“I am always so humbled when recognised for my creative professional being and I truly believe I have one of the most fortunate and privileged position in our arts industry” Artistic Director Stephen Page reflected on his Australia Council Dance Award. This prestigious award is given each year to recognise outstanding and sustained contributions by individuals working in the dance sector.
Stephen was appointed Artistic Director of Bangarra in 1991 at age 25. In his 26 years with Bangarra he has developed a resonant body of work that has redefined contemporary dance in Australia and reinvented the art of storytelling to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.
In an interview for these Australian Council Awards, when asked what inspires him or has been the greatest influence on his work this inspiring and most beautiful soul replied:
"Preserving culture, preserving knowledge and maintaining the integrity of our traditions. Family gatherings in my younger years were spent with cousins that came off Country, and they were all great storytellers. I knew straight away that I wanted to be in the arts because my family were great storytellers: we always celebrated our culture at home through music, dance and song. These experiences gave me strength, power, values and the principles that ground work I create today.
My brother David was also a huge inspiration – the memories of watching him as a young pop star still stir the creative fire in me today. David introduced me to the great joy of performing and its power to influence and educate. "
Stephen continues to reinvent Indigenous story-telling both within Bangarra and through collaborations with other performing arts companies most notably directing the Indigenous sections for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as Artistic Director of the 2004 Adelaide Festival of the Arts, writing and directing Bloodland with Wayne Blair and Kathy Balngayngu Marika for Sydney Theatre Company in association with Bangarra. Stephen made his directorial debut in 2012, directing the chapter Sand in the feature film The Turning and was Artistic Associate for Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Secret River as part of the Sydney Festival. He choreographed the feature films Bran Nue Dae (2009) and The Sapphires (2011).
In 2008 Stephen was named NSW Australian of the Year in recognition of his efforts to bring cultures together through the performing arts and his commitment to developing the next generation of Indigenous storytellers. In 2010 Stephen was honoured at the Australian Dance Awards for his Services to Dance and in 2012 received the NAIDOC Award for Artist of the Year.
In 2014 Stephen choreographed Bangarra’s acclaimed new work Patyegarang. This production celebrated Bangarra’s 25th anniversary in 2014 and was seen by almost 40,000 people nationally, marking Bangarra’s most successful season yet. That same year, Stephen led the company’s largest ever regional tour, performing in regional centres and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities over nine weeks.
In 2015, Stephen was awarded a Honorary Doctorate of Creative Arts by the University of Technology Sydney for his contribution to the arts and Indigenous culture. He curated Bangarra’s new work lore touring nationally in 2015. He also directed his first full-length film Spear (based on the production of the same name from the Skin double bill in 2000) which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival before screening at various arts festivals around Australia in early 2016.
In 2016, Stephen celebrated his 25th year as Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre, receiving both the 2016 NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award and JC Williamson Award. 2016 also saw Stephen premiere Nyapanyapa, his 23rd work for Bangarra, as part of the OUR land people stories triple bill.
In 2017, Stephen was honoured with the Australia Council Dance Award for significant contributions to the cultural and artistic fabric of the nation.
Premiering in June at the Sydney Opera House, Bennelong (a work based on the life of Woollarawarre Bennelong, a senior man of the Eora Nation) will mark Stephen’s 24th work for Bangarra.
Here at Sydney Scoop were are also humbly honoured to have the privilege to bear witness to this enormous storytelling and keep our hearts open with love for this beautiful man and this beautiful company. Join us in congratulating Stephen Page and in celebrating with Bangarra by attending the dance of Bennelong. Tickets are on sale now.