I studied cultural heritage at university and in my last year I wrote an essay on authenticity. In summary, I argued that authenticity doesn’t really exist. Just because a cultural group did something in one way once, it doesn’t mean that’s the only way that it can be done. No culture is static, and all cultural practices change with time. Djuki Mala, a dance troupe from Yolgnu land, is strong evidence of this.
Djuki Mala starts off with a warning. This isn’t a performance to sit down and passively be entertained. This is a live performance! If you like what you see, make some bloody noise! From the get go their enthusiasm is contagious. The Djuki dancers are well-versed performers, they have been performing on stages around the world for 12 years! Pretty impressive for a dance troupe borne from a viral YouTube video.
The show begins with traditional Yolgnu dances, their history and their present. Then, they lead us into their interpretations of dances and music from other cultures and other times: Bollywood, Motown, hip hop, techno, and musical songs from the ages. All of this is dispersed with video interviews with some of the Elders from the community and the boys themselves, explaining the significance of the Djuki dancers to the Yolgnu people and the change that dancing has brought to their country.
The show ends to a standing ovation; there’s not a seated person in the house. The boys are grinning from ear to ear. They have been performing for years, all over the world, but the performance feels as fresh and genuine as any other. You can tell that they are having so much fun, and we in the audience are too.
Djuki Mala is a true exploration of contemporary Yolngu culture. What’s more, they are the most energetic and charming show going around. They exude excitement and the crowd bloody loves it – they don’t stop cheering and moving for the whole hour. The Yolgnu people are amongst some of the strongest Aboriginal communities in Australia. The Djuki dancers say that the Yolngu people are strong because their connection to culture is strong. Watching Djuki Mala, you can see it.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars