Goodjarga ensemble aces first tour

St Felix Goodjarga_November 27, 2015_016Clap, Clap, Clap ,Wooshhh

Clap, Clap, Clap, Wooshhh

Clap, Clap, Clap, Whooooo

Clap, Clap, Clap, Clap, Clap, Clap

What’s the magic word? Sasa!

Students in Years 3 to 6 at St Felix Catholic Primary Bankstown were among the primary school audiences that joined in a Torres Strait Islander dance during the first performance tour by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Sydney Catholic high schools. The ensemble toured primary schools from November 23 to 27 to present cultural performance We are here.

The performance is the end product of the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Catholic Schools Performing Arts (CaSPA) program’s inaugural Goodjarga ‘Growing in Culture’ workshop series. The program aims to grow students’ leadership skills, stagecraft, and connection to culture.

We are Here was co-created by students and CaSPA’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artistic Adviser, Sharon Zeeman. Each 60 minute performance consisted of a cultural presentation of dance, song and storytelling, followed by a Q&A with the director and cast.

The ensemble includes 15 indigenous students in Years 7 to 10 from St Ursula’s College Kingsgrove, Marist Sisters’ College Woolwich, Bethlehem College Ashfield, De La Salle Catholic College Ashfield, Clancy Catholic College West Hoxton, and Domremy College Five Dock.


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Year 9 student at Clancy Catholic College Alicia Syron said she chose to join the ensemble to acknowledge and embrace her Birripi heritage. Birripi country is north of Sydney and includes the Port Macquarie area.

“I am very proud of my heritage,” she said. “I am aboriginal, so it’s very important for me to embrace it. I’ve loved showing other people my culture. It has been a really awesome week.”

Jordan Luke, in Year 10 at Clancy, is of Darug country, which covers the Penrith and Hawkesbury areas.

“This is the first time we have done a proper theatre show expressing our aboriginality,” he said. “I’ve been excited because doing this performance I now have a firmer knowledge of where I am from. I liked the last dance to Briggs’ The Children Came Back, because it shows traditional dances but also some of the modern dances. It’s good for everybody to relate to.”

Alicia said the more contemporary Guthaumala was her favourite dance of the performance.

“I really enjoyed the meaning behind it,” she said. “Because we had the leaves in our hand, it had a lot of connection to land, which is how we are.”

The St Felix students watched and listened as the performers moved through a narrative that covered connection to land, language, welcome to country rituals, storytelling, grieving and the stolen generation. They then learnt Torres Strait Islander traditional dance Sasa. In it, participants sit cross-legged on the floor and perform percussive and rhythmic arm movements and chants.

CaSPA Secondary Archdiocesan coordinator Elizabeth Mullane said an extra day of performances was added to the students’ schedule to account for strong interest in the project.

“In selecting the students to be part of the ensemble we went out to schools and sat down and a yarning circle with them. The kids had very strong feelings about being proud of their culture, wanting to engage with it more and also wanting to share and teach people about it,” she said. “We’ve been doing traditional dance in traditional form, urban – a fusion of culture and contemporary – and Torres Strait Islander dances.

“They’ve also developed skills in general stage craft because there is storytelling. The students deliver a script that is interjected with singing and dance. They direct the piece from stage.”

The Goodjarga ‘Growing in culture’ toured  the following schools:

St Mary’s Catholic Primary Erskineville

St Michael’s Catholic Primary Stanmore

St Ambrose Catholic Primary Concord West

St Mary’s Star of the Sea Primary Hurstville

St Charles Primary School Waverley

St Andrew’s Catholic Primary Malabar

St Peter Chanel Primary Regents Park

St Christopher’s Primary Holsworthy

St Felix Catholic Primary Bankstown

St Charles Catholic Primary Ryde

St Mark’s Catholic Primary Drummoyne

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