Review: Djuki Mala @ The Vagabond

Review: Djuki Mala @ The Vagabond

First appeared on This Is Radelaide, February 19 2017

Hailing from the Yolngu people of NE Arnhem Land, Djuki Mala is comprised of five young Indigenous men who formed the group in honour of their love for music, dance and its ties to their culture. The troupe’s unique blend of traditional and contemporary dance had the opening night audience absolutely mesmerised from the moment they stepped onstage.

The hour-long performance features a variety of routines tied together by a projected video of a Yolngu Elder explaining the history of the group, interspersed with footage of the dancers taking turns to speak about their art and how they use it to express themselves, while helping and educating younger members of their community.

Despite having no professional training, these boys can dance. Spectators are captivated from the very get-go as the dancers appear on the dimly-lit stage in loincloths and feather headpieces, wielding spears and moving together in hypnotic precision. Before the audience knows it, a cheeky wink and costume change shifts the mood and instantly reveals the exuberant and fun-loving nature of the performers. The troupe launches into a dizzying rendition of the Zorba and proceeds to take the audience on a soulful journey celebrating the history of physicality and movement, showcasing their interpretations of dance set to everything from the whimsical Singin' In The Rain to a plethora of disco classics and an impressive Michael Jackson moonwalk thrown in for good measure.

The performance is a joyous and emotional exploration of Indigenous culture, fused with the playfulness of the last century of pop culture. Hilarious, energetic, poignant, and enthralling, Djuki Mala ticks all the boxes to constitute an absolute winner of a show and a definite must-see this Fringe season.

You can catch Djuki Mala at The Vagabond in The Garden of Unearthly Delights from now until the 5th of March.

Header image via Adelaide Fringe

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