Posted by Pam Murphy
Theatre Kimberley’s Act Belong Commit Dragonfly Outreach Program has had a huge year. Over the past 12 months we've provided Arts projects in circus, dance, and animation on nine remote Indigenous communities and isolated towns; on the Dampier Peninsula to Beagle Bay and Djarindjin/Lombadina, and in the Fitzroy Valley to Bayulu, Fitzroy Crossing and Muludja, as well as Halls Creek, Lundja, Bidyadanga and Looma. The Outreach Program was mainly implemented at the schools during school time, with Looma community having a school holiday circus program. Four towns/communities were repeat Outreach recipients, and five towns/communities were new participants in 2014. Highlights of the 2014 Outreach Program include:
The Artistic Director and Outreach Officer had a field trip throughout the Kimberley at the beginning of the year, visiting remote communities and towns to organise the 2014 Outreach Program. From these visits, new partnerships were formed with four Indigenous communities, Muludja, Lundja, Bidyadanga and Looma, as well as a small town, Halls Creek.
Professional interstate and local artists were employed to work on the Act Belong Commit Dragonfly Outreach Program throughout the rest of the year, and volunteer emerging trainers were also organised for some of the upcoming projects. For the first time in Theatre Kimberley’s history a Head Trainer was employed over the busy circus season to oversee the training in town and remotely.
Fitzroy Valley District High School had a full four weeks of circus and dance workshops in May/June overseen by two visiting artists. Unicycling, acrobatics, hula hooping, diabolo, devil sticks, juggling and dance were all a part of the fun. The training culminated in a wonderful show with both the school and community in attendance.
The remote community of Muludja, twenty kilometres east of Fitzroy Crossing, was a new participant in the Outreach Program and had a taste of what it provides when the two artists visited their school for two full days to the delight of enthusiastic students.
La Grange Remote Community School at Bidyadanga experienced its first year with the Outreach program , with circus training over six weeks in May/June that culminated in a show. As Bidyadanga is the largest remote Aboriginal community in Western Australia, the school has a high number of students, up to 200, and it was a challenge on the days when there were close to 40 children at once. There was a spectacular performance at the end of the workshops and both the school and community attended.
Halls Creek had a week of circus in June. Artists attended the school and trained students in activities such as aerials, tumbling, hoops, juggling and diabolo. Although the mood was tempered due to a recent death in the community, the circus project put smiles on the faces of the students and their enthusiasm was contagious. The nearby community of Lundja experienced several hours of circus training when two trainers visited their school. The Outreach Program was new to both places and it was very well received.
Looma’s inaugural Outreach Program took place in the second week of the July school holidays. This project was different in that it was outside school time. There was initial concern that potential participants might be away, but it turned out most of the children were still in the community and very enthusiastic about the circus. The morning drive around the perimeter of the community to reach the school, with the truck full of circus equipment, turned out to be an excellent way to let the kids know circus was about to begin. Children came in droves and most stayed for the entire day. There was a show-and-tell by the kids for the kids on the last day. The locals believe the circus project greatly benefited the community during a time when there wasn't usually much happening.
Also in July, the Staircase to the Moon puppet show was remounted and toured through remote towns across the vast stretches of the Kimberley. There were puppetry and dance workshops for remote children, and Theatre Kimberley was promoted to the wider Kimberley community.
Bayulu Outreach took place in the last two weeks of August. Two artists ran workshops with each class attending once a day. Training in acrobatics, mini-tramp, juggling, hooping and aerials was provided. On the last day after the rigging had been taken down, all the classes participated in stop-motion animation with the school’s digital tablets. Because it was a short project, the artists decided to focus on skill development rather than a show at the end of their time there. The students instead showcased their skills in a show-and-tell for the school as well as for parents on the last day.
Over two nights in September, Theatre Kimberley performed its annual circus show spectacular. Interstate, local and emerging trainers focussed on rehearsals over a period of several weeks in the lead up to the performances. The shows allow the local community to experience the professional, high calibre capabilities of Theatre Kimberley’s Act Belong Commit Sandfly Circus. They are also a valuable way to earn much need funds for further Theatre Kimberley projects.
In light of the popularity of previous Theatre Kimberley annual circus show extravaganzas, a performance troupe was established to perform at local events in the dry season, e.g. at the Broome races, the Shinju Matsuri festival, and Derby MarshArt with DADAA. The performance troupe has the scope to include talented Indigenous children from remote communities in the Kimberley in its touring sessions, providing an opportunity for these youth to get experience and exposure in physical theatre.
October/November - Djarindjin/Lombadina and Beagle Bay featured a stop-motion animation project for two weeks on each community. Participants learned to tell stories through animating drawings using iPads that belong to the schools.
Excitingly, at this point nine remote Indigenous communities and towns have signed a formal Expression of Interest for the Act Belong Commit Dragonfly Outreach Program to be run in 2015.
2015 is shaping up to be another amazing year to remember! In the meantime, happy holidays and all the best for the festive season.