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Djuki Mala review at Assembly George Square, Edinburgh – ‘Aboriginal take on pop hits’

Djuki Mala Djuki Mala
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Aboriginal dance troupe Djuki Mala, formerly known as the Chooky Dancers, hail from Elcho Island in Australia’s north outback. They found YouTube fame a decade ago with a traditional Yolngu dance that suddenly morphs into a madcap rendition of Zorba the Greek.

The troupe’s stage show opens with a video clip that traces a brief history of colonisation and the Aboriginal people’s struggle for survival and recognition, followed by more exuberant reinterpretations and pastiches of Western pop culture. The performers launch into thrusting, tightly-rehearsed dances to songs by the likes of MC Hammer and Michael Jackson, plus an homage to Singin’ In The Rain complete with colourful brolly synchronisation.

However, it’s hard to view the show as pure, uncomplicated fun. When the dancers burst onstage in silver turbans and loincloths for a Bollywood dance, the result is a bit uncomfortable. It’s impossible for uptight liberal sensibilities not to come into play, heightened by an awareness of one’s own place in a majority-white audience.

The Djuki Mala show seems well-meaning and the performers are energetic and technically able – there are impressive flips and tricks – but it would be great to see more of the traditional Yolngu dances taking centre stage.

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Entertaining, occasionally dubious, production by Aboriginal dancers showcasing their take on famous Western pop hits