complex elements.

“The entire story is based on the river Murray, so a lot of the music is created specifically from the cycle of water. Its focus is on the movement and connection of Aboriginal people, the relationship with the lake and the cycle of water and its role as the giver of life,” she said.

There are five different elements of the entire production.

Welcoming

It begins with the parents and babies being welcomed onto the mat. Everyone takes their shoes off and sits in a circle with the babies in front of them, able to move around as they please.  

River totems

Is the research of different language groups and totems around the river and different motifs of the animals such as fish, kangaroo, emu, basically any specific creature from that area is created.

Songlines

The performers sing ‘In an ay’, a song in language with live percussions so children can interact with the various beats, musical sounds and rhythms as well as create their own sounds by shaking instruments such as musical eggs and clapping clap-sticks.  

Matching

Is a form of mimicking and mirroring the baby, the technique is called matching and it’s used in early childhood. The dancers copy the baby and automatically and the baby takes charge, knowing the dancer will copy them. So it’s a reverse thought process between the dancer and the baby and It gives a special edge for the baby to take charge.

Sing and choreograph

The production of a song called Sleep Baby Sleep, which is a beautiful lullaby from Queensland and it’s one that over the years, throughout even the 70’s has been sung by many different Aboriginal groups across the nation. It’s a well-known song that’s travelled far and wide. It is performed in Mgarrimbjeri language, an opportunity for the group to sing this lullaby in their native tongue. The group was lucky enough to have the Mgarrimbjeri dictionary, which was only produced about a year ago, so having this access to their own language was a special unique way to keep culture strong.

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The versatile production has beautiful cultural content from South Australia and exquisite dancers, but Gina says the most beautiful thing about this production is when you see it live.

“The interaction between the baby and performer, as well as having the parent observe that interaction is moving… The parents’ watching the child is another level of the performance in a creative space.”

There’s one thing that always manages to shock Gina after each show.

“Being able to hold the attention of such a young child for an entire 45 minutes is so powerful! It also just proves how this performance, so tight in context, is able to entertain and engage them for the whole production.”

Now after already getting a few shows out of the way, has Gina’s initial thought process changed? She says certainly.

“The more I got to learnt with this particular age group, the more challenging it became so therefore the more attractive it became.”

Owen Love has been involved in theatre for more than 20 years. Initially he started off as a diesel mechanic and was headhunted one day to perform in theatre. Despite being a mechanic, not an actor, he decided to give it a go and has never looked back. The multi-skilled performer can sing, dance, act and even help with other elements of festivals such as lighting and technician.

“I’m finding it quite rewarding in a sense, where we’ve got these kids attention and they’re listening to everything were doing for the entire set.”

But Love says it’s not the babies who are most impressed.

“The best thing is that the mothers are looking at us amazed at the fact that we’ve kept their kids quiet for the whole set,” he laughed.

“Our generation needs to do it - we have to be passing culture on somehow and how best then to pass it on to babies.”

The Mgarrimbjeri man has lived on the water his whole life and feels a special connection to the Murray River. As creator of the water storyline he says the audience is always able to take something away from each show.

“The whole concept about the formation of water and how it gives life to the fish and people is just a little dreamtime yarn that I love being able to give them and their parents. It’s a dreamtime story the baby can learn and then pass on to the future generations.”

But the audience isn’t the only one taking something away from the show.

“I feel privileged to be part of this project, being a 50-year-old male, I stand there and it makes the whole show because now we’ve got a mix of genders and I feel like my role is the dad of the group,” he said.   

And for those who are in doubt, Love says it’s a one of a kind performance.

“People roll their eyes, they don’t understand the influence this show will have - they will hold this for the rest of their life.”

Love’s looking forward to reconnecting with bubs once they’ve grown up.

“I’m actually looking forward to meeting these kids later down the track to see the influence we have on their life and to see how this helps them connect to culture,” he said.

“Our generation needs to do it - we have to be passing culture on somehow and how best then to pass it on to babies.”

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