Koomurri’s Manager and Kamilaroi Dancer Russell Dawson said that the win made the troupe feel deadly.
“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication from the whole family to do what we do, and coming to Dance Rites 2016 was brilliant,” said Russell.
The group is made of 10 members with the music of songman Cecil McLeod from the Yuin nation of the South Coast of NSW. Koomurri formed more than 10 years ago to share their love of culture, dance performances and to educate Australians about the diversity of Indigenous cultures.
The Dance Rites competition was held over two days, with 5 finalist groups from around the country, including Wiradjuri group from Cowra, Nupitjii Nupitjii; all-female group Djaadjawan Dancers from La Perouse and the Yuin nation; and two groups from Far North Queensland, the Djabugay nation from Machans Beach and Kuranda, plus the Allkumo Malpa Paman dancers of the Kaantju and Ayapathu Nations of Coen.
Festival founder, artistic director, and Sydney Opera House’s Head of Indigenous Programming Rhoda Roberts said that she was humbled by the experience.
“I’m quite moved, it’s a very difficult thing for judges to select the winners from dancers from across the country, said Rhoda.
She emphasized that with Indigenous performance being so diverse with many different practices, winners are assessed on how they connect with their old people, how they revitalize their traditional skin markings, the making of their costumes, on how they reinvigorate the crafts of their ancestors, and how the whole community approaches the event.
Winners Koomurri demonstrated their love of sharing cultures, saying it was more about gathering mobs for a corroboree. They announced they would share their $20,000 prize money with all the dance groups, so that no one went away empty handed.
Dance Rites is a pathway to the Sydney Opera House. Community groups from all around Australia need to demonstrate 3 performances: traditional, contemporary and a wildcard performance of innovative dance hybrids, informed by traditional knowledge.
Runners up for Dance Rites were Nupitjii Nupitjii and Wildcard winners were the Allkumo Malpa Paman dancers of the Kaantju and Ayapathu Nations of Coen.