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Bangarra Jasmin Sheppard and Thomas GreenfieldMovement And Intention

This year sees a celebration of the 25th year of the Bangarra Dance Theatre with their latest production, Patyegarang. It marks only the fourth time a non-indigenous dancer has taken to the stage with the company. We spoke to dancer Thomas Greenfield about this honour, and how it was to perform in this tale about first contact between two cultures.

Patyegarang is Bangarra’s premier work this year. It highlights the communication and meeting of Patyegarang, a woman of the Eora nation, and Lieutenant Dawes, a member of the First Fleet, at first contact. The story is drawn out of the diaries of Lieutenant Dawes that were rediscovered in 1972. In these diaries he documented the Eora language. Through this documentation of the language and his diaries, they found out that a real principle influence for his grasp of the language was through this woman. The information most people have is about Dawes, through his documentation and writing, but this is really the story about the woman. Who she was in the Eora nation and how special she was to be chosen (or invested enough) to meet this white man that had come to the country, and not just share her culture, but to exchange it and have this neutral meeting. It’s really a celebration of this woman Patyegarang and also a reclaiming of pride that the Eora nation has about getting their language back.

“Stephen Page (Bangarra’s Artistic Director) is an incredible story teller. He structures the story through dance and physical communication of his ensemble. Dance is a really hard medium in which to express the concept of sound. When something is moving you contrive your own ideas from it. The movement and seeing physical bodies in space, you can already grasp that, because you’re a physical body moving in space so you already understand the medium being used. It is the physicality of the human form. I think that is why dance is so understandable.”

With Patyegarang, before even starting creating movements Page’s approach was to “…seed his dancers with intention. So their movements come from that investment and they form direct action. Without intention you are not going to see powerful dance, rather virtuosic movement, which is something altogether different.”

It is a philosophy that gelled well with Greenfield’s own experience. With a background of sports, hip hop and krump, Greenfield was somewhat late to approaching dance professionally. As part of his Bachelor’s placement he spent a couple of weeks learning from Bangarra during their 20 year retrospective, Fire. “It allows me to access the background I came from a lot more. I try to stay true to the raw background I have. It’s another thing I respect about Bangarra, their dance comes from a heritage and a reality of movement, it’s very grounded and angular. There is no forced movement, it is natural shapes that the body finds rather than a forced form. “


Patyegarang runs at the State Theatre Centre from July 30 – August 2. For session times and tickets, go to



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