by Ying-Di Yin
Dance Rites 2019 Winners Announced
Australia’s fifth annual national First Nations dance competition, Dance Rites, has drawn to a close after an intense two-day competition on the Sydney Opera House Forecourt.
Over the weekend of 23-24 November, more than 350 dancers from 17 dance groups, hailing from the far corners of Australia including The Tiwi Islands, The Torres Strait, North East Arnhem Land, Cape York Peninsula, Central Australian Desert, APY Lands, Mid-North and Central NSW Coast, Western Sydney, Blue Mountains and Illawarra presented their traditional welcome, farewell and ‘wildcard’ dances.
An expert judging panel of Deborah Brown, Matthew Doyle and Waangenga Blanco assessed groups not only on the technical aspects of their performances but also their engagement with language, skin-markings and traditional instruments.
Dance Rites 2019 Overall Winner ($20,000): Muggera (Nations: Mununjali, Yugambeh)
Runner Up ($5,000): Miku (Nations: Rirratjingu, Gumatj, Djapu)
Best Wildcard Dance ($3,000): Meuram Murray Island Dancers (Nation: Meriam)
Rite of Passage Award ($4,000): Allkumo Malpa Paman (Nations: Ayapathu, Lama Lama, Kaantju, Umpila, Munkaanhu, Olkola)*an award to celebrate a dance troupe’s outstanding contribution to revitalising cultural knowledge and practices.
The weekend also consisted of performances from Native American champion pow wow dancers, Indigenous Enterprise, The Narli Ensemble featuring didgeridoo virtuoso and singer Mark Artkins and singer/guitarist Steve Pigram, electro-reggae-jazz international collective OKA and hip hop rapper and drummer DOBBY. Competing groups were also joined by returning Dance Rites 2018 overall winners Nunukul Yuggera.
Rhoda Roberts AO, Head of First Nations programming at the Sydney Opera House said: “This weekend was a testament to First Nations dance practice as a powerful way to celebrate and revitalise culture and customs. It’s amazing the distance we’ve covered here at Dance Rites and to witness the coming together of hundreds of First Nations dancers and performers from all over the country connecting to lore through dance, song and language has been truly memorable.”
Dance Rites 2019 Overall Winners - Muggera. Image: Daniel Boud
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Proud Saibailaig and avid cultural practitioner Aunty Goeynaw Isua facilitated the event and taught the class how to make Traditional Sop Sop; a vegetarian dish that is a popular feature at local ceremonies, celebrations and family gatherings.