1 December 2023

Cape York dancers bring tradition to the Opera House

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Coen ALLKUMO dance team perform at DanceRites

Cape York dancers competed at Australia’s national First Nations dance competition. Photo: Holli K.D. Hollitzer.

Cape York cultural dancers have taken centre stage at the Sydney Opera House, vying for the top spot at DanceRites, a First Nations dance competition.

Coen’s ALLKUMO Malpa Paman dance team and two teams from AFL Cape York House performed alongside 24 groups from around the nation.

“It’s always great being able to perform and see the different cultures from across Australia and the Torres Strait do the same,” Coen Regional Aboriginal Corporation general manager Lucretia Huen said.

AFL Cape York House presented both an Aboriginal dance team and a Torres Strait Islander dance team.

“The young people were extremely proud to be there, but also their families and communities over the last couple of days have just shown so much support,” AFL Cape York Girls House boarding manager Sean Hunter said.

AFL Cape York House teams

Dancers from various Indigenous backgrounds performed together as part of team AFL Cape York House. Photo: AFL Cape York House.

Mr Hunter gathered over 50 members of the AFL Cape York House community to welcome the dancers when they landed in Cairns on Monday (27 November).

“This was the first competitive event our dancers have participated in, and it was an opportunity for them to build on their confidence, engage in culture and show off their cheeky character as they performed,” he said.

The Aboriginal dance team placed second overall, and the Torres Strait Islander dance team placed in the top eight.

dancers in the airport

AFL Cape York House community celebrated the dancers at the airport with an impromptu dance battle. Photo: AFL Cape York House.

Coen’s ALLKUMO team didn’t place, but they were extremely proud to showcase their culture regardless.

“The dancers were very proud of their performance and they got to sit as spectators to watch the other performances, which they were pleased about,” Ms Huen said.

She explained that the competitive aspect wasn’t important to the team because sharing culture wasn’t about winning.

“There is no competition when it comes to culture, all cultural practices are unique and precious to the area they belong to. This was an opportunity for ALLKUMO to showcase Coen’s cultural uniqueness,” she said.

ALLKUMO dancers perform on stage

Audience members were introduced to Coen’s culture through the art of dance. Photo: Holli K.D. Hollitzer.

She said the team was approached by many audience members who had never heard of Coen, highlighting the importance of performing on a national stage.

“It gives people from metropolitan areas a glimpse into how different dances and songlines are, especially if they have not been to Cape York,” she said.

“The fact that we were able to perform our cultural dances at the Opera House was great in itself, not everyone can say they did that.”

Both the ALLKUMO dance teams and AFL Cape York House teams travelled down and competed thanks to the support of their communities.

ALLKUMO thanked its sponsors, the Cook Shire Council, Toolka Land Trust, Kalan Enterprises and Coen Regional Aboriginal Corporation.

AFL Cape York House was grateful for the support from AFL Cape York Foundation, James Cook University and Cairns Airport.

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