Students dancing to a better tune
NT Dance troupe artistic director Gary Lang is a mentor who is changing Indigenous lives through the power of dance.
A Larrakia man from Darwin, Gary is an experienced dancer and choreographer who has worked widely throughout Australia and the world, including with the famous Bangarra Dance Company.
Gary offers young men and women he meets in everyday situations the chance to train with his company, the Gary Lang NT Dance Company, and has seen them blossom under his tuition.
"I think in general when people are given an opportunity to do something with their life, it changes their whole outlook on the world," Gary said.
"Especially with the men it really makes a difference with their personal wellbeing. They change from just existing to going from strength to strength."
Darren Edwards, 23, is one Indigenous student who has reaped the benefits of dancing for Gary. Born in Darwin, Darren's maternal family hail from the Kimberleys in Western Australia. Darren started dancing four years ago at the age of 19 after a chance meeting with Gary at the Casuarina shopping centre where he was working as a trolley pusher.
Darren has gone on to dance around Australia with the company and credits Gary with turning his life around and giving it meaning, dancing in the Dreaming Festival in Queensland and the Darwin Festival in the Northern Territory.
"It's been the best thing I've ever done," Darren said. "It's made me feel more self confident, fitter, and it's very stimulating to your mind, it keeps you guessing."
"It's a lot more than just dance. It's confidence and feeling better about yourself and it's boosted me on so many levels."
While Gary has not had the funding to offer Darren a full-time paid dancing position, Darren has secured a better paid job since starting with Gary. He now works as a sales representative at a jewellery store which he puts down to the increased self-confidence he has gained from dancing.
Darren will dance one of the lead roles in the company's upcoming production, 'Goose Lagoon' which will play at the Darwin Festival in August, commencing August 12, 2010.
The production features a uniquely Territorian story that combines contemporary dance with Indigenous culture and history.
Darren has come a long way since being a trolley pusher four years ago and now see a much brighter future for himself combining dance and film-making.
"What I've learned is you've got to have that willpower and if you don't have that there's no ambition," Darren said. "I've also learned that actions speak louder than words."
Tara Robertson is another young Indigenous dancer who Gary has taken under his wing. Tara started with Gary as a 17-year-old and has been inspired to pursue dancing as a profession, travelling to Adelaide where she completed a Bachelor of Arts in dance at the Adelaide Centre of the Arts.
She also credits dance with giving purpose to her life. "It makes me happy. It's who I am," Tara said. "I just feel the passion inside and the joy of being in such a good group of dancers."
After so much success with his dancers, Gary is keen to take the benefits of dance to a broader range of people. He supports youth diversion, rehabilitation programs and dance workshop delivery to disadvantaged Indigenous youth in remote communities, working with the Australian Red Cross.
According to Gary, if you give Indigenous young people a chance they will reward you. "It's all about giving an opportunity and having faith in the person," Gary said.
"They will pay you back for that little bit of faith and the opportunity to do something difficult."