Music on the ‘Blak’ side

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IT’S not every day that the score to a dance work receives almost as many accolades as the dance itself, but David Page and Paul Mac’s composition for Bangarra Dance Theatre’s newest production, “Blak”, has been described as “a stand-alone triumph”.

Composers Paul Mac, left, and David Page.
Composers Paul Mac, left, and David Page.
“That’s good for CD sales,” says Page when “CityNews” catches up with him by phone in Brisbane.

Page is, along with dancer/choreographer Stephen and the late dancer Russell, one of three brilliant Brisbane brothers who originally formed the backbone of Australia’s most exciting indigenous dance company.

Dancer Hunter Page-Lochard
Dancer Hunter Page-Lochard
But Page was famous long before that, as “Little Davey Page”, Australia’s answer to Michael Jackson. His hilarious autobiographical show “Page 8” entertained audiences around the country with stories of that time, but these days he prefers to sit in the foyer signing CDs rather than take centre stage, and if anyone tells him he should be a dancer, he just laughs and tells them: “I missed my calling there”.

Page’s real calling is music and his original, subtle amalgam of indigenous and western music has underpinned Bangarra’s success.

For “Blak” he’s teamed up with one of Australia’s best-known popular composers, Paul Mac.

Purely abstract electronic music just isn’t Page’s kind of music and he says: “Sometimes I do use weird sounds, but not too much or it gets boring”.

Bangarra dancers Yolande Brown, Deborah Brown and Nicola Sabatino. Photo by Greg Barrett
Bangarra dancers Yolande Brown, Deborah Brown and Nicola Sabatino. Photo by Greg Barrett
“My music is more tuneful. That abstract music is all right, but don’t forget we are Bangarra Dance Theatre, not just a dance company.

“We like to tell stories, to take people on a journey and I think it’s important to keep to that genre.”

The music, he believes, unifies the whole program, which is broken down into three parts under the general title “Blak”.

The first section, choreographed by former Canberran Daniel Riley McKinley, deals with men’s initiation rituals and is more abstract.

The second section, “Yearning”, choreographed by his brother, is “very theatrical… it tells women’s stories.

“It’s about their longing and the women’s spirit in surviving abuse,” he says.

Dancer Deborah Brown. Photo Greg Barrett
Dancer Deborah Brown. Photo Greg Barrett
Page’s favourite part is called “Unearthed”, with seven women sitting exposed and vulnerable in a row of chairs .

The final piece, where Stephen and Riley McKinley collaborate, is called “Keepers” – both men’s and women’s – and to family relationships, sister and brother, husband and wife, grandparent and grandchild.

“It’s our homage to tradition,” Page says.

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