Book Launch: Rachael Swain – Dance in Contested Land – new intercultural dramaturgies

Book launch

Rachael Swain


Dance in Contested Landnew intercultural dramaturgies

In Dance in Contested Land—new intercultural dramaturgies, Rachael Swain traces an engagement between intercultural dance company Marrugeku and unceded lands of the Yawuru, Bunuba and Nyikina in north west of Australia. In the face of colonial legacies and extractive capitalism, Swain examines how Indigenous ontologies bring ecological thought to dance through an entangled web of attachments to people, species, geologies, political histories and land. Following choreographic interactions across the multiple subject positions of Indigenous, settler and European artists during a period of intense choreographic development for the company between 2012–2016, Swain closely examines projects such as Yawuru/Bardi dancer and choreographer Dalisa Pigram’s solo Gudirr Gudirr (2013) and the multimedia work Cut the Sky (2015). Dance in Contested Land reveals how emergent intercultural dramaturgies can mediate dance and land to revision and reorientate kinetics, emotion and responsibilities through sites of Indigenous resurgence and experimentation.

To launch Dance in Contested Land scholar and dramaturg Peter Eckersall will interview Marrugeku’s co-directors; director/scholar Rachael Swain and dancer/ choreographer Dalisa Pigram to discuss Marrugeku’s practice of listening to Country and its implications for corporeal and visual dramaturgies.

Peter Eckersall teaches at the Graduate Center, City University New York, and is an Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne. His recent publications include The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics, with Helena Grehan (2019), New Media Dramaturgy, with Helena Grehan and Ed Scheer (2017) and Performativity and Event in 1960s Japan (2013). He has worked as a dramaturg for more than twenty years and is a co-founder of the Not Yet It’s Difficult performance group based in Melbourne.  

Dalisa Pigram is a Yawuru and Bardi woman born and raised in Broome, north-western Australia. Co-artistic Director of Marrugeku, together with director and dramaturg Rachael Swain, Dalisa is a dancer and choreographer with the company and has been a co-devising artist on all productions, touring extensively internationally, nationally and to remote regions of Australia. In her community, Dalisa coordinates and teaches the Yawuru Language Programme at Cable Beach Primary School and is committed to the maintanence of Yawuru language and culture through the arts and education.

Rachael Swain is a settler artist, born in Aotearoa New Zealand. She is Co-artistic Director of Marrugeku, together with Yawuru dancer and choreographer Dalisa Pigram. She works between the land of the Gadigal in Sydney and the land of the Yawuru in Broome. Rachael is a director and dramaturg of intercultural and trans-disciplinary dance projects, a scholar and a practice-led performance researcher. Since the company’s founding, she has co-conceived and directed many of Marrugeku’s productions, which have toured throughout remote and urban Australia and around the world.

Rachel Fensham – ‘Your white meat is DONE!’: animation and the future in Nakkiah Liu’s Blackie Blackie Brown


Rachel Fensham

University of Melbourne

‘Your white meat is DONE!’: animation and the future in Nakkiah Liu’s Blackie Blackie Brown

Indigenous theatre is becoming mainstream, with shows written, produced and directed by Indigenous writers and directors regularly on television and in our major theatres. And as a result there is a diversification of the genres, concerns, characters and narratives being presented even as slow steps are taken towards any political shift in the reality of outcomes for indigenous Australians. How then might the aesthetics of Indigenous theatre in Australia contribute to a decolonising of the future, one of the conference provocations? 

Utilising black performance theory (Moten, DeFrantz and Gonzalez) and the imaginative potentiality of Afro-futurism (Eshun and Womack), this paper examines the animation of a decolonised future in Nakkiah Liu’s work, Blackie Blackie Brown (2018 and 2019). The paper arises from my thinking about the role that movement plays as a form of animation in performance for a forthcoming book. Animation, in the words of philosopher Jeff Malpas, has a double action, of seeming to move and ‘being seen to move in the movement’. In analysis of Blackie Blackie Brown, I argue that this double movement enables indigenous theatre to move away from the oppressive race relations of the past and of everyday reality in white Australia, towards a future that is seen from a stance in which that real is obliterated. Drawing comparisons with the artworks of Brook Andrew, Blackie Blackie Brown thus breaks new ground in its reach towards a form of theatre that borrows from popular culture, science fiction and fantasy to create a decolonised, fragmented and tensile, yet absurd and funny, representation of a future Australia. 

Malpas. J. (2014). ‘With a Philosopher’s Eye: a ‘Naïve’ View on Animation’, Animation: an interdisciplinary journal, Vol. 9 (1): 65-79. 

Rachel Fensham is Director of the Digital Studio, and a Professor of Dance and Theatre (Melbourne). With a track record in curating performance archives, most recently the Theatre and Dance Platform, she has recently developed CIRCUIT: a mapping tool for the ARC project, Creative Convergence: Enhancing Impact in Regional Theatre for Young People. She has a forthcoming book with Bloomsbury, entitled Movement in the Theory of Theatre Studies series, and is also series co-editor for New World Choreographies (Palgrave).