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Cut the Sky


Is it a rock concert? Modern dance? A plea for environmental action and the rights of Indigenous peoples? Cut the Sky by Marrugeku, Australia’s preeminent dance theater ensemble of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, is all three. As soul singer Ngaire belts out tunes ranging from Nick Cave to Buffalo Springfield Australian “post-soul” music, Marrugeku’s “incredibly expressive and visceral” dancers (The Guardian) form a band of climate change refugees struggling to survive another extreme weather event. Moving backward and forward in time, Cut the Sky meditates on humanity’s frailty in the face of its own actions.


First Impressions
Saturday, November 17, post-performance
Alexander Kasser Theater
Join Dalisa Pigram and Rachael Swain, the artistic directors of Marrugeku and creators of “Cut the Sky,” along with producer / curator Vallejo Gantner and Jedediah Wheeler, executive director, Arts + Cultural Programming, to share your First Impressions after the show.


Marrugeku creates innovative intercultural dance theatre from the northwest Australian experience, where desert meets the sea, Australia meets Asia, and where cultures twine, fuse and morph. The company is under the artistic direction of Dalisa Pigram and Rachael Swain. Marrugeku was founded and based in Western Arnhem Land from 1994 till 2002, during which time it developed the groundbreaking intercultural and interdisciplinary productions Mimi (1996) and Crying Baby (2001) in collaboration with Kunwinjku artists and story keepers. Since 2003, Marrugeku has proudly created its contemporary productions in the land of the Yawuru people of Broome, WA. Drawing from the lives of people and communities living in remote northwest Australia, Marrugeku shares the memories and traditions of Indigenous culture and experience through contemporary dance-theater. Productions created in Broome include the dance, film, and karaoke work Burning Daylight (2009), the youth production Buru (2011), the multilingual dance and video solo Gudirr Gudirr (2013) performed by Dalisa Pigram and designed by Vernon Ah Kee, and most recently, Cut the Sky (2015). Marrugeku’s ambitious large-scale outdoor and indoor productions are created through long-term collaborations with artists from remote and urban locations, through innovative international collaborations, and in dialogue with Indigenous cultural custodians. The company utilises contemporary dance, traditional and contemporary music, circus, installation, and video art to create its visually spectacular productions. Works are presented in a variety of alternative locations from remote Indigenous communities to international arts festivals in Australia and around the world. Marrugeku maintains a rare position as an innovative contemporary performing arts company which practices in the northwest of Australia. The company conceives, creates, and presents its body of work wholly in Indigenous contexts and in remote conditions, and as such, responds directly to key issues facing those communities. Broome is an ideal home for Marrugeku to progress its central aims of culture making and culture mapping, and it is the Broome Indigenous community’s own particular relationship to place, forged by a complex and often painful history, that drives Marrugeku’s work.

Rachael Swain is a director of multi-media dance theatre, a creative producer and researcher. She is founding member and co-artistic director of Marrugeku, together with Dalisa Pigram, (1994 till present). She has directed and co-written Marrugeku’s productions Mimi, Crying Baby, Burning Daylight, and co-directed Buru (with Pigram). She was dramaturg and creative producer of Pigram’s solo Gudirr Gudirr. Her dance, circus and multimedia productions for both Marrugeku and Stalker Theatre have toured extensively nationally and internationally. Rachael curates and facilitates practice led research laboratories exploring new cultural pathways in the creation of contemporary intercultural performance. She studied at the European Dance Development Centre in Arnhem,the Netherlands and The Amsterdam School for Advanced Theatre and Dance Research (DAS ARTS). She has a PhD from Melbourne University. She currently holds an early career research fellowship at Melbourne University.

Dalisa is a Yawuru/Bardi woman born and raised in Broome. After completing an Advanced Certificate in Aboriginal Musical Theatre (1993) Dalisa performed in Jimmy Chi’s Corrugation Road and Bran Nue Dae (Cabaret). Dalisa is a founding member of Marrugeku (1994) and Co-Artistic Director since 2009. She has been a co-devising performer on all company productions, touring extensively overseas and throughout Australia with Mimi (1996), Crying Baby (2001), Burning Daylight (2006) (assistant choreographer/cultural liaison) and Buru (2010), which she also conceived, choreographed and co-directed. Dalisa’s first solo work Gudirr Gudirrpremiered in 2013 and has since played across Australia, Europe and at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Nouméa. Gudirr Gudirrhas earned Dalisa and Marrugeku collectively an Australian Dance Award (Outstanding Achievement in Independent Dance 2014), a Green Room Award (Best Female Performer 2014) and was nominated for a 2014 Helpmann’s Award.With Rachael Swain, Dalisa has co-curated Marrugeku’s three International Indigenous Choreographic Laboratories.

Serge Aimé Coulibaly is a dancer and choreographer born in Burkina Faso, and now living Belgium. He was an actor, musician, and dancer of the famous company Feeren from Burkina Faso (the first professional theatre company in West Africa), directed by Amadou Bourou and toured widely in Africa and Europe. In 2002 he joined the famous Belgium company, Les Ballet C de la B and performed in Wolf, C(h)oeursby Alain Platel and Tempus Fugitby Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. In 2002 Serge Aimé founded his own company Faso Danse Théåtre in Burkina Faso and in France. ‘Every artistic act is a political act’ says Coulibaly and hence his work always talks about socio-
7political issues. He created a number of works with his company. The work Kohkuma 7º southis all about possibilities of an African Renaissance. What if the painful histories of the continent can lead to a change in which people start creating their own destiny and are no longer prisoner of their past? Coulibaly’s latest work, Nuit Blanche a Ougagadougoucreated ripples: the piece predicted the downfall of the president. All his works have toured extensively throughout Africa and Europe and he hasdeveloped an original contemporary language, which is rich and powerful, anchored in African Culture.

In 1994 Hildegard started working as a dramaturge for Hetmuziek Lodand in 1995 with Les Ballets C de la B for La Tristeza Complice.She has worked in collaboration with director Alain Platel which would lead to Iets op Bach, Wolf, vsprsandpitié! She has also worked with Koen Augustijnen (To Crush Time) and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (Rienderien) and taught workshops (dance dramaturgy) in Amsterdam, Lublin and Aarhus.

In 2001 she started working at the Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (KVS) as a dramaturge and part of the artistic team. Her far-reaching commitment to the KVS as an institution and to Platel as a choreographer came together in April 2006 in Uit de bol, and in her work as dramaturge on the recent coproduction of pitié!.Hildegard worked in Palestine in 2004 leading a workshop with Platel. Where she founded PASS (Performing Arts Summer School),a collaboration between KVS, Les Ballets C de la Band the A.M, and Qattan Foundation in Ramallah, consisting of a long-term workshop trajectory with young Palestinian performers in Palestine and in Belgium.

Matthew has produced, composed and directed music across many genres with a remarkable array of collaborators since the early 80’s.As Marrugeku’s Musical Director he has worked since 1995 with remote and urban Indigenous musicians and dancers for Mimi, Crying Baby, Burning Daylight, Buruand Cut the Sky, through national and international tours. He has composed or musical directed for: Terrapin Puppet Theatre, Circus Oz, Belvoir Street Theatre, and Kickstart Arts. He devised “Origins” with Tasmanian and Broome Musicians, and has devised music for large-scale outdoor events and festivals.His studio work includes film and animation scores and production for Hip Hop, Blues, Metal, Folk, and Roots musicians. In the last 2 years has mixed, mastered and produced 9 different albums. He has runs a community access recording studio for Youth Health South in Glenorchy, Tasmania now entering its eleventh year of operation.

Collaborating since 2004 as Desire Machine Collective, Sonal Jain and Mriganka Madhukaillya employ film, video, photography, and multimedia installation in their works. Sonal is a fine arts graduate from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Vadodara, Gujarat, India. Mriganka received a degree in physics from Fergusson College in Pune, India, and completed his postgraduate work in film and video at the National Institute of Design. As Desire Machine Collective, they initiated Periferry (2007–), an alternative artist-led space and residency programs
8situated on the M. V. Chandardinga, a ferry docked on the Brahmaputra River in Guwahati. Periferry serves as a laboratory in flux for generating innovative practices in contemporary film and video. The space and its activities also provide a connective platform for dialogue across artistic, scientific, technological, and ecological modes of production and knowledge. In addition to their tireless activities forging artistic networks and spaces, Desire Machine Collective have presented their work in a number of group exhibitions including, at the 54th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, India Pavilion, Venice (2011), Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo, Rome (2011) and Deutsche Guggenheim Museum, Berlin (2010).Their recent exhibitions are, Being Singular Plural, at the Solomon Guggenheim Museum New York (2012), Intense Proximity, the 3rd edition of the La Triennale at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris,(2012) and Experimenta India: London Indian Film Festival at the Tate Modern London (2012). Walking Drifting Dragging, New Museum, (2013), [UN]NATURAL LIMITSat the Austrian Cultural Forum New York (2013).

Stephen has worked extensively as both a costume and set designer for drama, film, opera and dance. Major credits include Black Diggers, QTC/Sydney Festival 2013, I Am Eora Sydney Festival 2012; La Boheme for West Australian Opera/Opera Queensland/Opera Australia; Lulu, The Cunning Little Vixen, Turn of the Screw for Opera Australia/ Houston Grand Opera; Der Ring Des Nibelungen (The Ring Cycle) for State Opera of South Australia; The Secret River, A Man With Five Children, The Government Inspector, Heartbreak House for Sydney Theatre Company; Rupert, All About My Mother, Life x 3, Tribes and The Blue Room for Melbourne Theatre Company; The Vertical Hour, Doubt and Two Brothers for the Melbourne Theatre Company/Sydney Theatre Company; The Winter’s Tale, Henry IV, The Government Inspector and The Servant of Two Masters for Bell Shakespeare Company; Gwen in Purgatory, Small Poppies, The Popular Mechanicals and Signal Driver for Company B Belvoir; Pygmalion, The Venetian Twins and Corporate Vibes for Queensland Theatre Company. As a production designer Stephen’s film credits include Looking for Alibrandi, Twelfth Night, Breathing Underwater, Bedevil and Night Cries. Stephen has recently published Staging Ideas: set and costume design for theatre as a guide to the design process for young theatre-makers and theatre-lovers.

Damien Cooper lights theatre, dance and opera. His career highlights include EXIT THE KING on Broadway, starring Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon; The Australian Ballet’s SWAN LAKE which has been presented in London, Paris and Tokyo and KEATING! THE MUSICAL, Australia’s most successful subsidised theatre show ever. Damien’s theatre highlights include GLASS MENAGERIE, SUMMER OF THE SEVENTEENTH DOLL, GETHSEMANE, STUFF HAPPENS and TOY SYMPHONY at Belvoir; CYRANO DE BERGERAC, THE LOST ECHO, THE WOMEN OF TROY, TOT MOM and RIFLEMIND at STC and PETER PAN at New Victory Theatre season in New York. His Opera credits include DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN (THE RING CYCLE) for Opera Australia, A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM at Houston Grand Opera, Canadian Opera Company and The Lyric Opera of Chicago; CHORUS! at Houston Grand Opera; and COSI FAN TUTTE and PETER GRIMES at Opera Australia and co-produced and presented at Houston Grand Opera. Damien loves lighting dance and designed Chunky Move’s MORTAL ENGINE, Bangarra’s OF EARTH AND SKY, Australian Dance Theatre’s BE YOURSELF, Australian Dance Theatre’s extensively-toured BIRDBRAIN, The Australian Ballet’s SILVER ROSE and ROMEO AND JULIET. Damien has won three Sydney Theatre Awards for Best Lighting Design, an APDG award for Best Lighting and a Green Room Award for Best Body of Work in 2007.

Patrick Dodson is a Yawuru man from Broome in Western Australia. He has dedicated his life work to being an advocate for constructive relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people based on mutual respect, understanding and dialogue. He is a recipient of the Sydney International Peace prize. He was a Royal Commissioner into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, inaugural Chair of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and Co-Chair of the Expert Panel for Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians. Patrick lives in Broome with his family, where he is involved in social, cultural, economic and environmental sustainability through his roles as Chair of the Lingiari Foundation and Executive Chair of Nyamba Buru Yawuru. He is Adjunct Professor at the University of Notre Dame Australia in Broome where he lectures in Spirituality and the Challenge of Reconciliation. He has worked as a cultural adviser to Marrugeku.



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In The News

SIOBHAN BURKE, NEW YORK TIMES CRITIC’S PICK: Dance: Confronting Climate Change in ‘Cut the Sky’
In the face of a global crisis, can art move people to action? With “Cut the Sky,” the Australian dance-theater troupe Marrugeku addresses one of the most urgent and inescapable issues of our time: climate change. An international collaboration – featuring artists from Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia – the ambitious, genre-blurring project centers on the Aboriginal people of Australia’s remote regions, who are among the most vulnerable to the threats of climate change on that continent.

“Cut the Sky” is multi-layered and fast moving… Just when you’ve got your head around one sequence – a poem perhaps, or piece of multi-media – Cut The Sky moves quickly onto the next. Running for around an hour, there’s a lot to take in. But the setting, a dirty and battered country, and the theme – climate change – unite the disparate elements, and the dancers are incredibly expressive and visceral…

MARGARET MERCER, DANCE AUSTRALIA: “Marrugeku: Cut the Sky” Broome-based company Marrugeku’s new production Cut The Sky mixes contemporary and traditional music, poetry, contemporary dance and visual media in an entertaining seventy-minute performance. With esteemed Yawuru man Patrick Dodson as cultural adviser, Cut the Sky draws on indigenous knowledge systems to contemplate climate change, land rights, and an uncertain future.

NATALIE POMPILIO, NJ.com: An Evening of Dance and Song Addresses Climate Change from an Indigenous Angle
“Cut the Sky” — the interdisciplinary production Australian dance-theater collective Marrugeku brings to Montclair State University’s Peak Performances- is set 100 years in the future and follows a group of climate change refugees fighting for survival in a grim and desolate world.

CUT THE SKY – ABC – ALISON CROGGON There’s no getting around the fact that climate change is the issue of our time. It’s a problem that encompasses every facet of our lives, from our domestic habits to global politics. One of the reasons why it’s difficult to process, quite apart from the difficulty of extending our individual senses of mortality to imagining our extinction as a species, is its complexity.


Programs in Peak Performances’ 2018-19 season are made possible in part by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.