Harris Theater and Field Museum partner – Australia’s Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Chicago Debut

Bangarra Dance Theatre in Spirit

The first-ever partnership between Chicago’s venerated natural history museum and the multi-disciplinary performing arts center in Millennium Park will take place at the Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater with a public conversation on November 19, 2019. This event will open a week-long engagement with Bangarra Dance Theatre, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organization and Australia’s leading contemporary dance company. 

Bangarra Dance Theatre in Nyapanyapa, OUR land people stories –
Photo by Vishal Pandey

This unique event features a panel discussion with Bangarra Artistic Director Stephen Page, company member Elma Kris, and Field Museum Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology John Terrell. The conversation will be moderated by Harris Theater President and CEO Patricia Barretto, and will explore questions around traditional and contemporary storytelling, the rich history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artmaking, and the important role of a First Nations contemporary dance company.

“Bangarra is an extraordinary company, not just because of their powerful dancing and stunning stage design,” said Patricia Barretto, “We are committed to reflecting a multitude of voices on the Harris Theater stage – especially those not often seen in a classical performing arts setting – and we are deeply honored to present Bangarra Dance. The company’s mission is to share the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples around the world, and our partnership with the Field Museum will bring this engagement to an even wider audience.”

Bangarra Dance Theatre in Spirit

“The Field Museum believes in celebrating the world’s diversity in all its expressions, including performance and dance,” said Field Museum president & CEO Richard Lariviere. “We’re honored to celebrate Bangarra’s unique expression of heritage and help shine a spotlight on the importance of First Nations and indigenous storytelling.”  

lma Kris – Nyapanyapa, OUR land people stories Bangarra – Photo by Edward Mulvihill

Chicago Splash Magazine had the opportunity of asking about additional aspects of the partnership and more:

The partnership between Chicago’s venerated natural history museum and the Harris Theater , the multi-disciplinary performing arts center in Millennium Park would seem the perfect pairing. How did this come about?

In presenting Bangarra, we saw a great opportunity to engage not just dance audiences, but also those interested in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, visual art, history and contemporary stories of Indigenous people in the region and throughout the world, and other social and political themes. Discussions began between the Field Museum and the Harris Theater over the summer, and we have been working closely to co-present the panel discussion with Bangarra Artistic Director Stephen Page, long-time company member Elma Kris, and Field Museum Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology John Terrell. The conversation will be moderated by Patricia Barretto, and the hope is that it will enrich the experience of those attending the performances later in the week, and draw some new audiences in as well.

Bangarra Dance Theatre will be performing in Chicago at the Harris Theater on November 22nd and 23rd  How long has the company existed?  How large is the company?  Are all of the dancers in the company from Australia?

Bangarra marked its 30th season this year. The company has 17 dancers, and will be traveling to Chicago along with their Artistic Director Stephen Page and a number of staff. Each dancer in the company has a proud Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background. 

Luke Currie Richardson & Beau Dean Riley Smith- Nyapanyapa, OUR land people stories Bangarra – Photo by Edward Mulvihill

Bangarra Dance Theatre


Bangarra is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organization and one of Australia’s leading performing arts companies, acclaimed nationally and around the world for their powerful dancing, distinctive theatrical voice, and utterly unique soundscapes, music, and design.

Led by Artistic Director Stephen Page, Bangarra has established itself as one of Australia’s leading performing arts companies and “a modern dance company unlike any other… remarkably imaginative and richly varied” (The New York Times). Each Bangarra dancer has a proud Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background, and the company’s work is forged from over 65,000 years of culture, embodied in contemporary movement.

Bangarra Dance Theatre in Nyapanyapa, OUR land people stories (photo by Edward Mulvihill)

Each piece in Bangarra’s repertoire draws on stories gathered from respected community elders, but the company is not focused on history alone. As Artistic Director, Page draws inspiration from traditional storytelling, the rich variety of Aboriginal visual art, and contemporary issues facing indigenous peoples. Whatever the context, the company’s inherent connection to the land and people make it unique and has captivated audiences from remote Australian regional centers to major cities in North America and Europe.

Tickets for this unique event are on sale now online and through the Harris Theater box office. Tickets are $15 each for the panel discussion, and $150 for the panel plus a luncheon celebrating this partnership and welcoming Bangarra Dance Theatre to Chicago for the first time. All attendees have access to special pricing for Bangarra Dance performance tickets.  

Photos: Courtesy of Bangarra Dance Theatre

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