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A Bibliography of the Literature on Australian Aboriginal Dancing (1987-2013)

Brenda Farnell and Monica FA Wong Santos

In the introductory essay of Stephen Wild's bibliographic essay "Australian Aboriginal Theatrical Movement" (1986), the author reminds us that English terms such as 'theater,' 'dance,' and 'performance' carry with them certain expectations about performers, roles, audiences, and events. Their meanings thus require careful consideration before being applied to "traditions of performance belonging to cultures so different from our own as that of Australian Aboriginal society" (ibid.: 601). Wild notes that, while there may be elements common to both Aboriginal performances and conceptions of dance and theater held by outsiders, there are also significant differences, which range from concepts of staging, uses of time and space, and accountability and responsibilities to forms of aesthetic evaluation. The advice remains as pertinent today as it did almost thirty years ago.

     The task of selection facing the bibliographer also remains as complex today as it did for Wild in 1986, and we are most grateful for the advice and suggestions from a regional specialist and valued colleague, Dr. Fiona Magowan. Were we to limit inclusion to sources that focus primarily on detailed descriptions and analyses of Indigenous Australian dances and dancing, the list would be extremely meager. The major criterion for selection of items for the bibliography was, therefore, not only the inclusion of substantial analyses and descriptions of performances but also selected ethnographic and especially ethnomusicological studies that provide complementary information about related ritual practices; concepts of the body, song, and relationships to land; and broader understandings of the social, cultural, and historical (especially colonial) contexts in which Indigenous Australian dancing occurs.

     This is not intended to be an exhaustive listing of sources. We include only introductory references to studies of contemporary theatrical dancing, and the influence of the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association and the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts (ACPA) on companies such as Bangarra Dance Theatre (Page and Barrett 2013) and Yirra Yaakin Noongar Theatre. A historical overview of developments in Indigenous contemporary Australian theater (Casey and Craigie 2011) will provide interested readers with a useful place to start. We have not included a bibliography of audiovisual materials but direct readers to the extensive collections in the film library of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).



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