From a viral video to worldwide tours, Yolngu dance group Djuki Mala are back in action and touring, this time across Western Australia.

Mixing traditional Yolngu storytelling with contemporary pop culture, Djuki Mala has been touring the state since October 3 when they took their show to WA’s South West.

The group has since made their way up to Perth, with opening night at The Regal Theatre on October 29.

Encouraged to cheer, heckle and applaud as they see fit throughout the show, punters let loose as Djuki Mala put on their show—with many moments of laughter and quick costume changes mixed with more serious, traditional elements.

Djuki Mala pre-show at The Regal Theatre. Photo by Hannah Cross.

This mixture of light-heartedness with a deeper vein of storytelling is at the heart of Djuki Mala.

Director Joshua Bond told NIT the Djuki Mala story began in 2007 after a video took off online of a group of boys on North East Arnhem Land’s Elcho Island dancing to Zorba the Greek in Yolngu style.

It was a tribute to the Greek carer looking after one of the dancers’ sisters.

“[The choreographer] made it as a bit of a thank you … also to bring a bit of joy and laughter to his sister’s life,” Bond said.

“This was back in the early days of ‘viral’ … it started all with that little viral YouTube clip.”

Djuki Mala is touring WA until the end of November. Photo by Cam Campbell.

Since then, Djuki Mala has seen several dancers perform with the company, over 700 live performances and visited 73 cities in 27 different countries across the world.

When asked what an achievement like that feels for a group of young men from a remote coastal island, Bond had one word—exhausting.

“There’s been so many awesome memories,” he said.

“It’s been incredible … [as] not only a First Nations company but [a company] from a remote area, to survive all of those years and achieve what we have without … funding.

“To prove that sustainability over nearly 15 years purely based on the work is testament to the company and the work.”

Djuki Mala performers Yalyalwuy Gondarra, Watjarr Garmu, Tibian Wyles and Baykali Ganambarr with Director Joshua Bond. Photo by Hannah Cross.

To say the Yolngu boys from Elcho Island have made it is an understatement. Their longevity proves Australia’s appetite for unique cultural experiences, and Bond agrees.

“There is an appetite for blackfulla stories across the country.”

Bond said touring since COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in the state has been incredible.

“The shows have been sold out,” he said.

“WA is the only state where we haven’t ever done a regional tour.

“We’re really excited about it, despite touring to some of the most prestigious places in the world.”

Tibian Wyles stretches before The Regal Theatre matinee show. Photo by Hannah Cross.

Since their arrival in Perth, Djuki Mala have run workshops for school students including northern suburbs Catholic college, Sacred Heart.

“Our absolute favourite is performing to mob and community,” Bond said.

“It’s really a chance to get to talk to the kids and share our story.

“Workshops are more intimate, it’s a chance for the young people to ask questions.”

As for the current tour, punters can expect traditional Yolngu dance mixed with unique renditions of artists such as Michael Jackson and Missy Elliot, as well as classics like Singin’ in the Rain.

“This show essentially tells the genesis of Djuki Mala,” Bond said.

“We’re inviting the audience in to experience some of the more intimate moments that have shaped the group over the years.”

By Hannah Cross