Hearts full after day of dancing

Students from five Sydney public schools have participated in Aboriginal dance workshops with Brolga Dance Academy. Ben Worsley reports.

Students and a teacher practicing a dance. Students and a teacher practicing a dance.
Image: Students from five Sydney public schools participated in the dance workshops.

Their legs might have been weary, but the students were grinning from ear to ear after a day of learning Aboriginal dance at Marrickville Public School in Sydney.

Students from five inner west primary schools took part in the workshop, run by Brolga Dance Academy.

Jodie Choolburra-Welsh, the founder of Brolga Dance, said the day was a wonderful success.

“It makes my heart full,” she said.

“I just love seeing our kids connect to culture, it’s what this is all about – creating that strong cultural identity and have a safe cultural space for them to share and experience.”

The principal of Marrickville Public, David Roberts, jumped at the chance to host the event.

“We’re always looking for ways that our students can engage with traditional culture, it’s a really rich part of where we are and we’re incredibly proud of it,” he said.

The students spent the day learning Gomeroi storytelling, Torres Strait Islander dance, Aboriginal contemporary dance and a range of skills and techniques.

Nahkila Dungay, a student from Camdenville Public, said she left the workshop feeling great.

“It makes me feel proud of my culture, it makes me feel good about being Aboriginal,” she said.

Her classmate Lizzy-Ray Ingram said the highlight was mixing with kids from other schools she had never met before.

“It’s fun. I feel really welcome, and I love meeting First Nations people from other schools,” she said.

Tynga Williams is an instructor from Brolga Dance Academy and has spent the past four years studying Torres Strait Islander dance.

He said sharing his skills and passion was incredibly rewarding.

“We get to teach a whole bunch of different ages. Some of them have short attention spans but by the end of the lesson they were able to fully remember what region the dance came from, what island it came from and the language I was singing in,” he said.

“It makes me want to cry sometimes to share the beautiful culture that I’ve loved learning with these kids, and to see them smiling and happy and dancing and learning.”

Students and a teacher practicing a dance. Students and a teacher practicing a dance.
Image: The workshops were hosted by Marrickville Public School.
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