In Stamping Ground, choreographed by Jiří Kylián in 1983, before Bangarra Dance Theatre was sparking, Bangarra presents a work they were always meant to perform. The first work the company have presented by a non-Indigenous artist, as artistic director Stephen Page remarked, they waited for the “right time for Stamping Ground to come back to its cultural roots.” Seeing Lillian Banks, Baden Hitchcock, Rika Hamaguchi, Ella Havelka, Tyrel Dulvarie, and Ryan Pearson embody every part of this homage, its spirit, with their own spirit and ‘bring it home’ is an absolute joy.
Stamping Ground sprang from Kylián’s “experience in 1980, when he and his colleagues worked with communities and organizations to arrange a large corroboree on Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria . . . . Over a thousand indigenous men, women and children from all over the country, including the Kimberley, Cape York and central desert lands travelled . . . . to attend the week-long event.” In the documentary that resulted, Road to the Stamping Ground, Kylián remarked, “dance is absolutely tied with nature here. It cannot be separated.” In the excerpt which screens before Stamping Ground, Kylián continues, for “the dancers here, it is part of their life. They cannot divide their normal life and dancing life; their normal life is dancing, and dancing is part of their normal life. I think there is not another culture which has this melting of private life and dance like they have it here.”
Stamping Ground draws inspiration from the expressive use of hands and moves derived from the movement of animals. From the “hundreds of different ways of walking,” depending on the animal, be it an emu or a kangaroo, or the significance of the dance. It draws on the “phenomenal way of jumping without preparation—they are already in the ground and a spring releases and they are in the air and you don’t know how it happened—” and on the use and importance of counter moves to give length to the movement, so that as one part of body reaches one way, another part reaches the other way and in doing so it “prolongs the drive of the movement.” From his own understanding, in his own vocabulary, working from “the point of view of inspiration not imitation or theft,” in Stamping Ground you see movement dropping “down like lightening”.