Schools across the state find meaning in Totems

The third instalment of Spectacular Schools – Inspired sees a collaboration between NSW Public Schools and the famed Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Youth program.

Image: Parkes High School students add some local flavour to Totems.

One hundred and seventy-two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from 16 public schools across the state feature in the latest Spectacular Schools – Inspired project to hit the screens: Totems.

A contemporary dance piece and choreographic exploration of the spiritual totems that connect Aboriginal people to Country and culture through the natural elements of the environment, Totems.

It follows Born to be Brave and From Now On as the third instalment of the Spectacular Schools - Inspired series.

Totems was filmed locally, on Country, by the participating schools in Term 4, 2021 and edited together in collaboration with Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Youth program and the NSW Department of Education’s Arts Unit.

“Totems represents different clan groups and spiritual connections to the afterlife,” said Sidney Saltner, Bangarra Dance Theatre Youth Program Director.

“These totems are our strength and guide us through our journey, they are a major part or our totemic kinship systems.

“They enable us to keep pure bloodlines with our family connections. We believe that we take on the personality of our totem which guides us through most of our journey, here on earth.

Image: Campbelltown Performing Arts High School.

Online resources were made available by Bangarra Dance Theatre to guide students and teachers through the choreography at the end of 2021.

“This has been such a wonderful, unique opportunity with excellent choreographers and teachers”, explains Hilary Pearson, teacher at Armidale Secondary College.

“It was a very special event to take these students back to Country and film at Dumaresq Dam just out of Armidale”.

Ms Pearson has seen how this experience has had a positive impact on the entire school community.

“It was so lovely to join in with other schools,” Ms Pearson said.

“Our students have thrived and become more confident young people and dancers through this experience and they have learnt so much about Aboriginal culture.”

Participating schools: Armidale Secondary College; Byron Bay High School; Campbelltown Performing Arts High School; Cobar High School; Dubbo College Delroy Campus; Elizabeth Macarthur High School; Katoomba High School; Moree Secondary College; Murrumbidgee Regional High School; Narrandera High School; Nepean Creative & Performing Arts High School; Northlakes High School; Parkes High School; Picton High School; Robert Townson High School; Ulladulla High School.

The Spectacular Schools – Inspired project is nearing completion with the final feature items to be released early in Term 2, 2022.

The Arts Unit’s Aboriginal Initiatives programs are proudly supported by Matrix CNI.

See the website for more details and inspirational entries:

Image: Narrandera High School.
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