Araatika: Rise Up

Indigenous rugby league players wanted their own pregame cultural performance to match the haka when playing for the Dreamtime and Indigenous All Stars teams. In developing this dance, players Preston Campbell, Timana Tahu and George Rose came to understand more deeply the links between sport and Indigenous communities and the distinctiveness of their own culture.

When ex-rugby league Indigenous player, Dean Widders, came to work at the NRL, his goal was to spread this dance across rugby league, with the hope that one day the Australian team would adopt it too. With the help of performer and dancer, Sean Choolburra, and with the passion of players such as Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston and Latrell Mitchell, support for the dance gathered momentum. When COVID hit and footy was cancelled, Dean discovered that it wasn’t his sport that made him strong- it was his culture. He then aspired to take the performance from the field to the national stage, calling on the help of stars of the performing arts – Artistic Director of Sydney Festival, Wesley Enoch, and Artistic Director of the Bangarra Dance Theatre, Stephen Page – culminating in a performance that celebrates the strength, power and grace of Indigenous men.


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