In 2017 to help address this need Bangarra Dance Theatre expanded its Teachers’ Professional Learning program Winhanga-rra.
The arts is a natural space for developing ideas and practices that can incorporate multiple learning areas and dance theatre provides a great platform for these ideas to be explored.
Last year Bangarra welcomed over 50 educators across primary and secondary schools, including both dance specialists and education academics,for an intensive one day workshops focussing on community engagement in the context of education and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contemporary creative processes. It included an in depth look at the 30 year of history and development of Bangarra, as Australia’s only Indigenous Major Performing Arts company.
The workshops are typically sold out very quickly, highlighting the limited opportunities there are for this type of professional learning.
Because of the success of The Winhanga-rra workshops 2018 will see a further broadening of the program with many participants travelling from interstate and regional NSW and Queensland. This may reflect be in part these teachers are not only teaching curriculum content, they are also working in schools with significant Indigenous student cohorts.
“… truly a wonderful day and very well spent with bright, fascinating and creative minds who all resonate passion in their approach to inclusive and culturally centred education”.Winhanga-rra participant 2017.
The workshops are designed and facilitated in an open forum and collaborative environment, where teachers are free to ask questions and test ideas with artists as well as peers.
“I appreciated hearing from other teachers about how they were involved with developing opportunities for cultural engagement for both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and the wider community”.Winhanga-rra participant, 2017.
Bangarra’s workshop facilitators have found participating teachers to be amazingly generous in sharing their experiences, and very open minded about discussing ways to approach school/community engagement. A large component of the workshop focuses on creative tasks, to assist teachers with designing and planning in-school activities.
Yolande Brown, who joined Bangarra as a dancer in 1999, has been instrumental in developing the Winhanga-ra program. It provides an opportunity for the very rich knowledge senior artists have cultivated over their time working with Bangarra to be reinvested .
'Entering my 20th year with Bangarra Dance Theatre, I see my work with Winhanga’rra as incredibly important. I’m thrilled to be working with educators, supporting their journeys of understanding as they forge their own methods for sharing our incredibly rich, First Nations history, ways and cultural practices.’Yolande Brown, 2018.