Aboriginal Dance Theatre – Descendance
Images by Wayne Quilliam photography
Descendance has over fifty dancers from diverse tribes across Australia. They range from NSW to Mount Isa, across to Rockhampton, through the Central Desert, Western Australia, up to Cape York, and around the Torres Strait Islands. Descendance cultural program is exclusive to Far North Queensland. Descendance today is helping create work for many other Aboriginal artists in areas outside dance, from modelling, painting and popular music, to writing and acting. Descendance has grown out of necessity for indigenous people of Australia, and has become a refuge for Aboriginal culture needing assistance. Descendance fills Australia’s need for a wholesome, exciting, and world class traditional and contemporary performing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dance Company. Today Descendance is providing Australia and the world with some of the finest in traditional and contemporary indigenous culture and music.
The Descendance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dance Theatre was born from the mighty Ngaru Aboriginal Dance Company, Sydney’s first professional independent traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dance troupe established in 1993. Ngaru means “shake a leg”, a dance style prevalent in the Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland. Ngaru had been one of the longest running professional performing Aboriginal dance troupes in Australia. In 2000 the name was changed to “Descendance” to account for the many artists from diverse tribes living in Sydney and joining the company. The motto was “One people all fighting a common cause”. Sean Choolburra originally formed Ngaru in Sydney in 1993; Sean was born in Townsville in North Queensland and has a background from three Aboriginal tribes, Girrma from Tully (father’s side) Kalkadoon from Mount Isa (mother’s side) and Kukuyalanji from Cooktown (grandfather’s side). In 1998 Ngaru came under the guidance of the late, great Aboriginal song woman Imelda Willis, and world music pioneer and producer Jose Calarco. Imelda came down from the sleepy seaside Aboriginal mission of Yarrabah in far North Queensland on the invitation of Sean Choolburra. Imelda took on cultural duties for twelve months before her untimely death in 1999 (may she rest in peace). Imelda had just completed a six month season of traditional dance and song at Ayers Rock (Uluru) before finishing her career in Sydney.
Imelda was a gifted songwriter and enhanced the Descendance repertoire with some of her original works to encourage indigenous youths living in the city to make something of there lives. Imelda’s heritage came from two tribes (Kandju/Cape York) and (Yidindji/Cairns). Descendance was born out of her loving memory to create an independent vehicle and indigenous agency for artists without support or funding, today her daughter Nicole Willis assumes her legacy.
WORLD TITLE IN KOREA
In Sept 2004 Descendance was to claim their ultimate prize on the International stage when they represented Australia at the first cultural style Olympics in Seoul Korea, the event was billed as “The World Culture Open”, from 70 countries who entered the competition, Descendance took out the World Dance/Peace Prize, the event was organised by UNESCO.
Descendance has also completed hundreds of shows across Europe, Asia, Africa and The Americas, opening up work opportunities in over thirty countries performing at the world’s biggest festivals and events, countries include
- USA & Canada including: Hawaii, Orlando, Miami, Los Angles, San Francisco, New York, Baltimore,Toronto, Ottawa, Alberta and Vancouver
- Europe including: England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Sweden, Austria, Belarus, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Hungary and the Netherlands
- South East Asia Incliuding: Korea, SingaporeThailand, Taiwan and Vietnam
- New Zealand
- China & Hong Kong
- Reunion Islands
- South Africa
Descendance has been one of Australia’s most travelled Dance Company in recent times, indigenous or non indigenous.