Chookys bring the fun down south

Chookys bring the fun down south

Life & Style
LONG WAY: Djuki Mala's self-titled show is a mix of autobiographical and retrospective work that traces the genesis of the group.

LONG WAY: Djuki Mala's self-titled show is a mix of autobiographical and retrospective work that traces the genesis of the group.

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Djuki Mala is reaffirming its position as an indigenous dance group by touring its self-titled show.

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THE Djuki Mala dance group, formerly known as the Chooky Dancers, had its origins in 2007 when its contemporary dance interpretation of the cheesy pop song Zorba the Greek became a YouTube hit.

Performed on a basketball court in Arnhem Land to a local crowd of whistling and cheering onlookers, the filmed performance quickly became a hit after it was uploaded to the popular video-sharing website.

It has now amassed more than 2.5 million views worldwide.

Word about the dance troupe has spread with the group having been asked to perform its distinct, comedy-infused mix of traditional and contemporary dance across Australia and overseas.

Now Djuki Mala is reaffirming its position as an indigenous dance group by touring its self-titled show.

"This is somewhere between a mix of autobiographical and retrospective work," director Joshua Bond said.

"It looks at the genesis of Djuki Mala from its beginning up until where it's at now, and how it got there."

Joshua grew up on Elcho Island and now lives in Collingwood, Melbourne.

He said that while the show was energetic and fun - continuing in the vein of Zorba the Greek, Yolngu-style - it also looked at the background behind the original YouTube clip.

This included the many "intimate and poignant" moments that helped shape the group into what it is today.

"The original Zorba clip came from the fact that the sister of lead dancer Lionel Dhulmanawauy Garawirrtja had severe muscular dystrophy and was unable to be cared for on the island," Joshua said.

"She was sent to Darwin where she was cared for by a Greek lady.

"Zorba the Greek dance came about as a kind of tribute to the carer, and also as something to bring her a bit of joy.

"So not all of Djuki Mala is as joyful as the original YouTube clip, but it's still very significant."

The show was performed at regional venues in Vic, Qld, and the NT earlier this year, with every performance selling out since the tour started in Darwin.

"I think the guys have quite a good reputation," Joshua said.

"It's showcasing indigenous culture in a way that non-indigenous Australians can connect and relate to, by way of choreography, humour, and the storytelling."

Djuki Mala also promotes an awareness of youth suicide in Australia.

Joshua said youth suicide levels had been "staggeringly high" in the past two years, especially in the country's regional and remote communities.

Chief executive Steve Saffell said Country Arts SA was striving to bring new and innovative shows to regional SA - and 2014 was no exception.

* Full report in Stock Journal, August 7, 2014 issue.

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