Dancing in Shadows explores the power of Indigenous performance pitted against the forces of settler colonisation. Historian Anna Haebich documents how the Nyungar people of Western Australia strategically and courageously adapted their rich performance culture to survive the catastrophe that engulfed them, and generously share their culture, history, and language in theatre.
In public corroborees they performed their sovereignty to the colonists and in community-only gatherings they danced and sang to bring forth resilience and spiritual healing. Pushed away by the colonists and denied their culture and lands they continued to live and perform in the shadows over the years, in combinations of the old and the new, including indigenised settler songs and dances. Nyungar people survived, and they now number around 40,000 people and constitute the largest Aboriginal nation in the Australian settler state. The ancient family lineages live in city suburbs and country towns and they continue to perform to celebrate their ancestors and to strengthen community wellbeing by being together.
Dancing in Shadows sheds light on a little-known history of Nyungar performance.