In its world premiere season in 2012, it was critically acclaimed and went on to receive two Helpmann Awards – the first for Best Ballet/Dance Work and the second for Best Female Dancer in a Dance or Physical Theatre Work (for dancer, Deborah Brown).

In 2016, Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Terrain is making its highly anticipated return to the stage.

“It’s beautiful to revisit this work, and see it being interpreted by a whole new generation of dancers that are coming through with incredible talent,” says choreographer, Frances Rings.

“It was my first full-length work for Bangarra.”

Terrain is a work inspired by Lake Eyre (now officially known as Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre), which, on the odd occasion when it fills, is the largest lake in Australia. Lake Eyre is located in the desert in northern South Australia. It’s the place of Australia’s inland sea.

The journey of Terrain, through drought and deluge, focuses on the relationship of Indigenous Australians with Country, and how the landscape becomes a second skin.

Rings discusses the genesis of the piece with Theatre People. “I wanted to do a work that explored the connection that indigenous people have to land, but really looked at that connection through the perspective of the indigenous lens, and how even though indigenous people might live in cities, towns and urban areas, that connection is still very important,” she explains.

“It’s a very visceral connection and it’s something that is very important to them. It’s a sense of belonging that connects identity and kinship and family.”

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Image from the premiere season of Terrain (Photo by Greg Barrett)

Rings is originally from the west coast of South Australia. She is a descendant of the Kokatha Tribe (through her mother) and of German descent (through her father). But she says that she was brought up with a sense of Country from both sides – her mother and her father.

Before starting to create the dance content for Terrain, Rings took a trip to Lake Eyre with the work’s composer, David Page, and set designer, Jacob Nash.

“We were fortunate that the lake had water in it. It was quite amazing,” Rings recalls.

“It was in this state of transformation. There was lots of active bird life. We met with some of the Arabana community, and with Uncle Reg Dodd, who became our Arabana cultural consultant. He shared with us his knowledge – what’s been passed down to him and his ancestors. It was amazing to do this with the wisdom from this man… [He] shared with us the richness of this landscape.”

Rings was certainly taken aback by that landscape. “It’s an abstract landscape geographically because it’s 20 metres below sea-level, so it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen or experienced and the colours are like that as well, and the sky is just endless. It’s quite a fascinating, spiritual place.”

When she returned home, however, Rings felt the story wasn’t coming to her, and she was concerned about her ability to translate her experience of Lake Eyre into dance. So she embarked upon a second trip.

“This time, the lake was completely dried over… and it was desert. It was a complete contrast to the last time I’d been there, when it was this inland sea… and vibrant with life,” she says. “And it still had that sense of richness… It still had this sense of ancient power.

“So it wasn’t until I came back that it all started to make sense… It was important to see the different moods, faces and transformations of that space, and really feel the sense of power that came with that.”

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Image from the premiere season of Terrain (Photo by Greg Barrett)

Rings is excited to be bringing Terrain to the Western Sydney community. It’s the first time Bangarra has staged one of its works at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres since Mathinna in 2010.

Riverside Theatres is a venue with which Rings herself is well acquainted.

“I’ve done a few works there,” she says. “It’s such a vibrant community. I went out there for the launch, and there’s lots of exciting things happening with the establishment of the new theatre company.

“It’s a very respected venue and supporter of dance, and it’s great to go out there. Hopefully, we’ll build a relationship to return again very soon.”

Rings looks forward to bringing Terrain to audiences who’ve not yet had the opportunity to experience the award-winning work. After performances at Parramatta, Terrain will tour regionally and return to areas around Lake Eyre itself at the end of the year.

“If you haven’t seen it, you really should,” Rings says.

“The design is incredible. It goes from salt lake through to deluge… There are all the different evolutions and transformations of that lake… It really is a beautiful journey through not only the eyes of the Arabana people, but also through many indigenous people.

“If you want to feel Country from an indigenous perspective, if you want to know what it means to us and why it’s so important for future generations, come and see this work.”

Terrain

Venue: Riverside Theatres – Corner of Church and Market Streets, Parramatta

Dates: 4 March to 5 March at 8pm and 12:30pm (plus Q&A) on 4 March

Tickets: Adult $59 / Conc $54 / 30 and Under $45

Bookings: From the Box Office (02) 8839 3399 or www.riversideparramatta.com.au

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