Arts Review

Common Dissonance

Dr Gemma Regan


A fascinating performance of cultural significance through the ancient art of music and movement


Their bodies were entwined in a serpentine writhing, moving as one in perfect symbiosis across the floor. It is performance art with a poignant message conveyed through a series of music and movements to encompass the commonalities and contradictions of Australian identity. 


Part dance, part acrobatics, the two performers begin harmoniously before dividing in dissonance. Each displays their circus skills and cultural traits during the hour-long performance, accompanied by First Nations and Western techno music.


The Na Djinang Circus is a Melbourne-based First Nations owned and operated contemporary circus company working with diverse young artists to share unique insights with the next generations. 


It was founded in 2017 by Queenslander and Wakka Wakka man Harley Mann, who directs and sometimes performs in the Common Dissonance show. His acrobatic knowledge and skills have earned him the Melbourne Fringe Award for Best Emerging Circus Artist


The two contrasting acrobatic performers are diverse in talents, as well as culture and appearance, with even contrasting colourful names of Gray and Brown! Sarah Gray is from WA, and Johnathon Brown is an Anawan/Kamilaroi man from Armidale, NSW. 


Gray is a graduate of the National Institute of Circus Arts with a Bachelor of Circus Arts specialising in trapeze and group acrobatics. She is lithe and supple, yet displayed incredible feats of strength when she casually hoisted the heavily muscled Brown over her shoulder, throwing him about like a sack of potatoes! 


Brown is a highly acclaimed dancer and acrobat who has only been with the Na Dijnang Circus since 2022 and is a recent NAISDA Dance College graduate. His First Nations dance representing the snake was fascinating as he coiled and sprang to the guttural didgeridoo beat. 


A piece of paper, a bowl of water, a rope and a trapeze on an empty stage with subtle lighting and music and the two silent performers convey such poignant messaging.


Common Dissonance draws you into an intriguing scenario where the limits of the human body are tested and the profound conflicting issues of Australian identity are embodied through human movements. I was fascinated and awed by the feats of strength and physical resilience of the two performers as they silently told the tale of Australian history. 


It is a fascinating performance of cultural significance that should be shared with the rest of the World, conveying the collective commonalities of humanity with the dissonances created by culture and perception through the ancient art of music and movement.



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