Life On The Job

Indigenous Famous Person's Story

Stephen Page (1965 - ?) - CHOREOGRAPHER

Creative Talk | Stephen Page



Born in Brisbane [1965], Stephen is a descendant of the Nunukul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh Nation from SE Queensland. (Source: Bangarra)

Brisbane-born Stephen Page is the first choreographer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent to have achieved major national and international recognition. Page's upbringing was urban although it still centred on indigenous cultural values such as strong kinship bonds and a non-separation of art and life. His Aboriginal ties are to his father's community, that of the Munaldjali people of the Yugambeh tribe whose traditional land in south-eastern Queensland extends from Charleville in the west across to Surfers Paradise in the east. (Source: Trove)


Page was educated at the Anglican Church Grammar School, Brisbane.

Born into a family of 12 children ["I'm number 10" - ABC] in the working-class Brisbane suburb of Mount Gravatt, Page channelled his energies into a rich creative life, crafting shows around the kitchen table with his siblings and, later, choreographing performances for high school concerts.

At 16, in Year 11, a pivotal moment dawned. "Appalled and frustrated" by the depiction of Aboriginal history in the curriculum, he had an angry confrontation with his history teacher and was suspended for a week. Faced with the prospect of returning to school, he joined the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service as a trainee law clerk. It was the perfect channel for his nascent activism. He immersed himself in the black legal, cultural and political scenes of the time, but in 1982 he left Brisbane for Sydney after seeing posters for auditions at the Aboriginal and Islander Dance Theatre (AIDT, later known as NAISDA). (Source: The Australian)

He studied dance at the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA), he graduated in 1983 and then danced with the Sydney Dance Company, in 1991 he choreographed Mooggrah for the Sydney Dance Company and Trackers of Oxyrhyncus for the Sydney Theatre Company and a sextet for Opera Australia's Marriage of Figaro. During this time he also toured with the NAISDA associated "Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre".


The National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) Dance College was established in 1975 to train Indigenous Australians in dance.

It is based in Gosford's Mount Penang Gardens on the Central Coast of New South Wales.

Graduates have worked in the performing arts: arts management, dance, music, theatre and film, both at the elite and community level.

Bangarra Dance Theatre developed from NAISDA. (Source: Wikipedia)

2003 - Honorary degree of Doctor of the University from University of South Australia in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the arts in Australia.

Employment & Training:

Page studied dance at the college of the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) and after graduating in 1983 began a professional career as a dancer with Sydney Dance Company. With Sydney Dance he appeared in After Venice, Wilderness, Nearly Beloved, Shining, Poppy, Company of Wo/men and King Roger and toured with the company to Greece, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong and Korea. Graeme Murphy created the role of the Faun in Late Afternoon of a Faun on Page and, while with Sydney Dance, Page choreographed Mooggrah (1991) for the company's season, The Shakespeare Dances. 1991 also saw Page choreograph Trackers of Oxyrhyncus for the Sydney Theatre Company and a sextet for Opera Australia's Marriage of Figaro.

In 1988 Page toured with the Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre, the performing arm of NAISDA, to Germany and Finland and in 1989 he was artistic director of the NAISDA end-of-year show Kayn Walu. Page joined Bangarra Dance Theatre as principal choreographer in 1991 and at the end of that year was appointed artistic director of Bangarra. In 1992 he choreographed Praying Mantis Dreaming, Bangarra's first full length work. In addition to his many works for Bangarra, which include Ochres (1995), Fish (1997), Skin (2000) for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival, Corroboree (2001), Rush (2002), Bush (choreographed in collaboration with Rings -2003), Boomeragng (2005) and Mathinna (2008) he has choreographed works for a wide range of companies and organisations beyond Bangarra. They include the Australian Ballet, for whom he has made Alchemy (1996), Rites (1997) Totem (2002) a solo for Steven Heathcote, and Amalgamate (2006) as well as the Australian Football League, Sydney Dance Company and Sydney Theatre Company.

As a choreographer Page seeks to meld traditional Aboriginal ideas and motifs with those of the urban culture in which he grew up. He is the recipient of two Australian Dance Awards - in 1997 he received the award for outstanding choreographic achievement and in 2010 the award for services to dance. He is currently still artistic director of Bangarra and directed the Adelaide Festival in 2004. In 2008 he was named NSW Australian of the Year. (Source: Trove)

Stephen danced with the Sydney Dance Company until 1991 when he was appointed Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre. (Source: Wikipedia)

Bangarra website

Stephen...has built a strong reputation touring throughout Australia and the world, including New York, Washington, Paris, London and Germany. Memorable works Ochres, Skin (‘Best New Australian Work’ and ‘Best Dance Work’, 2001 Helpmann Awards), Bush (‘Best Dance Work’, 2004 Helpmann Awards), Mathinna (‘Best Dance Work’ and ‘Best Choreography’, 2009 Helpmann Awards) have become milestones in Australian performing arts. (Source: Bangarra)

In 1996, Stephen made his creative debut with The Australian Ballet, choreographing Alchemy. The following year, he brought The Australian Ballet and Bangarra together in Rites, to Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. The following year he choreographed Fish for Bangarra, with its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival.



Stephen Page choreographed the flag handover ceremony for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and co-directed segments [he directed the Indigenous sections for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies (Source: Bangarra)] of the ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

He also created the ceremony that opened the Olympic Arts Festival.

He also choreographed Skin, which premiered at the festival and won the coveted Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work and Best Dance Work.

His triple bill Corroboree toured internationally, in a sell-out tour of the US with appearances at BAM in New York and Washington's Kennedy Centre. This work earned Page the Helpmann Award for Best Choreography. The following year, he was honoured with the Matilda Award for his contribution to the arts in Queensland and choreographed Totem for The Australian Ballet's principal dancer, Stephen Heathcote. 2002 also saw the world premiere of Bangarra's double bill, Walkabout which Page co-choreographed with Frances Rings. (Source: Wikipedia)

As Artistic Director of the 2004 Adelaide Festival of the Arts, Stephen was praised for reinvigorating the event with an impressive and highly successful world-class program. Stephen’s film and theatre credits include the contemporary operatic film Black River, numerous music video clips, directing his brother David Page in the highly acclaimed production Page 8 which toured Australia and the UK and choreography for the feature films Bran Nue Dae (2009) and The Sapphires (2011). (Source: Bangarra)

YouTube: Bran Nue Dae Official Trailer


In 2006 Stephen Page and The Australian Ballet created Gathering, a double bill consisting of a reworked Rites and Amalgamate. Also in 2006, Queensland Art Gallery director asked him to create a new dance work for the opening of the Gallery of Modern Art. Along with his son and nephews, he created Kin, a special project that opened Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art.

In 2007 Stephen Page directed a spectacular traditional smoking ceremony in honour of the historic celebration marking the 75th anniversary of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Later in the year, during Bangarra's True Stories season, he directed Victorian Opera's Orphée et Eurydice in Melbourne and presented another sell-out season of Kin at the Malthouse Theatre.

In 2008 Stephen Page was named NSW Australian of the Year, receiving the award from Deputy Premier John Watkins in a ceremony at the Art Gallery of NSW.

In 2008 he created for Bangarra a new, full-length work Mathinna (Best Dance Work and Best Choreography, 2009 Helpmann Awards). He then took Rites with The Australian Ballet to London and Paris, and Bangarra's Awakenings to Washington, New York and Ottawa. Later in 2008 he set off for Broome, WA as Choreographer on the film adaptation of Bran Nue Dae.

In 2009, after returning from a highly successful tour of True Stories to Germany, Hungary and Austria, Page and the dancers spent 10 days in Arnhem Land on a cultural exchange. He celebrated Bangarra's 20th Anniversary with Fire – A Retrospective (Winner, Outstanding Performance by a Company, 2010 Australian Dance Awards).

In 2011, Stephen Page was honoured with the Services to Dance award at the Australian Dance Awards and received a Helpmann Award for Best Choreography for Fire, Bangarra's 20-year Retrospective work. Bangarra received a further two Helpmann Awards - Best Ballet/Dance Work for Fire and Best Regional Touring Production for True Stories.


YouTube: Living Black Conversations S2013 Ep7 - Stephen and David Page [Please note that David Page has since died]


YouTube: Bennelong: In the studio with Stephen Page


YouTube: Stephen Page and Professor Judith McLean in conversation at QPAC



bullet.gif (981 bytes) Bangarra

Bangarra website
bullet.gif (981 bytes)National Library of Australia: Trove

bullet.gif (981 bytes)Conversations with Richard Fidler
- there is an audio file of this show here.

Conversations with Richard Fidler
bullet.gif (981 bytes)What Makes a Man a Man?

What Makes a Man a man?
bullet.gif (981 bytes)Australian Dance Awards

Australian Dance Awards
bullet.gif (981 bytes)NSW State Finalist: Australian of the Year 2008

NSW State Finalist 2008
bullet.gif (981 bytes)Civics and Citizenship

Civics and Citizenship
bullet.gif (981 bytes)HSC Online - CSU

HSC Online
bullet.gif (981 bytes)Creative Spirits

Creative Spirits
bullet.gif (981 bytes)The Australian - 2011

The Australian
bullet.gif (981 bytes)Time Out

Time Out
bullet.gif (981 bytes)NAIDOC - Artist of the Year 2012

bullet.gif (981 bytes)The Conversation 18 February 2021

The Conversation




bullet.gif (981 bytes)Online/Offline: Create a Dance around the Dreamtime Story: The Fish Hawk and the Lyre Bird

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle High SchoolSecondary

ICT Capability Australian Curriculum General Capability: ICT Capability

Critical & Creative ThinkingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical & Creative Thinking

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and culturesAustralian Curriculum: Cross Curriculum Priorities: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures

1. You are to read the story: The Fish Hawk and the Lyre Bird - below

Dreamtime Story
Only at the Web Archive


"The pool lay dark and still in the shadow of the trees. Fish Hawk was just as still as the pool, lying on his back with his legs stretched out, fast asleep. He had spent the morning crushing poisonous berries. When he had finished he poured the juice into the pool and went to sleep, knowing that when he woke the fish would be dead and floating on the surface. He smiled in his sleep and dreamed of the big feed he would soon be having.

He did not wake up, even when Lyrebird came out of the bush and began to spear the fish. The poison had not had time to take effect, but before long the newcomer had a good supply. He lit a fire and began to roast them.

Fish Hawk woke with a start and realised that Lyrebird had deliberately taken advantage of him. He stole up behind him, quietly gathered up the spears which Lyrebird had put by his side, and retreated to the shelter of the trees.

He chose the tallest tree he could find, climbed to the top, and lashed the spars to the trunk. Back on the ground, he looked up and admired his work. The spears looked like a feathery branch at the top of the tree. He hid under a bush and waited to see what would happen. Lyrebird made a leisurely meal and then put out his hand to gather up his spears. His groping fingers failed to find them. He searched everywhere with a puzzled expression, but there was no other place where he could have left them.

Fish Hawk laughed silently as he watched from his hiding place and saw Lyrebird running round and round the pool, looking everywhere for the missing spears. It was even funnier when he began to talk to himself. 'Someone has been here while I was cooking fish,' Lyrebird said aloud. 'Who could it be? What would he do with them? He could bury them, but there is no sign of the soil being disturbed. He could run away with them, of course, but then I would see the marks of his flight through the bush. And he could hide them in a tree.'

He walked through the bush, looking up and down the trees until at least he saw the spears waving in the breeze. Lyrebird was a man who did not believe in working when there was an easier way to do things. He called on the spirits of water, and streams, and floods, and at his word the water in the pool rose quickly and carried him on its surface to the top of the tree, where he retrieved the spears, sinking down to the ground as the water receded.

Poor Fish Hawk was caught in the flood and swept out to sea. He has never been able to get back to his quiet pool again, but lives on the sea coast.

LLyrebird never forgot his experience that day. Everywhere he goes he searches the tree tops for his spears."

(Source: Mongabay)


2. You are to choose a piece of music to go with this story. 


All Music: Traditional Aboriginal Music

Manikay - Audio recordings featuring traditional Arnhem Land music

Lyre Bird Song:

Amazing! Bird Sounds From The Lyre Bird - David Attenborough - BBC Wildlife


3. Create a dance using two dancers - one for the Fish Hawk and one for the Lyre Bird. 

4. Record the dance on video.  Show it to the rest of the class.



Optional Extra: You might like to read the Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories to create a dance to.


Material sourced from 

National Library of Australia: Trove
The Australian

side 5

side bar

side bar

sidebar 9

Jeweller side

side 5

side bar

side bar

sidebar 9

Jeweller side

side 5

side bar

side bar

sidebar 9

Jeweller side

side 5

side bar

side bar

sidebar 9

Jeweller side

side 5

side bar

side bar

sidebar 9

Jeweller side

side 5

side bar

side bar