At PICA we recognise that we are situated within the unceded lands of the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation. We pay our respects and offer our gratitude to Elders past and present, and to those emerging leaders in the community. We acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the importance of their care and continued connection to culture, community and Country.

Always was, always will be.

Our foyer is open today 10am–5pm . Our exhibitions are always free.

Burrbgaja Yalirra 2

Burrbgaja Yalirra 2 – Marrugeku

World Premiere Tour

Marrugeku – Australia’s leading Indigenous and intercultural dance theatre company returns to PICA with the world premiere of Burrbgaja Yalirra 2. 

This powerful triple bill traces histories of migration, adaptation, and survival in two fiercely physical dance solos and an awe-inspiring duo, each exploring the presence of ancestors in contemporary life. 

Nyuju embodies longing for Country in the central Kimberley, told through the lens of senior Wangkatjungka artist Nyuju Stumpy Brown’s paintings. Beautifully reflected in Sohan Ariel Hayes’ animations, the immersive solo piece is performed by her great-grandson, dancer and actor Emmanuel James Brown, and co-choreographed by Dalisa Pigram, with Associate Choreographer Zunnur (Zee) Zhafirah.

A lunar eclipse marks the mesmerising solo performance by artist Bhenji Ra in No New Gods. Co-created with choreographer Melanie Lane, Ra channels the colonial histories, epic narratives, and flora and fauna of the Philippine archipelago. Incorporating Filipino stick fighting and her own unique gestural hyper-expressivity, Ra’s narrative pulses with power, dominance, and resistance.

Dancers Ses Bero and Stan Nalo perform Bloodlines a breathtaking exchange of cultural and contemporary dance forms as they grapple with the brutal history of blackbirding. The duo counteract this violent period – during which South Sea Islanders were forcefully enslaved and transported to eastern Australia in the early 1800s – through their intercultural and intra-Melanesian exchange, facilitated by Ghenoa Gela and Miranda Wheen.

Burrbgaja Yalirra – Triple Bill 2 marks the second collaboration for PICA and Marrugeku, following the successful 2018 premiere of their Burrbgaja Yalirra 1 in Broome and Perth. The first iteration was commissioned by Carriageworks and PICA and toured regional and remote WA. 

Duration: 80 minutes, no interval
Cultural and Content warnings: With family permission, this performance contains the voices of people who have passed away. This performance also contains strobe light, haze, fake blood and simulated violence.

Burrbgaja Yalirra 2 Dates

Wednesday 17 May | 7pm – Opening Night | Sold out
Thursday 18 May | 7pm | Sold out
Friday 19 May | 7pm | Sold out
Saturday 20 May | 2pm & 7pm | Sold out

Learning Resources

Hear from Marrugeku’s Co-Artistic Directors, Dalisa Pigram and Rachael Swain, about the unique multi-year development program for Burrbgaja Yalirra and how the performing arts can help build understanding between cultures.

About the Artist

Artistic Direction: Dalisa Pigram & Rachael Swain
Musical Director and Co-composer: Corin Ileto
Set Design: Nicolas Molé
Costume Design: Matthew Stegh
Lighting Design: Matt Cox

No New Gods
Concept, Co-choreographer, Performer: Bhenji Ra
Co-Choreographer: Melanie Lane
Dramaturg: Rachael Swain
Media Artist: Sohan Ariel Hayes

Concept, Co-choreographers, Performers: Czack (Ses) Bero and Stanley Nalo
Director and Co-choreographer: Ghenoa Gela
Associate Choreographer and Dramaturg: Miranda Wheen
Additional music Stanley Nalo
Cultural advisor Kanaky: Pierre Boerereou

Concept, Co-choreographer and Performer: Emmanuel James Brown
Co-choreographer: Dalisa Pigram
Dramaturg: Rachael Swain
Media Artist: Sohan Ariel Hayes
Associate Choreographer: Zunnur (Zee) Zhafirah
Cultural advisors for Nyuju’s story: Mr May, Nancy Brown, Tina Brown and Mangkaja Arts

Production Manager: Aiden Brennan
Audio technician and Associate Sound Designer: Raine Paul
Company Manager: Denise Wilson
Producer: Natalie Smith

Marrugeku is an unparalleled presence in Australia today, dedicated to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians working together to develop new dance languages that are restless, transformative, and unwavering. Marrugeku builds bridges and breaks down walls between urban and remote dance communities, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists and between local and global situations. Our works are created out of urgent and insurgent reciprocities, believing, on our watch, we face major change in Indigenous Australia and that telling stories together is one of the simplest and hardest things we can do.  

Marrugeku is led by co-artistic directors, choreographer/dancer Dalisa Pigram and director/dramaturg Rachael Swain. Working together for 27 years, they co-conceive and facilitate Marrugeku’s productions and research laboratories, introducing audiences to the unique and potent structures of Indigenous knowledge systems and the compelling experience of intercultural performance. Marrugeku’s performers come from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, collaborating to co-create each production. Marrugeku’s patron is Yawuru law man and national reconciliation advocate Patrick Dodson.  

Working from our bi-coastal operations in the remote town of Broome, Western Australia and the urban centre of Carriageworks, Sydney, Marrugeku harnesses the dynamic of performance exchange drawn from remote, urban, intercultural, and trans-Indigenous approaches to expand the possibilities of contemporary dance. Our productions tour throughout urban and remote Australia, to other Indigenous contexts internationally and throughout the world. 

Dalisa Pigram – Marrugeku Co-Artistic Director / Co-choreographer (Nyuju)
Dalisa Pigram is a Yawuru/Bardi woman born and raised in Broome. Pigram has worked with Marrugeku since the first production Mimi and has been Co-Artistic Director of Marrugeku since 2008. A co-devising performer on all Marrugeku’s productions, touring extensively overseas and throughout Australia. Pigram’s solo work Gudirr Gudirr earned an Australian Dance Award (Outstanding Achievement in Independent Dance 2014) and a Green Room Award (Best Female Performer 2014). She co-conceived Marrugeku’s Burning Daylight and Cut the Sky with Rachael Swain, co-choreographing both works as well as Marrugeku’s Le Dernier Appel (2018) with Serge Aimé Coulibaly for which she also received a Green Room Award (Best Performance 2020). Together with Swain she co-directed BuruNgalimpa and co-curated Marrugeku’s four international Indigenous Choreographic Labs and Burrbgaja Yalirra. Pigram co-conceived with Rachael Swain and Patrick Dodson Marrugeku’s Jurrungu Ngan-ga [Straight Talk], co-choreographing the new work with the performers. She also co-choreographed and performed in Marrugeku’s new digital work, Gudirr Gudirr video and sound installation. In her community, Pigram teaches the Yawuru Language at Cable Beach Primary School and is committed to the maintenance of Indigenous language and culture through arts and education. She is co-editor of Marrugeku: Telling That Story—25 years of trans-Indigenous and intercultural exchange (Performance Research, 2021). 

Rachael Swain – Marrugeku Co-Artistic Director / Dramaturg (No New Gods and Nyuju)
Rachael Swain is a Pākehā settler director and dramaturg born on the land of the Ngai Tahu, Aotearoa, and living and working on the lands of the Gadigal and the Yawuru in so-called Australia. Swain specialises in directing and facilitating intersectional and trans-disciplinary dance and theatre. She is a founding member and Co-Artistic Director of Marrugeku with Dalisa Pigram. She has co-conceived and directed Marrugeku’s productions Mimi (1996), Crying Baby (2001), Burning Daylight (2006), Cut the Sky (2015), and Jurrungu Ngan-ga (2022) and co-directed Buru (2010) and Ngalimpa (2018) with Pigram. Her dramaturgy credits include Gudirr Gudirr (2013), the video installation Gudirr Gudirr (2021) directed by Vernon Ah Kee, Burrbgaja Yalirra 1 (2018) and Le Dernier Appel (2018). Swain was co-artistic director of Stalker Theatre (1989–2014) during which her directing highlights included Incognita (2003) and the Helpmann-nominated Shanghai Lady Killer (2010) written by Tony Ayres. She gained a Masters in Advanced Theatre and Dance Research from DAS ARTS, Amsterdam, and a Doctorate in Theatre Studies from Melbourne University. She is the author of Dance in Contested Land—new intercultural dramaturgies (Palgrave Macmillian, 2020) and co-editor of Marrugeku: Telling That Story—25 years of trans-Indigenous and intercultural exchange (Performance Research, 2021). 

Corin Ileto – Musical Director and Co-composer
Corin Ileto is a Filipina-Australian electronic producer, composer and performer working in the field of performance art, sound design, theatre and club spaces. In her compositions, traditional forms merge with hyper-digital sounds to create new imaginary realms. Compositionally, she is interested in creating a sonic space in which western classical music can be hybridised with contemporary electronic music production. Each release is thought of as a speculative fiction drawing influence from sci-fi, classical music composition, contemporary club culture and ancestral myths connected to her Filipino heritage. As a composer, Ileto works across a broad spectrum ranging from video to theatre. Recent commissions include Club Ate’s video work Ang Idol Ko (Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 2022), Justin Shoulder’s theatre work AEON† (Liveworks Festival, 2020) and Sky Blue Mythic theatre work by Angela Goh (Sydney Opera House, 2021).

Nicolas Molé – Set Design
Nicolas Molé is emerging as a key figure in the expression of contemporary Kanak culture. Moving fluently between drawing, animation and video, Molé constructs animated multi-media installations that respond to the natural and cultural environment of New Caledonia. These works are often performative in nature, requiring an audience to activate or transform them. They are also interventionist, adapting an existing building, site or place. Molé has worked extensively with performance companies across the Pacific region, Europe and Argentina to create settings for their works.

Matthew Stegh – Costume Design
Matt Stegh (he/him – Wiradjuri/Croatian/Austrian) is an interdisciplinary artist, activist and community organiser. His design and craft focuses on costume, textiles and inflatables for dance, performance, theatre, film and immersive community engagement. Stegh has been instrumental in Eora’s underground queer clubbing and activist communities, as a key collaborator on parties such as Monsta Gras and Pink Bubble and the infamous Glitter Militia events. He has built a reputation as a deep listener and respectful collaborator which has lead to co-creating powerful syncretic work with artist and partner Justin Shoulder, Lisa Reihana, Latai Taumoepeau and Bhenji Ra. Recent collaborations include Lisa Reihana’s video work Ground Loop for the new wing of the AGNSW and this years First Nations Float for Mardi Gras/World Pride. He is currently working on Justin Shoulders new performance work Anito premiering at the Sydney Festival 2024.

Sohan Ariel Hayes – Media Artist (Nyuju and No New Gods)
Sohan Ariel Hayes is a Perth-based artist and filmmaker with a body of work spanning multi-disciplinary art forms including immersive environments, animation and documentary. In February 2023 Sohan completed four short films under the banner, Artist in Focus, which feature First Nations artists sharing their creative journey, alongside unique experiences which have shaped their lives and practice. He is currently working with a small creative team on a 1.4km immersive installation which aims to inspire deeper connections with Country through walking together and to promote shared understandings across Noongar Knowledge & Western Science.

No New Gods

Bhenji Ra – Co-choreographer, Performer
Bhenji Ra is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice combines dance, choreography, video, and installation. She attended the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York in 2008, followed by BA in Dance at WAAPA. Ra exhibited two group works in 2015, You Own Everything for Performance Space’s Day4Night exhibition and Bowling Club Medley for Underbelly Arts Festival, and at the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, in collaboration with artist Justin Shoulder. In 2016 she was the Dance WEB scholarship recipient for Impulstanz Dance Festival, Vienna, undergoing a mentorship program with artist Tino Sehgal.

Melanie Lane Co-Choreographer
Melanie Lane is an Australian choreographer and performer of Javanese/European cultural heritage. Working between Naarm/Melbourne and Ngunnawal/Canberra, she works across visual arts, theatre, music and film. Her choreographic work interrogates physical and social realities to create surreal futures that are confounded, broken and reconfigured. She has created works for Sydney Dance Company, Australasian Dance Collective, Dance North, Chunky Move, Schauspiel Leipzig, and West Australian Ballet (among others) and has toured her independent work internationally. Lane engages regularly across projects in Indonesia, is resident artist at The Substation Melbourne and Associate Artist at QL2 Canberra.  


Czack (Ses) Bero – Co-choreographer and Performer
Czack (Ses) Bero is a proud Indigenous man from both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background coming from the Kunjen people of Western Cape York and the Erub and Meriam people of the eastern part of the Torres Straits. Bero was born and raised in Townsville, North Queensland where his family always practiced their culture and performing in traditional ceremonies, celebrations and in everyday life. He studied at NAISDA Dance College where he completed his diploma in Professional Dance. As part of his training, Bero has taught workshops in schools, community centres, and youth detention centres. Working and creating with children for a better future is one of his passions. In 2019, he was cast as an ensemble performer and dance captain of Opera Australia’s remount of the musical Bran Nue Dae. He has also performed extensively for large-scale events and festivals during his career.

Stan Nalo – Co-choreographer, Performer and Additional Music
Stan Nalo is an emerging hip-hop dancer, born in Nouméa and raised in Vanuatu. After college, he came back to Nouméa where he has danced with many break dance crews. He competed in various hip-hop battles in France including Battle of the Year 2011 (6th place), Juste Debout 2016 (final), and was winner of the European Street Tour event 2016. Nalo has worked with choreographers such as 9 Kader Attou and Brahim Bouchelaghem. In Nouméa, he is part of Moebius Company and performed in Humanité, choreographed by Yoan Ouchot and presented as part of WAAN DANCE FESTIVAL 2017 in Nouméa. Nalo has also been involved in other artistic projects such as ilma by la Cie qui balance (Elsa Gilquin), troc en jambes choreographed by Veronique Nave from Troc en jambes company (season 2021). During 2022 he has been dancing for both endeuillés by Clément Foussier and Oeuvres, co-choregraphed by Pascal Teouri and Clément Foussier. Nalo has also been a music producer for several dance works for companies such as Nyian (Richard Digouë), la Cie qui balance (Elsa Gilquin) and the previous works mentioned Endeuillés and ilma.

Ghenoa Gela – Director and Co-choreographer
Koedal (Crocodile) and Waumer (Frigate Bird) woman Ghenoa Gela is a strong Torres Strait Islander woman from Rockhampton, Central Queensland. Her background is in Torres Strait Island dance and since receiving a Diploma in Careers in Dance, she has been a Sydney-based independent performing artist working across Dance, Circus, Television and Stage. Some credits include: Mura Buai – Everyone, Everyone, Choreographer/Co-Director with Artistic Director Danielle Micich; Nothing to Lose (Force Majeure), additional choreography with Kate Champion; #GenuaGela, Performer/Choreographer/Director (Nula Nura Residency, Performance Space); Move it Mob Style, Choreographer & In-Studio Host; Top 100, So You Think You Can Dance Australia 2014; Dance Site, Booraloola NT, Facilitator; The Piper, (My Darling Patricia), Edinburgh Fringe 2015; Fragments of Malungoka – Women of the Sea (Keir Choreographic Award – winner 2016). Gela also facilitates dance workshops in urban, regional and remote communities. Gela conducted dance workshops at the inaugural Boomerang Festival, as well as at regional and remote festivals. A highlights was helping to facilitate a program that helped an Aboriginal community to embrace new ways of creating new songs and dances for the future of their community. Gela’s arts practice is inspired by her family stories and her passion to share her Torres Strait Islander culture. She aspires to inspire.

Miranda Wheen – Associate Choreographer and Dramaturg
Miranda Wheen is an independent dancer and choreographer based in Sydney. Her practice, whilst rooted in contemporary dance, spans areas of intercultural collaboration, improvisation and advocacy for dance. She is an Associate Artist with Marrugeku, Australia’s leading intercultural Indigenous Dance Company, and founding member of Dance Makers Collective, for whom she directed their last two full-length works Dads and The Rivoli. She has collaborated with companies and choreographers including Martin Del Amo, Stalker Theatre, Shaun Parker and Company, Mirramu Dance Company, Julie-Anne Long, and the Tsai Jui-Yueh Dance Foundation in Taiwan. She has taught and choreographed for the Pre-Professional year at Sydney Dance Company, been a Board member of FORM Dance Projects and, for a time, trained at L’Ecole des Sables in Senegal in Traditional and Contemporary African dance.


Emmanuel James Brown (EJB) – Co-choreographer and Performer
is an actor and traditional dancer who lives in Fitzroy Crossing. When not acting, he works with his grandfather as a cultural tour guide. He has bush skills, cultural knowledge, and fluency in the Bunuba language. EJB completed the one-year intensive course at WAAPA for Indigenous students, giving him a Cert IV Aboriginal Theatre and went on to play Ilaji in Jandamarra by Steve Hawke for Black Swan State Theatre Company in the 2008 Perth Festival. He played Darudi in the drama/documentary Jandamarra’s War for Wawili produced by Electric Pictures and directed by Mitch Torres for ABC TV. In 2014 he played Jandamarra in the concert version for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House. He also worked with Yirra Yaakin in So Long Suckers. EJB has performed in Marrugeku’s most recent work Jurrungu Ngan-ga [Straight Talk], which premiered at Carriageworks, Sydney 2022 and went on to tour to the Kimberley, Melbourne and Europe.

Zee Zunnur – Associate Choreographer
Zee Zunnur is a Singaporean-Malay movement artist who currently dances with Hofesh Shechter Company (UK). She started dance training at a young age in traditional Malay Dance with Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts Ltd. With her strong roots in Malay culture and folk art, she sheds light on the existence, richness in wisdom and strength of Southeast Asia, re-writing the stories of her ancestors to honour them as she threads through her artistic realms. Zunnur is also an inter-arts collaborator and vows to serve the community. Being part of the pioneer batch at School of the Arts Singapore and danced with T.H.E. (Second) Dance Company, her love for contemporary dance brought her to London and graduated with a BA(Hons) from London Contemporary Dance School with a scholarship from the National Arts Council (Singapore) and Leverhulme Trust (UK). Whilst in the UK, she has worked with choreographers and companies such as Victor Quijada (RUBBERBANDance), Dane Hurst and Joseph Toonga (Just Us Dance Theatre). Other than touring internationally as a performer and teacher with Hofesh Shechter Company, she has also been invited as a guest artist and choreographer with T.H.E. Dance Company, M1 CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Ignition Dance Festival, Esplanade da:ns Festival Singapore, Singapore Biennale and more. In Australia, Zunnur has worked with PPY in Sydney Dance Company, STRUT Dance, Co3 Australia, Marrugeku, Mitch Harvey Company, James Vu Anh Pham, Brooke Leeder, Rachel Ogle, WAAPA, Fremantle Biennale and Perth Festival.


Presented by Marrugeku  

Burrbgaja Yalirra 2 is commissioned by Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Carriageworks and Centre Culturel Tjibaou Nouméa. Burrbgaja Yalirra 2 is supported by PICA’s Art Commissioners with support from the Australian Government through the Regional Arts Fund, Seaborn, Broughton & Walford Foundation, and Mission Aux Affaires Culturelles for its development.

Image: Marrugeku, Burrbgaja Yalirra 2, 2023, photo: Carlita Sari