FROLIC Italian Opera visits Geraldton and Mullewa to learn Yamatji culture for mixed-culture dance performance

Jessica MoroneyGeraldton Guardian
Dylan Kerley, Aaron Carpene, Lily-Mae Kerley, Ronney Curley, Gemma Bertagnolli and Stefano Vizioli at Yamaji Art Centre.
Camera IconDylan Kerley, Aaron Carpene, Lily-Mae Kerley, Ronney Curley, Gemma Bertagnolli and Stefano Vizioli at Yamaji Art Centre. Credit: Jessica Moroney/Geraldton Guardian

Internationally renowned art directors from Italy have arrived on Yamatji land to listen and learn about Indigenous culture, dance and stories, entwining Yamatji language in a cross-culture opera performance.

The Yamatji Language, Song and Dance Project has started after COVID-19 disrupted travel arrangements for the two-way learning experiment. World-renowned opera and music theatre production company FROLIC was established as a new genre based on the intersection between western opera and distinctive cultures around the world.

The Italian team — including artistic director Aaron Carpene, musician/stage director Stefano Vizioli and soprano Gemma Bertagnolli — travelled from Rome for 10 days to share culture with Yamatji people in Geraldton and Mullewa.

Yamatji Calisto will bring together Yamatji language, song and dance led by award-winning poet, artist and leader of the Yamatji arts community, Charmaine Green. The performance is designed to regenerate aspects of cultural practices that were removed following colonialism while embracing Indigenous story-telling in a mixed opera performance.

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Yamaji Art manager Roni Kerley said the project was an important initiative helping to reconnect Yamatji people’s strong ties to language, singing, dance and the arts.

“This type of project gives everyone, but more importantly our young people, a sense of pride to be able to show the wider community that we are still very much here and connected to culture,” she said.

The trip was focused on learning Yamatji culture and attending song and dance workshops where local dancers performed in front of the Calisto team. Lee-Anne Taylor has taught dance in Geraldton for more than 20 years and currently co-ordinates a free six-week dance class program every Tuesday and Thursday at the Mitchell Street Centre, inviting the community to join.

Ms Taylor said the Wilinyu Dancers performed in front of FROLIC, where they embraced Yamatji dance First Nation people’s way of sharing stories.

“The girls danced to two songs written about a Yamatji girl,” she said.

“The moves I teach have cultural meaning, they tell the same stories my mother has told me.”

Ms Taylor said the Wilinyu dance group were always excited to perform and share stories through dance.

“Everyone is participating and getting along,” she said.

FROLIC has crossed cultures in other international ventures including Opera Bhutan, Monteverdi’s Orfeo in Japan and Mozart’s at Angkor in Cambodia, exploring the energy inside diverse culture and entwining storylines.

The Italian team will return to Geraldton to choreograph and plan the performance around October this year. The performance is expected to take place in 2024 at the Square Kilometre Array site in the Murchison.

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