Dramaturg Alana Valentine on Bangarra’s Dark Emu

July 12th 2018

Photo Credit: Daniel Boud

  • Alana Valentine :: Interview with Lucy Smith on Mornings

Alana Valentine, dramaturg on the latest Bangarra Dance Theatre production Dark Emu, lets Lucy in on how to turn a history-changing work of non-fiction into a powerful dance experience.

Dark Emu is based on a book by Bunerong clan writer Bruce Pascoe, which challenges the common characterisation of Indigenous groups at the time of European colonisation as nomadic hunter/gatherers, and instead paints a picture of a people employing highly sophisticated land management, architectural and agricultural techniques. Alana says the book’s message is a powerful one.

“It’s a history-changing book… people read it and say ‘we’ve been lied to'”.

Alana praised artistic director Stephen Page’s vision and collaborative approach in tackling the difficulties inherent in translating a non-fiction account into dance. Many cultural consultants worked on the production, and traditional song and story from the areas represented were integrated; the team working, as is Bangarra’s MO, with the communities it seeks to represent on stage.

Dark Emu refers to the dark spaces between the stars, explains Alana. It encourages us to “look in a new way” and this production, in seeking to interpret the relationship that Aboriginal people have with land and represent it through movement, certainly does that.

For her part, Alana takes Lucy through the ins and outs of what a dramaturg’s role is on such a production. She describes the creative relationship with Stephen Page as a collaboration which evaluates and reevaluates the fidelity of the project to its central ideas and works on structuring those ideas over time, “assisting Stephen to get to the deepest part of his artistic vision“.

Listen in to the whole interview above.

WHAT: Dark Emu, Bangarra Dance Theatre
WHERE: Sydney Opera House
WHEN: til 14 July
HOW MUCH: $81-$101 (v limited avail)


Read more from FBi Radio