Dancing on the mountain

Young Djirri Djirri dancer. PICTURE: Wurundjeri Dance Group

The lush ferny forests of the Dandenong Ranges became centre stage over the weekend, as a group of dance artists took to the bush to perform various site-specific performances.

Dancing Place – Corhanwarrabul is a program of public performances, walks and workshops curated by Kallista Dancer and Curator, Gretel Taylor.

“Corhanwarrabul is an indigenous name for Dandenong Ranges and it’s very unknown. By curating with that title I wanted to bring back a memory of that name,” Ms Taylor said.

The audience were guided around a series of performances taking place along the pathways and tracks of the mountain by several artists, including Djirri Djirri Dancers, Gulsen Ozer, Dani-Ela Kayler, Vivienne Rogis, Gretel Taylor and Melbourne performers, Environmental Performance Authority (EPA).

The program involved site specific performances that relate to Mt Dandenong, showing off the work of artists who each made work in relation to the forest environment around Kalorama and Mt Dandenong.

“Site specific performance relates to place, draws out elements of the place and could not be uprooted and placed somewhere else,” she explained.

The Djirri Djirri performers also lead an all ages dance workshop on Sunday.

Ms Taylor, who often travels to curate different events, told the Star Mail that she was excited to work so close to home.

“I’m really happy to be in such a local environment doing something for my community here,” she said.

Preparing for the event didn’t come without difficulty, however, with Covid restrictions meaning the artists could not travel to Mt Dandenong to rehearse.

“It’s been difficult for them to create their work, nobody could come up here (Mt Dandenong) so that’s been a big challenge. The work is site-specific so they need to be there to create their work,” she explained.

These difficulties didn’t stop the event from being a success, with Ms Taylor “thrilled” at how the weekend turned out.

“It was well attended and everyone had a really special time and didn’t want to leave,” she said.

Head Elder for the Wurundjeri tribe, Murrindindi, has been the cultural adviser for the project. He opened the event with a welcome to country on Saturday and shared his wisdom about plants and bush foods to the artists at the conclusion of the event.

Because of the uncertainty about whether Covid-19 restrictions would allow the live event to eventuate, Ms Taylor created a website for the project which shows off videos and photographs of the event and also has a map with an invitation for people to take part in a sensory walk.

“People who look at the website can go for a walk along the track from Kalorama to Mt Corhanwarrabul. They can go to points on the map and do sensory activities to enhance their ideas of the place,” Ms Taylor said.

Those who take place in the sensory walk can take a photo of the place, write their thoughts or create a short video and upload it onto the website www.dancingplacecorhanwarrabul.com.

“I’m excited about the idea and potential going forward for that kind of interaction with place that is creative but goes between the online world and the online world,” Ms Taylor said.

The sensory walk runs from 1 December until 26 January.

A public artwork by artists Marnie Badham and Tammy Wong Hulbert involving a series of street signs with whimsical directions around Burke’s Lookout Reserve is also available for viewing until late December.