Lipstick & Ochre - The Grey Panthers and the Yawulyu Dancers of Lajamanu


The Lawns, Frog Hollow Centre for the Arts, Darwin City

August 21 -24 & 27 - 31, 2008
Darwin Festival

20 Year of Working with Older Adults

Celebrating Tracks’ 20-year relationship with the senior women dancers of the Northern Territory, Tracks reunites two great local cultural icons – The Grey Panthers and the Yawulyu Ceremonial Dancers of Lajamanu. ‘Lipstick & Ochre’ is a journey into the spirit of our land, guided through life and time by the collective wisdom and experience of these two groups of women and their guests. However, don’t be fooled into thinking growing old is an entirely serious matter. This is a story told with a laugh, some earthy mischief and a spot of mayhem…

Background and Scenario

In 1988 Tracks’ Artistic Director, Tim Newth, toured with a small team of theatre performers to the remote community of Lajamanu, perched on the edge of the Tanami Desert, 940kms south-west of Darwin. It is hard to imagine a more remote community. While in Lajamanu, the Yawulyu Ceremonial Dancers offered to perform for the visiting artists in an exchange of culture. A relationship was formed, heralding the start of a long creative partnership between Tracks and the Yawulyu women.

Also in 1988, Maggi Phillips, Beth Shelton, Sarah Calver and Tim Newth created ‘Dance Feast’, a festival of dance performances in Darwin. With a strut, a wink and the odd gammy knee the Grey Panthers (older adults dance group) stepped onto the stage for the first time and made audiences take note that life wasn’t over yet, in fact, these 'oldies' were just getting started! David McMicken joined the Tracks team in 1992 for ‘Kurra Karna Yani’ with the Lajamanu community, and ‘Old Spice Club Cabaret’ with the Grey Panthers. Many other artists have worked with the Grey Panthers over the years including Joanna Barrkman, Merrilee Mills, and Julia Quinn.

Both the Grey Panthers and Yawulyu Dancers have featured in many Tracks shows, including: ‘Bodies Of Light’, ‘Old Spice Club’, ‘Dear Auntie’, ‘Healthy Wealthy and Wise’, ‘A Bowl’s Club Wedding’, ‘Ngapa – Two Cultures, One Country’, ‘Reluctant Retirees’, ‘Milpirri 05’, Milpirri07’, ‘Dear Auntie’, ‘Angels Of Gravity’, and ‘Fierce: The Meeting Of Olive Pink’.

Who can ever forget the “grey-haired, tap-dancing, bum-flashing Shirley Temple” from last year’s hit show, ‘You Dance Funny’? And in Lajamanu the biannual performance of Milpirri has united young and old in a festival-style event that has generated extraordinary pride in the community’s culture.

‘Lipstick & Ochre’ features, amongst other moments, a grab from the Grey Panthers hit show ‘A Bowls Club Wedding’, a celebration of love sparked by rivalry in the twilight years between long-standing members of feuding bowls clubs, the Top End Terrors (sexy bowls with bite) and the Mindil Monitors (romantics with a prickly tongue). In a world where team acrimony festers over generations of ardent supporters, tribal loyalties run deep.

The Top End Terrors

Oh we’re the Top End Terrors
We put up quite a fight
The other teams
Are old has beens
Coz we’re the team with bite. Bite!

The Mindil Monitors

We are the Mindil Monitors
We rule the bowling green
We’re hard and fast
We own the grass
We’re slick, we’re quick, we’re mean.

Tonight you will also glimpse ‘Fierce – the Meeting of Olive Pink’. Fierce comes from a distillation of hundreds of stories about Olive Muriel Pink. Now praised as a land rights pioneer and Aboriginal rights activist, in her day Olive Pink was labelled as ‘mad’, and the ‘fiercest white woman in captivity’. Miss Pink rode life on the edge, her passion more than once bringing her to the brink of death. For Gladys Napangardi, one of the Lajamanu women who originally performed in ‘Fierce’, Miss Pink was her first contact with a ‘white’ person. As one of the other women told us: “Miss Pink was a good woman, she didn’t shoot us.”

‘Lipstick & Ochre’ celebrates a true love of dancing and the colourful history of the Grey Panthers and Lajamanu Yawulyu Dancers, tonight with their special guest artists.

Creative Personnel

Concept / Direction: David McMicken, Tim Newth
Choreography: Julia Quinn, David McMicken, Trevor Patrick, Lajamanu Yawulyu Women
Text: Gail Evans, David McMicken
Original Compositions: David McMicken
Lighting Designer: Reuben Hopkins
Production Design / Art Direction: Tim Newth

Production and Promotions Personnel

Production Manager: Kelly Blumberg
Front of House Manager: Nicola Jackson
Stage Manager: Mary Fox
Sound Engineer: Matthew Cunliffe
Lighting Operator: Reuben Hopkins
Sound Operator: Sarah Davies
Stage Hands: Vera Tabuzo, Eugenio Hallen
Staging consultant / Prop builder: Chris Kluge
Stage: Don Whyte
Production Crew: Reuben De Waal, Sarah Davies, Correctional Services
Previous Costumes / Props: Louise Rieck, Ann Gibb, Dixi Joy, Gaye Hawkes
Previous Choreography: Sarah Calver, Nick Power
Promotions / Publicity: Fiona Carter, Gail Evans
Poster Image and Design: Mark Marcelis
Graphic Design: Narelle Sullivan
Photographic Documentation: Peter Eve
Film Documentation: Cutting Edge (Todd Williams, Katie Saunders, Ian Redfearn)


Lajamanu Yawulyu Dancers

Rosie Napurrula Tasman, Margaret Nungarrayi Martin, Lilly Nungarrayi Hargraves, Myra Nungarrayi Herbert, Biddy Nungarrayi Long, Biddy Napangardi Raymond

Grey Panthers

Carmel Alderson, Judith Allen, Lucy Aylett, Kay Brown, Hilary Bassett, Bette Chapman, Marge Duminski, Liz Gammon, Audrey Gorring, Ellen Hankin, Kathleen Harding, Jan Hastings, Val Hristova, Marg Lee, Lillian Mann, Judy Markwell, Elaine Marlow, Judy McKerr, Patricia O'Neill, Bev Paget, Judi Samuels, Shirley Somers, Janine Sutter, Gwen Varney, Punny Vegter, Maria Vlastuin, Mavis Waddell, Judy Weepers

Guest Artists

Dr Irina Haas Bina / Lori: Gail Evans
Gil: David McMicken
Strong Man and Miss Pink: Trevor Patrick
Male Dancers: Gerard Japanangka Scobie, Caleb Japanangka Patrick


  • Paint Up (Lipstick & Ochre)
  • Introductions
  • Grey Panthers - It’s Not Unusual
  • Lajamanu Yawulyu - Desert People
  • Frank Sinatra Medley
  • You Make Me Feel So Young, That’s Why The Lady’s a Tramp, New York New York
  • Milpirri
  • Contemporary Male – Japanangka Japangardi skin group
  • Traditional Female - Napurrula Nakamarra skin group (Red), Napangardi Napanangka skin group (Green), and Napaljarri Nungarrayi skin group (Yellow)
  • Spice Girls
  • Strongman
  • A Bowls Club Wedding
  • Fierce – The Meeting of Olive Pink
  • You’ve Got a Friend
  • History Repeating
  • Warlpiri Farewell Dance

Tracks 2008

Artistic Directors: David McMicken and Tim Newth
General Manager: Fiona Carter
Dance Animateur: Julia Quinn
Administrative Assistant: Ciella Williams, Gail Evans
Bookkeeper: Julie Ann Stark
Development Consultant: Suzanne Fermanis

Committee Members: (Chair) Jill MacAndrew, (Vice-Chair) David Taylor, (Treasurer) Glenn Bernardin, (Secretary/Public Officer) Traci Keys, (Ordinary Committee Members) Ken Conway, Nick Papandonakis, Donna Quong, (Ex-Officio Members) David McMicken and Tim Newth

Public Fund Trustees: Rev. Steve Orme, Dr Anita Toth, Paul Wan



Explore Further

Older Adults Home Page

Lajamanu / Milpirri Home Page

Iconic Tracks Works

Media Response

"There are not many occasions where it is appropriate to wolf-whistle at a senior – there are moments throughout this piece where it is not just acceptable, it is encouraged … Lipstick & Ochre is the Territory played out on stage, full of its contradictions, idiosyncrasies and unexpected and often rough edged Beauty."  Daniel Bourchier – Northern Territory News

"The patchwork of settings and themes is colourfully evocative: city and desert, lawnbowls and Breakdance, clapsticks and Frank Sinatra … A vivid statement that age is no barrier to public performance … leaves an aura of good feelings in its wake." Merridy Anne Pugh Northern Territory Writers’ Centre Newsletter

"Women getting gussied up for a night out is a tradition that crosses boundaries of culture, age and time." ABC Darwin website

Audience Response

"The representation of Olive Pink was amazing - the meeting of her and the Aboriginal people was incredible. One of the nicest parts was when we left, the Aboriginal women shook the hands of everyone."

"Your bringing together of the desert and urban cultures was yet again a triumph of entertainment and audience engagement over form. More correctly I guess it one of your unique forms … Not one person in the audience was unmoved."

"Visually spectacular (although probably not the right word - more romantic), wacky, funny, exquisitely breathtaking and moving."

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