Marrugeku dancers bury colonial past in Le Dernier Appel / The Last Cry

In Marrugeku’s new work Le Dernier Appel / The Last Cry, is doubly resonant. It is not only the real and present grief of someone who has no tears left after a lifetime of living under someone else’s soul-crushing rules. It’s also a metaphor for the death throes of the old colonial, mostly white order.

Marrugeku’s timing was exquisite, albeit unplanned. On opening night a touching welcome to country ceremony was the perfect riposte to this week’s dinosaur roars from Canberra, as was the work itself. You had only to look at the faces on stage to know there’s no going back.

Le Dernier Appel / The Last Cry’s passionate dance language allows each of the six performers to emerge as distinctive and fascinating. Co-choreographers Serge Aime Coulibaly and Dalisa Pigram draw on the cast’s skills in forceful, rapid-fire contemporary movement, acrobatic street styles and traditional dance, and meld them into an engrossing whole.

When the work begins the six are isolated and clearly in pain. Then Nick Wales and Bree van Reyk’s beat-heavy score ramps up and they let loose. They flail, shudder, run, shout, leap, spin, collapse, then get up again. As time goes on there are quieter moods and several close interactions between two people but not until the end does the group find common purpose.

And what a group. Pigram is also Broome-based Marrugeku’s co-artistic director and takes on a third role by dancing ravishingly in Le Dernier Appel / The Last Cry. Alongside her, Amrita Hepi is notable for her eloquent arms and hands, Stanley Nelo and Yoan Ouchot are commanding presences, Krylin Nguyen defies gravity and Miranda Wheen has ferocious intensity to burn.

It’s a cast to savour, one that strongly embodies the work’s broad themes of oppression, defiance, resilience and action. Less effective is the inclusion of current politics.
Le Dernier Appel / The Last Cry was co-commissioned by Noumea’s Centre Culturel Tjibaou and is set specifically against the backdrop of New Caledonia’s forthcoming independence referendum. The design by New Caledonian installation artist Nicolas Mole includes a text-heavy video on a small screen that seems to cover quite a lot of ground. The information will perhaps have more impact when the work is presented to a Noumean audience next month; here it is distracting and not particularly enlightening.