Wiradjuri dancers in only all-girl group to reach Dance Rites top five

PASSIONATE DANCERS: Madhu Yinaa dancers Angie Charles, Ekala French and Ruby Jackson made it into the top five of national Indigenous competition Dance Rites. Photo: KATRINA CROPPER CHALKER.
PASSIONATE DANCERS: Madhu Yinaa dancers Angie Charles, Ekala French and Ruby Jackson made it into the top five of national Indigenous competition Dance Rites. Photo: KATRINA CROPPER CHALKER.

Women from Orange were among the only all-female dance group to make the top five of a recent national Indigenous Dance competition.

There were 18 dance groups who travelled from across Australia to compete in Dance Rites, a national competition that was held at the Sydney Opera House.

Among the competitors was Madhu Yinaa, a group of 24 passionate Wiradjuri, Darug, Gamilaroi, Ngunnawal and Dharawal women and girls from Orange, the Blue Mountains, Cowra, Lithgow and Western Sydney.

Madhu Yinaa was the only NSW and only all-female group to make it through to the finals.

The Kulgoodah Dancers from Woorabinda in Central Queensland took out first place and picked up $20,000 in prize money.

The runners up were Q Town Mura Kebile Dancers from the Torres Strait ,who were awarded $5000 in prize money.

Contemporary Aboriginal choreographer and Madhu Yinaa director Jo Clancy said the women and girls were thrilled to make the finals and they are already planning their dances for 2018.

“Dance Rites may be a competition but it doesn’t feel competitive. It feels celebratory,” she said.

“Teaching and learning traditional practices is the best way to reclaim song lines, dances and language and enjoy culture.”

NATIONAL STAGE: Members of the Madhu Yinaa dance group. Photo: KATRINA CROPPER CHALKER

NATIONAL STAGE: Members of the Madhu Yinaa dance group. Photo: KATRINA CROPPER CHALKER

In the lead up to Dance Rites, the Madhu Yinaa dancers practiced together for more than six months to take part and compete against some of the best dancer groups from across the country.

Dance Rites is Australia’s premier national Indigenous dance competition which aims to ensure important cultural knowledge including language, dance, skin markings and instruments is shared from one generation to the next. 

For the last few months the group’s members have driven to Cowra one Sunday and Wentworth Falls the next for rehearsals under Ms Clany’s guidance.

“This started because there is a group called Wagan Birra who are based in Cowra and I run the Wagana Aboriginal Dancers group,” Ms Clancy said.

The group included a three-year-old and a six-year-old, teenagers, adults, mums and daughters.