First Nations Circle update from Program Producer Lauren Swain:
It is with immense pride and excitement that I announce the First Nations artists who make up the inaugural First Nations Circle for the Circus and Physical Theatre sector: Dale Woodbridge Brown, Ally Humphris, Janine Oxenham, Kirk Page, Ghenoa Gela, Maggie Church Kopp, Tara Gower, Lara Croydon, Lauren Swain (Program Producer) and Harley Mann (Circle Support).
A deadly group of 8 multidisciplinary First Nations artists all with varied relationships to Circus and Physical Theatre, from emerging to established and with a wealth of collective experiences and connections to Country across this continent. Our common thread is that we are passionate physical storytellers, with a desire to see a healthy sector where mob can thrive and the sector can feel empowered with the right tools to support and champion us.
On the 16th of September 2023, seven of us connected in person for the first time on the lands of the Turrbal and Yuggera people in Meanjin (Brisbane). We were honoured to be joined by Uncle Lafe Charlton, who has paved the way for mob in the performing arts and has been integral to keeping the fires of blak arts burning on this continent. Accompanied by Uncle Lafe we began the first of many big yarns and started laying the foundations for our future work together.
First Nations Circle Members:
Ally Humphris is a proud Wakka Wakka woman with a strong commitment and connection to her Aboriginal culture. Ally has studied dance and fitness with professional experience as a circus performer. Ally joined the BlakFlip program at Circus Oz in 2013, which led her to be in the 2014 production of Corked Up. In 2017, as part of BlakFlip, she had the honour of being in the cast of Chasing Smoke, which continued with Casus. Since June 2023 Ally has been the lead of Community Engagement at Circa Cairns. Running youth circus workshops in Gimuy and the communities of FNQ is where Ally’s passion thrives.
Dale Woodbridge-Brown is an award-winning Kamilaroi man and circus artists from Mungindi. Dale is an amazing performer skilled at flying trapeze, chinese pole, sword swallowing, acrobatics, juggling, clowning and currently a permanent ensemble member of Briefs Factory. A graduate of NAISDA and ACPA, Dale sports an impressive resume as ensemble member for international powerhouses Circus Oz, Briefs Factory and Casus Circus as well as holding his own as a formidable independent MC and artist. Dale’s dedication thrives due to his strong connection to his family, culture and love of making people laugh. His awards include the NAIDOC performer of 2019 and Indigenous Circus Performer 2021 by the Australian Circus Festival.
A woman of the Aubaith Clan of the Wagadagam Tribe, Mualgal of Poid and Aragan Tribe to the West and Samsep Clan, Peidu Clan and a descendant of the Rebes Tribe to the East – Ghenoa Gela is an award-winning, Multidisciplinary, Multidimensional Storyteller. With at least 35 years of experience under her belt, Ghenoa’s traditional Torres Strait Islander dancing is at the heart and foundation of her arts practice. As such, this grounding gives Ghenoa the strength to maneuver across a variety of disciplines both contemporary and commercial for over the past decade, ranging in Dance, Theatre, Television, Comedy, Hosting and Film. Some works Ghenoa has created include: ‘Winds of Woerr’, ‘Fragments of Malungoka’, ‘Mura Buai’, ‘My Urrwai’. Some companies Ghenoa has worked with include: Force Majeure Dance Theatre Company, Marrugeku Dance Theatre Company, My Darling Patricia, Polytoxic, Shaun Parker & Company, Bell Shakespeare and Circus Oz. Some credits for TV and Film include: Move it Mob Style, Nothing to Lose Documentary, The Movement Series, Are you Tougher Than Your Ancestors? Playschool Storytime and Nude Tuesday film. Navigating across this artistic landscape can take on many forms, whether it be a workshop facilitator in remote communities, a choreographer and mentor in regional communities or a director, movement director, performer and writer in urban communities. What drives Ghenoa is her passion to share her families stories of culture, connection to country and identity – while also, sharing her experiences as a blakfullah who continues to shift and adapt through the ever challenging western landscape. With fierce focus on visibility for Ilan presence, blak women and blak storytelling, Ghenoa continues to chisel against the very limiting western ideologies in hopes to create spaces that inspire the pursuit of bold and boundless ambition.
Janine Oxenham is a Malgana Yamatji woman from the Shark Bay area in WA, and grew up on Yinggarda Country in Carnarvon. She has choreographed and performed as a freelance contemporary Indigenous dancer for numerous festivals and projects in Regional & Metro WA. Janine has a love of working with community to tell Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Stories through movement & performance art. She taught circus skills in the Gascoyne region to both youth and adults as part of Gascoyne Circus and Physical Theatre and is skilled in stilt walking and fire poi. Recently, Janine has enjoyed working in theatrical and experimental movement.
Kirk Page is a proud Mulanjali person born on unceded territory on Tulmur country in South East QLD with ancestral connections to Badu Island in the Torres Straits and Germany. He began his career as a dancer and over the last 24 years he has performed in the theatre across disciplines including physical theatre musical theatre circus dance and acting for stage and screen. Kirk has worked with companies across the country including Bangarra Dance Theatre, Legs on the Wall, Belvior St Theatre, Bell Shakespeare, The Malthouse Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company, Circus Oz, NORPA and Force Majuere. Recently he was movement director for Griffin Theatre’s new ‘Australian’ play Dogged. Kirk is currently working on Bundjalung country for the Koori Mail newspaper in regional NSW.
Lara Croydon is a proud Gudjala Kabulba woman. She is a producer, actor and circus performer based in Brisbane. She began her circus career at Vulcana Women’s Circus in 2013 and has been part of Casus Contemporary Circus and is also a trainer at Flipside Circus, running the Waterways program for developing young First Nations performers in circus. Lara is also a producer in the First Nations team at QPAC. In 2013 she worked on the first Clancestry festival and returned to run the festival in 2019, 2022 and 2023. The all First Nations festival showcases Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander theatre, dance, visual arts, music with workshops and talks throughout.
Maggie Church-Kopp is a proud Arrernte multidisciplinary artist whose practice combines circus, theatre and dance. She grew up in Mparntwe and currently lives on the land of the Kulin Nation. Maggie’s recent performance credits include Arterial (Nadjinang Circus), Whose gonna love ‘em. I am that i Am (FCAC + Kamarra Bell-Wykes), and Get your Geek On (Ilbijerri Theatre Company). She has trained and worked with companies such as Circus Oz, The Flying Fruit Fly Circus, and was also the 2022 recipient of Theatre Network Australia’s EFNC&PTA Mentorship. She is passionate about performance as a collective mechanism of agency and truth telling and is keen about creative innovation encompassed by cultural respect.
Tara Gower is a Yawuru woman from Broome with Filipino, Irish and Spanish bloodlines. Tara recently returned home to Broome after a successful career with Bangarra Dance Theatre for 15 years as a professional dancer. Since March 2020, Tara has been working as a Community Liaison Officer in Broome and developing wellness programs for local youth through culture, dance and music. In 2021 Tara initiated a dance program through KAMS (Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service) and Goolarri Media Enterprises, where she collaborated with Yawuru elders to teach the next generation both contemporary and traditional dances leading up to numerous performances at leading events around town. Emerging musicians were also given the opportunity to create original tracks for the dances. Successful showcases were during NAIDOC week, A Taste Of Broome Festival, WAAPA’s music collaboration, Shinju Matsuri Festival of The Pearl, Broome Fringe Festival – Skutta, Worn Art, Broome Pride and Cinefest. This year Tara’s dance crew titled Burrb Wanggarraju Nurlu by Yawuru elder Aunty Di Appleby, continues to bring opportunities to emerging dance and music artists who are eager to rekindle and sense of culture through Contemporary Indigenous expression – empowering our leaders of tomorrow. In 2021 Tara won an award for best new movement director from Performing Arts WA, after choreographing the latest version of Jimmy Chi’s musical Bran Nue Dae in 2020, produced by Opera Australia. Last year Tara was acknowledged by her community at the NAIDOC awards and won the Performing Arts category for contributing to the growth of creative industries. Tara believes growing up on Yawuru country gave her the strength to pursue her dreams into reality. She is passionate about passing her skills onto the next generation and bringing creative pathways and experiences to remote areas of Australia. Tara is currently working at Theatre Kimberley as the First Nations Community Liaison Officer.