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From homelessness to world stage: 'Deeyamithadda' chronicles the life of choreographer Balla Neba

Joseph Guenzler -

Renowned composers, musicians and vocalists are in Cairns this week for the creative journey of the eagerly awaited multi-platform mainstage production, 'Deeyamithadda' (Dance Spirit in Gangulu).

Directed by Balla Neba, a Wakka Wakka/Gangulu choreographer and artist, along with co-artistic directors Yvette Walker and Naomi Wenitong of Strong House Arts, 'Deeyamithadda' offers an exploration of struggle, resilience, community, connection, and faith.

Guiding the music direction is industry veteran Chong Lim AM, renowned for his influential contributions to the music scene and collaborations with global icons such as Kylie Minogue, Coldplay, and Robbie Williams.

Yvette Walker, co-artistic director of Strong House Arts, said completing the first stage of the two-year creative process to produce a captivating and emotionally charged musical score that will be the heartbeat of the production was a huge milestone for the team.

"This week our incredible ensemble of collaborators have immersed themselves in the world of Deeyamithadda to develop the samples of the original soundscape," she said.

"To have artists of this calibre here - with Lim's renowned work, exceptional natural talent and rising star, music composer Tristan Barton, musical talents of locals Kingdom Voices and Nightshift and the entire Deeyamithadda team - has enriched this initial music development."

'Deeyamithadda' is a semi-autobiographical production tracing the remarkable life path of Balla Neba, from his formative years in Woorabinda and Cherbourg to the obstacles he encountered as a homeless youth on the urban streets of Meanjin (Brisbane), ultimately achieving success at a global stage.

The creative process for 'Deeyamithadda' sets the stage for its debut at the Cairns Festival in 2025, preceding its global premiere at the Brisbane Festival in September 2025, and is expected to embark on an international tour in 2026.

Chong Lim AM with Balla Neba (Image: Supplied/Strategic PR)

Balla Neba, while recognising that there is still much work ahead, found this week's collaboration with a group of highly skilled professionals inspiring.

As a choreographer he has a knack for storytelling through movement, with a strong foundation for crafting inspiring original soundscapes.

"Deeyamithadda won't be just a performance, it will be a journey that touches the heart and soul of everyone who experiences it," he said.

"This project is a testament to the power of art to inspire, heal and connect people from all walks of life, with the foundation of the production rooted in the music being created."

Chong Lim said of his experiences this week that it was an "honour to embark on this journey as the musical director", having first worked with Balla Neba and Yvette Walker last year for the Commonwealth Games handover in Birmingham.

"What Strong House Arts has delivered thus far is absolutely world-class, from their processes, their spirit and the way in which they work," Mr Lim said.

"I am absolutely blown away by every single creative on Deeyamithadda, Balla's spirit and talents are the most groundbreaking that I've experienced since working with Michael Leslie on Brand Nu Day over 30 years ago.

"Every now and then a very special work comes along - they are few and far between and

Deeyamithadda is one of these very special ones."

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