From Elcho Island to YouTube, the rest of the world is now ‘absorbing’ the new sensations of a contemporary dance version of Zorba the Greek by the group called Chooky Dancers. The Chooky Dancers entertain their guests with an extraordinary style of contemporary and traditional performances that will leave you captivated and spellbound.
Tell me how you became the Chooky Dancers and why you chose to dance Yolngu Zorba the Greek?
The dance was initially developed by Lionel Dulmanawuy, who is the lead choreographer. He created the dance during what is described as hard times and was inspired by a very good Greek friend named Liliane, who was the main carer of his sister Priscilla who passed away recently. The relationship between the Yolngu family and the Greek family was the main inspiration for creating the dance as a way of saying Thank You.
When Frank Djirrimbilpilwuy (Lionel’s father) lodged the video clip on YouTube around mid-October 2007, within 12 weeks it had peaked at over 500,000 hits worldwide and now it has had over two million hits.
How many of you in the troupe?
Seven performers, one elder, one director/manager.
Do you meet and rehearse regularly or do you work to special events or shows?
The boys meet and rehearse regularly and because of the flow of work we rehearse often. Even between gigs we rehearse because the boys love it.
Do you have a choreographer?
Yes we have a few in the group but mainly it’s Lionel Dulmanawuy, one of the dancers.
When did you start dancing? How did you start to learn? How do you work toward improving your craft?
The boys have been dancing their whole lives and professionally and as a source of income for just over seven years. They are pioneers in what they are doing, trailblazers in their field, and the more they do it the more they have a definitive grasp of it. They are continually improving as it is a natural evolution of physicality and developing their own artistic practice.
Was it a big surprise for you all – to do something as a personal tribute and then end up having a bit of a viral reaction?
Yes. No-one could have imagined it at the time. Unbeknown to them they were setting in motion something that would fulfill dreams they weren’t even aware of.
How are YouTube and social media making more remote communities visible to the broader community?
It gives us exposure to the world, even though people are as physically and literally as far away as possible. The beauty of the internet is that even when you’re in a remote community you can be as connected as the CBD.
What is in store for us at Boomerang Festival?
People can expect new and exciting dances, as we’re working on new repertoire that we’re looking forward to showcasing. Boomerang Festival is a great opportunity to come and be a part of a cultural celebration that is a platform to promote the importance of indigenous and non-indigenous people coming together. As Yolngu men they are proud to come to Festival and inspire the young people to maintain language, culture and dance. We’re really happy that Rhoda invited us to be a part of it.
Boomerang Festival runs October 4–6. For the full program and tickets go to www.boomerangfestival.com.au.