Dorethea Randall Indigenous Residency
Throughout the year, 1992
This was the first year we received funding for an Indigenous Artist in Residence position, for which we advertised nationally. A grant from the Aboriginal Arts Committee of the Australia Council for the Arts enabled us to employ Dorethea Randall for a period of nine weeks. We requested a four month residency that would enable the artists to link into several indigenous events such as NAIDOC week, a residency in Lajamanu, work on Tin Can with Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre as well as perform in a season of new professional dance works.
It was agreed with the artist that she would create a major choreography for the Local Troupe Season, Flying Off the Edge, as well as perform in other people’s new works, take a series of community classes and work in several schools, and work on our community performance of Tracks and Clusters. Dorethea requested time to work on her own choreography and to work with David so she could create a solo on him.
Dorethea had founded an Indigenous dance group in Canberra called Gloworms. It was a children’s group that provided her with the ideal platform to develop her “fusion” techniques. Dorethea had a strong belief in teaching young people to head into a future. This made her an asset in working through schools, especially at Ludmilla primary. Schools Dorethea worked with were Ludmilla Primary, St John’s College, Nightcliff High, and Driver High (Palmerston) After Schools Program for Aboriginals (ASPA).
Dorethea taught a series of community classes in her own fusion style of Afro Jazz and Indigenous. This class was attended predominantly by Anglo people although it was intended to be predominantly Aboriginal participation. In hindsight Dorethea suggested that the classes were not in a venue familiar to Indigenous people, however we were unable to find such a place if it did indeed exist.
“Local Troupe”, a performance group created through the Brown’s Mart Community Dance Programme, was established for people with dance training as a way of providing a higher technical exploration. Within this group Dorethea took on a performance role, performing in the community dance performance of Tracks and Clusters as well as in the season of professional work Flying Off The Edge. She also took on rotation the Company Class which provided the local dancers with valuable insight into her technique and philosophies, and in turn informing her choreography. This was important as her choreography was created in a looser way than the dancers were used to. Rather than duplicating exact steps, Dorethea was after a feel and a style. Although this was at first frustrating for the dancers who did not know what they were doing wrong, it led to a very interesting work Dancing Images of the Dreaming. This work fused traditional and contemporary movement and provided a rare opportunity for non-Indigenous dancers to be involved in the different creative processes that Dorethea utilised.
One of the most valuable things in Dorethea’s residency was when she would actually dance herself. This was eye opening for all as we could “see” what she was on about.
As the first Indigenous residency, this created more questions than answers: Issues of tradition and contemporary, different roles of men and women, questions of who can perform the steps, sensitivities of urban Indigenous people as against the more traditional remote community people, protocols and the gaining of permission (not failsafe). The sensitivities of Darwin’s Indigenous people to traditional material is different to that of southern city counterparts as they are often closer to and still strongly living the lifestyle. One example we came across was the use of ochre, or specifically, the design used. Dorethea had been given permission to use the design from one group, and a local Larrakia traditional owner confronted us as to “who gave us permission to use her family’s traditional design." This led to a robust situation where discussion was around whether Dorethea, (as a non-local woman) had any rights in Larrakia country. This resolved when people realised that although Dorethea’s heritage is from Central Australia, she was in fact conceived and born in Darwin, and was brought up traditionally in Oenpelli, Arnhem Land.
Notes on Dancing Image of the Dreaming: choreography by Dorethea Randall. Dancers: Dorethea Randall, Lisa Campbell, Maggi Phillips, Sarah Calver, David McMicken, Berenice Franklin.
Dorethea states that the work was about half-caste children being taken away from their mothers, which is what happened to her own mother and is the foundation of much of her work.
The work was created in several sections:
- Creation. The movement vocabulary was founded in animal moves
- A solo by Dorethea.
- A quartet for the women representing Mimi Spirits. This was entirely unison.
- Solo for David McMicken, playing a devil spirit or “Mukoy”
- Another Dorethea solo – birth
- Duet with Dorethea and David about taking the baby away
- Finale: contemporary piece to Prince
- Classes for Indigenous youth
- Community dance classes
- Performance in Tracks and Clusters
- Performance in Flying Off The Edge
- Performance at Mixtures at the Mart
- Choreography for Flying Off the Edge – Dancing Images of the Dreaming
Dance Development Office: David McMicken
[Under Brown’s Mart Community Arts – Executive Officer Ken Conway]