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DanceRites crowns its 2023 winners

Phoebe Blogg -

Australia's only national dance competition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups has announced its winners for 2023.

After the intense two-day competition at the Sydney Opera House over the weekend, Mui Mui Bumer Gedlam (Peiudu, Torres Strait Islands) claimed the top prize of $20,000, AFL Cape York Aboriginal Cultural Dance (Cairns and Cape York) came runner up winning $5,000. Yangkay Cultural Connect (Ngemba, NSW) took home Best Wild Card Dance award-winning $3,000 whilst the $4,000 Rite of Passage* Awards was awarded to both DIDG (Deaf Indigenous Dance Group- Gimuy Walubara Yidinji, QLD) and Eip Karem Beizam (Meriam, Torres Strait Islands).

Mui Mui Bumer Gedlam spokesperson Toby Cedar said: "All the kids were over the moon when we won, they are still on a high now after the win. All the dancers performed were also new dancers."

Mr Cedar said the prize money will be invested in the group's future projects.

"We haven't decided yet but it will be going back into the group. We are also still very busy, we have performances around New South Wales and Queensland… we have performances every week," he said.

Dancers performing at the 2023 DanceRites completion. (Image: Wayne Quilliam)

Head of First Nations programming at the Sydney Opera House, Michael Hutchings, said DanceRites delivered "a weekend of joy, celebration, and community on the Sydney Opera House Forecourt".

"It was a privilege to welcome mob back to the site, to continue the traditions of Tubowgule as a meeting place where storytelling and dance has been shared for tens of thousands of years," said

"This opportunity for cross-cultural and cross-generational gathering was truly unforgettable, and a testament to our enduring culture and customs."

With an expert panel of Elma Gada Kris (Wagadagam Kigus, Kai Dangal Buai, Sipingur) Gina Rings (Kokatha Mirning), Matthew Doyle (Muruwari), Peta Strachan (Dharug) and Sani Townson (Koedal, Dhoeybaw, Samu Saibai Island Zenadth Kes) groups were judged on their engagement with culture and language, markings and traditional instrumentation - as well as their technical dance skills. The weekend-long event also featured performances from celebrated songman Fred Leone (Butchulla and Garrwa) and previous DanceRites competitors Jannawi Dance Clan (Dharug).

Dancers performing at the 2023 DanceRites completion. (Image: Wayne Quilliam)

With this year's DanceRites competition being the largest on-site iteration of the competition since it began in 2015, twenty-one dance groups performed representing over thirty nations and clans.

Showcasing the diverse traditions from urban, regional and remote communities, 300 performers took to the Sand Circle for Cultural Dance and Song Cycles, while eighteen groups also demonstrated their unique style in the Wild Card category.

With this year's event drawing a significant crowd, media coverage and local news, talk of just how big the next DanceRites competition will has already begun.

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