Stolen Generations

Photo by Zul; courtesy of Dance Performance Class (featuring dancer Christen Yu)

“A foot in each world, a heart in none.” Such is your outlook when you’re taken away from your family and home, only to be sentenced to life with a new family; you feel misplaced and don’t know where you belong. The high school dance production this season is called Stolen Generations, presenting a narrative much different from the usual Disney fairytale. The choreographers and teachers involved have taken their visual re-telling of Aboriginal Gentrification in Australia very seriously in hopes that that the audience gets an emotionally evocative exposure to the 20th century plight of aboriginals through modern dance.

The Stolen Generations refers to a historical movement that took place in Australia from 1910 to 1970. The narrative centers around the true story of native aboriginal children being kidnapped by the federal government, churches, and welfare bodies and then forced to live with white families. The government defended their actions, claiming that the removal of children from their native culture would be a benefit, as it would allow the children to live a healthier and more satisfactory life.  These children were ultimately used as guides, servants, and farm laborers. Young girls, in particular, were separated and trained for domestic service. Some were even forced into sex slavery.

The removal of children from their families went to an extreme when they were taught to reject their own culture and assimilate into white culture; names were changed and they were prohibited to speak their own language. These children were physically and emotionally abused by their adopted families. They were also tricked into thinking that their parents abandoned them or had died, so the children were essentially conditioned not to fight the system or attempt to return to their homeland. 

Photo by Zul; courtesy of Dance Performance Class (featuring dancer Hannah Bradshaw)

The 2016 dance performance of Stolen Generations has allowed high school students to not only perform, but to choreograph this tragic reality in Australian history.  Sophomore Bryanna Entwistle noted: “This show definitely has a deeper meaning than others because the dancers have a duty to portray the message respectfully, embodying the topic with facial expressions and movements.” She added that dance is a viable medium to advocate for a deeper understanding of serious topics.

Riho Kanomata, a DP (Dance Performance) member and choreographer said that she had done plenty of research before teaching the movements to the dance club members, but that she also struggled with trying to come up with choreography that fit the aboriginal theme. “Something I learned through this dance experience was that this event was actually a pretty recent event and it shocked me as to how people were struggling to find their own identity. I also learned that 70-80% of these aboriginal girls [that were] taken away from their families were sexually abused. I honestly cannot imagine the pain the girls had to go through.”

Photo by Zul; courtesy of Dance Performance Class (featuring dancer Maile Wong)

In an interview with show director Tracy Van Der Linden, it became clear that the purpose of this stage adaptation was to deliver a very serious message. She noted that, because it is an only high school production, the students would be more mature in handling this issue. “We chose this topic because we wanted to communicate the story of the Stolen Generations. By talking to people in Australia who still remember this time period, the process of research brought a more authentic understanding.”

The show premiered last night, wowing audiences with a stunning visual style and mature delivery. Check out some of the highlights from the premiere performance in the video clip below. We promise that this show is like nothing you have seen at SAS before, and certainly not to be missed. A final presentation will be held Friday, November 18th at 7pm in the High School Auditorium. Admission is free.

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