Ochres Essay

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The artistic director of the Bangarra Dance Theatre, Stephen Page noted of the spiritual aboriginal dance of ochres, the following, “As substance ochre has intrigued us. Its significance and the myriad of purposes, both spiritual and physical has been the driving force behind this collaboration. The portrayal of each colour is by no means a literal interpretation, but the awareness of its spiritual significance has challenged our contemporary expressions.” This quote tells us that the traditional use of ochre within aboriginal culture is important and significant and the portrayal of each colour within the dance is not a literal interpretation but rather the portrayal of each colour does not uphold exact meaning but shows us contemporary interpretations. The work of ‘ochres’ was created by Stephen page, the artistic director of Bangarra dance theatre. The piece represents the cultural and spiritual significance linked to ochre within the aboriginal people. Stephen page incorporated aboriginal dance into the contemporary style to create a fusion which appeals to all to help modern society understand the importance of certain cultural beliefs to the aboriginal population. The use of aboriginal movements is often shown through the use of grounded movements, animal mimicry and angular body shapes whilst the contemporary style is shown through lifts, the flow of movements and also technique. With the combination and fusion of both of these styles Stephen Page and Bernadette Walong working with the Bangarra Dance theatre, an indigenous Australian company, is able to create a captivating work of art. Ochre is a traditional form of aboriginal paint. It is made through grinding rock to powder and mixing with fluid, traditionally kangaroo blood. Ochre is used in many ways to represent and symbolise various things and throughout the piece entitled ‘ochres’ it in particular represents – creation, death, passion and purity. Throughout the opening of the dance the first section also known as the prologue is titled ‘paint up’. Within this Djakapurra is cleansing the land before it is danced on. He then performs a way of ritual paint up which represents the way of the aboriginal culture. Throughout the ‘paint up’ section the colour of yellow ochre is used as it symbolises the mother colour and the earth colour as well as the beginning of the piece. As this colour is seen as the mother colour it could be interpreted as the protector and this is why Djakapurra is using it to cleanse the land as it protects for the journey ahead. The second section within the dance is entitled ‘yellow’. The main inspiration for Stephen page to create a section entitled this is female energy. The section is performed entirely by female with movements in relation to the way females act, work and live throughout the aboriginal culture. The colour yellow represents creation which can then be liked to mother earth, female energy and then to the creation of new life through birth. Yellow also represents first light and also a new day which is also linked to birth. The emotions of yellow are happy, joyous, calm and serene which are all linked back to the main non literal interpretations through childhood beginnings. The specific movements that show the use of yellow as a non literal interpretation include the cradling of a baby by all four dancers, which shows the link to motherly instincts, creation and birth. The cleansing of the body by the stream also shows morning rituals and the connection to first light and new day. The non-specific movements that show the use of yellow as a non literal interpretation include much of the floor work. The dancers came from the ground; they came from a connection with mother earth on a new day. Waking up as they start close to the ground the movements at the beginning of the section are slow and gentle and not rigid which is just like the colour yellow. The use or rounded shapes in their torso’s, arms and legs showed that...
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