The Power of Patyegarang with Waangenga Blanco

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I saw Bangarra Dance Theatre’s new work, Patyegarang, for the second time on Friday night and was once again blown away. It’s Bangarra’s 25th anniversary this year and to celebrate, they are sharing a story from their home base of Sydney.

It is so exciting to see our rich Indigenous history celebrated on stage, setting imaginations alight. In our culture, dance has always been an important part of storytelling and celebration. Bangarra’s work continues this ancient tradition, reaching out to teach and inspire new audiences and keep our culture and stories alive. It was wonderful to think that the love story we were watching, between Patyegarang and Lieutenant William Dawes, had played out in reality on the shores of the harbour city, potentially hundreds of metres away from the comfort of Sydney’s Opera House.

As well as seeing the piece twice, I also managed to grab a sneak peek of the show two days before it opened and caught up with dancer Waangenga Blanco, who plays the role of Ngalgear in the show.

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Waangenga says that Patyegarang is a true story of reconciliation.

“It’s a really beautiful story in that it shows what we can learn from one another. It’s about sharing in each other’s perspectives and I think these are the kinds of experiences that can sometimes be overlooked in storytelling, so I’m excited about it,” he said.

“It’s also nice to see how both the Indigenous and non Indigenous perspectives are portrayed in the piece. It’s not about demonising anyone; it’s about honestly sharing those experiences.”

A descendant of the Mer Island people and of the Pajinka Wik, Cape York, this is Waangenga’s ninth year with the company as a dancer, something he always dreamed of doing as a child.

“Growing up, I just always wanted to make people happy so have always wanted to perform and entertain,” he said.

It was lovely to speak to someone who is helping to represent this beautiful piece of history and this coming week, I’ll be chatting to the show’s costume designer, bringing a style lense to this stunning story.

New Sydney shows of Patyegarang have just been announced and you can purchase tickets on the Sydney Opera House website.

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