Bangarra Dance Theatre has today announced that Kokatha woman Frances Rings, will be the company’s Artistic Director from 2023.

Rings will take the place of Stephen Page who announced that he will step down as Artistic Director in early 2023.

A descendant of the Nunukul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh Nation from Southeast Queensland, Page has had a 32-year tenure as Bangarra’s Artistic Director.

He has had a tremendous career, from directing the Indigenous sections of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies, to choreographing the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Page has also choreographed over 25 works for Bangarra, including Helpmann Award winning works Bennelong and Dark Emu.

In 2016, he received both the NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award and JC Williamson Award and In 2017, was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

Wudjang rehearsal room. Photo by Daniel Boud.

Page said of Rings, that she “is an exceptional dancer and a gifted and visionary choreographer.”

“Her works for Bangarra, among them the acclaimed UnaiponTerrain and Sandsong stand as precious works of profound artistic and cultural truth.

“I am delighted to now entrust the future of Bangarra to this deeply committed and community-connected cultural leader.

“Not only because of her sensational artistry but because her lived experience is that Bangarra is so much more than an arts organisation.

“Ceremonially I pass her this precious coolamon filled with all our truly unique First Nations dancers and administrators as well as our many valuable non-Indigenous supporters”.

Rings was originally a Dancer with Bangarra and later made her choreographic debut with Bangarra in 2002.

“When I joined Bangarra as an aspiring young artist I became a part of a family,” she said.

“My father once told me that dance was my first language and that one day, I would know what to do with it.

“I am so humbly honoured to guide Bangarra into the future and to lead with integrity, be guided by our cultural values, and to be inspired by our First Nations vibrant cultures.

“To honour our existing cultural relationships and make new ones.

“I envision my future role with Bangarra as an opportunity to shape a new cycle of creative expressions that reflect our dynamic and rich Indigenous experiences told through new forms, new disciplines and new voices.

“To discover new ways of creating Indigenous dance theatre experiences that are thoughtful, evocative and powerful.”

Next year audiences have the opportunity to experience Page’s largest major stage work as Bangarra’s Artistic Director, with the world premiere of Wudjang: Not the Past. 

By Teisha Cloos