The Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA will donate approximately half of the profits from Royce Hall's Feb. 15 presentation of “Dirtsong" to UCLA’s American Indian Studies Center (AISC). "Dirtsong" features Australian Indigenous music-theater troupe Black Arm Band. Addressing American Indian issues and supporting Indian communities, AISC serves as a bridge between UCLA and indigenous peoples locally, nationally and internationally.
“It is absolutely about saying, at a time when there are layers of uncertainty that we don’t know about, that we want to direct what we can toward our colleagues,” said Kristy Edmunds, CAP UCLA artistic and executive director. “It is about saying, ‘Hey, we see you.’ Indigenous people are constantly trying to find vehicles to help each other, and it’s the same with the arts. So it makes sense for us to do what we can to support AISC in this way.”
Edmunds has a history with Black Arm Band. She placed them center stage in Australia’s art scene by booking them for the closing event of the prestigious 2006 Melbourne International Arts Festival, for which she served as artistic director at the time.
Members of Black Arm Band come from across Australia, including musicians of indigenous aboriginal and white heritage. The group creates large-scale stage productions and also is invested in ongoing education and development programs within remote aboriginal communities.
“We are deeply grateful to CAP UCLA for bringing these important indigenous artists to UCLA, and for generously and respectfully donating a portion of the proceeds to the AISC,” said Shannon Speed, director of AISC and professor in gender studies and American Indian studies. “It will help to further our work of indigenous scholarship and education.”
“Dirtsong” is named for the connection between indigenous peoples and the soil: bare feet against the earth is the image for this defining bond, and it appears throughout the show. Musicians will perform predominately in indigenous languages from across Australia. The goal is to celebrate language restoration and cultural survival through songs that map the countries of the band members.
“We have members within the Black Arm Band that have been dispossessed and removed from their countries," said Lou Bennet, Black Arm Band artist (and Yorta Yorta woman) in a program note. “”We also have people who are still in their countries and still speaking their language fluently — the whole gamut. And it is such an overwhelming emotional thing to go through that journey [of language recovery], even by yourself, with your family and community — let alone for a particular show.”
Tickets to “Dirtsong,” scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 8 p.m., are available at cap.ucla.edu, UCLA Central Ticket Office, or in person one hour before the performance at Royce Hall.