Coloured umbrellas spin and body glitter flashes as the four-strong ensemble flip traditional Yolngu moves into sirtaki, moonwalk and hip-hop, with a couple of nods to Gene Kelly and Michael Jackson along the way.
Radiating charm and playful energy, the dancers (Baykali Ganambarr, Yalyalwuy Gondarra, Tibian Wyles and Watjarr Garmu) guide the audience through a series of vignettes: Singin’ in the Rain (cue coloured umbrellas) Arnhem-land-style with a muddy monsoon in a tropical rainforest screening in the background; a moving solo tribute from Ganambarr to a former Djuki Mala member killed in a car accident; a street-dance mash-up featuring music from Missy Elliott and Technotronic; and, of course, Zorba the Greek, the song that shot the original group to fame when a mobile phone video of the performance went viral on YouTube.
Many of the dances are imbued with a strong sense of the comedic which manifests as clowning (a long-held Yolngu tradition) and some shameless mimicry. Interspersed among them are more serious video clips of the Djuki Mala community whose stories illustrate the importance of dance in Yolngu culture and the group’s remarkable journey from local-lads-with-talent to international stars.
While much of the choreography is commonplace, the dancers execute their moves with skilful precision and a boisterous charisma that permeates the venue and has the audience laughing, clapping and dancing in their seats.
This showcasing of Yolngu dance, from its traditional roots to its current form, is an impressive demonstration of its vibrancy and its continued relevance to the current generation.
Djuki Mala are a stalwart of the Adelaide Fringe, but this is the last time they will perform this particular show. Ganambarr explains in an interview with Scenestr that the group are currently working on a new performance which will include, for the first time, female dancers, as well as input from international choreographers.
The Djuki Mala star continues to rise!
Djuki Mala are at Umbrella Revolution, Garden of Unearthly Delights, until March 17. See more Adelaide Fringe reviews and stories here.