Bangarra has premiered its much-anticipated latest work about the legendary Wangal man, Bennelong. The bold contemporary dance production is a powerful interpretation of the first Eora leader who befriended Governor Phillip and took on European ways of life.
Wiradjuri dancer Beau Dean Riley features as Wolloware Bennelong and Daniel Riley as Governor Phillip.
Bennelong is Artistic Director Stephen Page's 24th work for Bangarra. It’s his first full-length production since 2014's acclaimed Patyegarang, and after the sudden death of his brother, Bangarra composer, David Page last year.
Page, who has gained wide acclaim for his rich theatrics and multi-layered narratives, tells Bennelong's complex and controversial story through key moments of his life.
"We are all Bennelong - forever trying to navigate our way through two worlds"
Stephen Page told the ABC’s 7:30 report: “I love Bennelong. It’s sad he spent 25 years of his life in this experiment time-warp.”
Woollarawarre Bennelong is believed to have been born around 1764. He is one of the most well known, mythologised, and celebrated individuals from the early days of colonisation.
Bennelong led his community to survive a clash of cultures by becoming an intermediary with the British invaders. Sadly, his actions came at a great personal cost. He was captured by order of Governor Arthur Phillip in November 1789 and was exiled by both his traditional and European communities. He died at Kissing Point on 3 January 1816.
For Page, taking on the production of Bennelong’s story was the right choice two years shy of the dance troupe’s upcoming 30th anniversary. He wanted to undertake the challenge of portraying the many interpretations of who Bennelong was and pay homage to his spirit, with a character-driven work.
"We are all Bennelong - forever trying to navigate our way through two worlds," Page said in a statement.
Bangarra’s Bennelong will be featuring at the Sydney Opera House until the end of July and will tour to Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne, from August to September.
Choreography: Stephen Page with the Bangarra dancers
Costume Design: Jennifer Irwin
Set Design: Jacob Nash
Lighting Design: Nick Schlieper
Music: Steve Francis
Dramaturg: Alana Valentine