The West

Puppeteer dances into the past
Puppeteer dances into the past

The last time Michael Smith performed in Perth, he was the wind between Mr Percival's wings as a puppeteer in the stage play Storm Boy.

Now the versatile actor, circus acrobat, puppeteer and dancer has returned as a fully fledged member of Bangarra Dance Theatre as Australia's top indigenous performing arts company celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Smith, 22, who grew up in Hamilton Hill playing with the children of Miles Franklin winning novelist Kim Scott, is one of 14 dancers in Patyegarang.

The production, which opened at the State Theatre Centre last night, is based on a 1788 "first-contact" exchange of friendship, language and culture between First Fleet soldier-scholar Lt William Dawes and Eora woman Patyegarang.

Smith, who trained at the National Institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne, John Curtin College of the Arts and the WA Academy of Performing Arts, said it was awesome to have joined Bangarra in its anniversary year after working with Perth's Barking Gecko and Sydney theatre companies.

"It is still going strong," he said. "The culture, atmosphere and creative process are unique and it has its own essence."

Bangarra artistic director Stephen Page said the Patyegarang story was little-known but should be highly instructive and emotionally stirring.

Patyegarang ends on Saturday.

The West Australian

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