Stephen Page, artistic director of Bangarra Dance Theatre for more than three decades, has been named the 2022 Global Sydney Award winner.
“I come from humble beginnings, big family, big clan – my father, freshwater, my mother, salt water. Their identity was challenged, they were forbidden to continue their language. All their cultural practices had been taken away,” he said.
“For me to be coming from the seedlings of that and then to be a director of the company at the age of 25, traveling throughout the country and globally, it’s a big responsibility. I was surrounded by my brothers, by other artists in the company, people that believed what we all believed in, that vision.
“I might be the leader of this company artistically, but Bangarra started as a clan. It moves as a mob. So when you are the one up the front accepting this award, you know you have a clan of people that that are accepting this as well.
Founded in 1989, Bangarra Dance Theatre has grown to become Australia’s leading First Nations performing arts company, with more than 130 dancers performing to rapturous receptions in 60+ cities around the world.
The Committee for Sydney’s Global Sydney Award, supported by ISPT, celebrates those who put Sydney front and centre on the world stage.
Letitia Hope, Partnerships Specialist at ISPT, said: “ISPT is thrilled to sponsor the Global Sydney Award, which celebrates the people and companies who elevate Sydney on the world stage and showcase it as the vibrant, enriching cultural hub we know it to be.
“This year’s winner, Stephen Page, is a visionary and a storyteller whose expression of culture through dance is a force to be reckoned with. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Stephen for sharing stories of First Nations people and touching audiences all around the world.”
Born in Brisbane, Stephen is a descendant of the Nunukul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh Nation from southeast Queensland. He has led Bangarra for more than 30 years, choreographing over 25 works for the company, including the Helpmann award-winning Bennelong.
He directed or choreographed work for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, as well as Sydney Dance Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Opera Australia, the Australian Ballet and others.
Stephen Page, Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre: “Dance is such a beautiful and universal language – we’re often told things through the arts, through words, through acting or drama, but dance is different.
“A Bangarra performance is dance. It’s the original score. The coming together of old knowledge and new knowledge, contemporary sounds, traditional sound. Sets and costumes. All those artforms coming together as one to create this powerful experience.
“When we go overseas, we feel a responsibility. We’re not just there for self expression, we’re carrying deep cultural significance, cultural values. It’s the old and the young character of the country.”
Ann Sherry AO, Committee for Sydney life member, and Sydney Awards judge: “Stephen is a cultural activist and quite frankly, we need to celebrate that.”
“His work about Bennelong was just heartbreaking, and yet a piece of history that’s not well understood. He used his medium of dance to tell the truth and we’re all talking about that now in Australia, about how we need to to acknowledge our truth and I think he’s been doing that for more than 20 years.
“That sense of Australia being more than an old convict settlement, which is how many people globally have thought of us, to being a place that celebrates the longest living culture on Earth. Bangarra is the embodiment of that.
“His willingness to push hard, to do things nobody thought possible and to create a sense of connection between Australia and the First Nations community is a piece of activism in itself.
“He’s fostered a sense of possibility, of achievement and amazingness in a group of young Indigenous men and women from all over Australia who’ve come through Bangarra and then gone onto the world stage because he’s made it possible.
“That came from a Sydney vision, someone who had the courage to do what no one had done before, which is celebrate Indigenous dance and do it not just in a way that brought it to life for locals, but in fact took it onto a world stage.
“It’s part of the DNA of who we are, I think, as a city and as a country now.”
Designed to celebrate people whose efforts make Sydney the greatest city in the world, there are five categories: Global Sydney, Western Sydney Champion, City Visionary, Emerging Leader, and Unsung Hero.
The eminent judging panel for the awards include:
- Ann Sherry AO – Chair Unicef Australia and Enero Australia
- Usman Iftikhar – CEO of Catalysr, and winner of the 2021 Western Sydney Champion Award
- Sara Mansour – Founder Bankstown Poetry Slam, Lawyer at Settlement Services International
- Eric Knight – Executive Dean at Macquarie Business School, and Professor of Strategic Management
- Tanya Hosch – Executive General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy, AFL
- Mike Baird AO – CEO HammondCare, and former Premier of NSW.
The Sydney Awards are supported by major partner Macquarie Business School, and award sponsors Aurecon, Coles, ISPT Super Property, KPMG and Mirvac Design.