Australian First Nation dance for babies

Our Corka Bubs is a special place for babies to explore Indigenous culture through music and dance, director and South Australian Aboriginal choreographer Gina Rings explains how


Photo © Chris Herzfeld


Our Corka Bubs is the first-ever Aboriginal contemporary dance work for babies. Grounded in Australia’s First Nation’s culture, it offers captivating storytelling through movement and music choreographed specifically for a small audience of babies under two years old alongside their carers. The performance draws strongly on aspects of Australian Aboriginal culture.

All performers, who are of Aboriginal descent, collaborated with myself in developing movement derived from Aboriginal dance carefully adapted into contemporary form. The two main dancers, sisters Taree and Caleena Sansbury, along with their uncle Owen Love, offer ways of moving specifically designed to engage the young audience through the use of gentle motifs and gestural dance.

Photo © Chris Herzfeld

Language used through movement is choreographed to engage the babies’ participation by providing them with a safe and secure environment from which to explore the performance space.

The performance is based on an earlier work called This (Baby) Life by Sally Chance, which was researched and choreographed in 2011 while Chance completed a fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts. Her research into the culture, babies and the value of immersive dance performance has been tested nationally and internationally, and, through a collaborative process, I worked with Sally to bring to life a new dance form with cultural respect in mind.

Our Corka Bubs is a delicate and eloquently choreographed show for babies is beautifully crafted to provide a magical sonic space for babies to be immersed in our cultures. The show also gives way for highly-experienced performers to draw upon a new set of skills and techniques especially needed for a show such as this, and with the guidance and experience drawn from Sally Chance’s This [Baby] Life, and music composed by Heather Frahn in collaboration with our Aboriginal musicians, we were able to create a very special show for babies and carers to enjoy together.

The idea for the show came in response to health workers from Aboriginal Health Team in Murray Bridge, South Australia in 2014 who were looking for a creative way to address Closing the Gap issues with teenage families.

Our producer, Ollie Black, had seen This (Baby) Life and thought an adapted idea would be a great way to access young families with an Indigenous focus. Three years of community consultations and grant writing followed, including discussions with Sally Chance and various health agencies around regional South Australia, until the creators were successful in receiving funding from the Australia Council for the Arts to rehearse and do a pilot tour.

Driving concept
One driving concept behind Our Corka Bubs is The Circle of Security, an interactive protocol used in the field of Infant Mental Health, which maps the constant rhythm of a baby moving out into the world to explore, then returning to the safe haven provided by their primary carer. The images and sections in the performance work reflect this constant ebb and flow; the deeply human experience of voyaging out and coming home.

The performance offers a unique way for primary health care and childcare workers to engage with mothers/carers and babies and helps to highlight the importance of attachment to baby and mental health wellbeing. The performance form pays attention to a baby’s need to both explore and feel secure. Babies are hard-wired to seek out interaction, so the work aims to “meet” them both culturally and psychologically.

Audience response has been very positive with feedback such as: “engaging”; “My baby was intrigued with the show, he was captivated by the voice and instruments”, “a fun event for babies” and “there were gentle and exhilarating moments which created feelings of security and adventure”.

A response from a crew member sums up the performance: “There are many times while working on the show that I am almost moved to tears watching the interaction between adults watching their child’s experiences on the mat with the dancers and music.”

Photo © Mandy Brown
Photo © Mandy Brown