“It’s magic,” Saltbush co-creator and choreographer Deon Hastie tells InDaily.
“It teaches the kids about Aboriginal culture, but also the parents, too, that come along to get that same education about creation stories, about landscape, about how Aboriginal people have a spiritual connection to land and animals.”
Since its 2008 debut in Italy, Saltbush – Children’s Cheering Carpet has brought the story of two friends and their journey across the diverse landscapes of Australia to children across the globe.
The idea for the show was conceived by former Come Out Festival (now DreamBIG Festival) directors Jason Cross and Sasha Zahra, who collaborated with the Italian production company TPO to add animation and projection displays to the stage.
The result is a playful and interactive representation of Indigenous people’s relationship with the Australian terrain, using visual art, dance, music and performance to tell the story.
“It’s such a simple narrative,” dancer Sani Ray Townson says.
“It’s a great educational tool for the young audience and they just get it and so do the parents. Sometimes the parents don’t realise that what it does is it brings them into the story as well.”
Sensor and infrared technology projects and animates the oil paintings of Indigenous artist Delwyn Mannix onto the stage, providing a colourful moving backdrop to the show.
“Delwyn did the painting and then they took close-up shots and transferred them digitally to add the animation,” choreographer Hastie says.
“There might be a lily pad that’s just swimming around and the kids follow it around with the directions to jump on the lily pad and not fall in the water.
“There are plenty of moments like that in the show. It’s a moment when they [the children] just think, ‘It’s magic’ – like, ‘How’s that even happening?’.”
After a successful debut, the producers brought the show to Australia, and later toured it to other countries including South Korea, America, China and Paris.
Hastie says he’s not surprised at its global success.
“We always said that it [the show] has got legs.
“Dance is such a universal language, and doing things like gesturing to kids to be invited on stage lets them know that they can come on and have fun.”
It’s this sense of fun that Hastie says makes Saltbush a standout Indigenous children’s show at this year’s Fringe.
“The kids get the chance to come up on stage and be a part of it and feel like they’re in it.
“A lot of the choreography is about those things – playing, using your imagination and just being a child.
“They [the children] are enjoying themselves throughout the whole thing and the parents love it, too, because the kids are loving it and are having fun.”
Saltbush – Children’s Cheering Carpet will be performed at Grounded in Victoria Square from February 16-18 and February 21-24 as part of the Adelaide Fringe, which begins next Friday.
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