Former Port Augusta resident Frances Rings named new artistic director at Bangarra Dance Theatre

CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Outgoing Bangarra Dance Theatre artistic director Stephen Page together with Frances Rings, who will take over the role in 2023. Photo: Daniel Boud
CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Outgoing Bangarra Dance Theatre artistic director Stephen Page together with Frances Rings, who will take over the role in 2023. Photo: Daniel Boud

A former Port Augusta resident has been appointed the Bangarra Dance Theatre's new artistic director.

Kokatha woman Frances Rings was announced as taking over the role at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation last week, with current artistic director Stephen Page to step down in early 2023.

Bangarra Dance Theatre chairperson Phillipa McDermott said this marked the end of an era, but the appointment of Ms Rings was the "perfect choice to carry the extraordinary legacy of Stephen Page into Bangarra's next cycle".

"We are thrilled to welcome such a major talent with a deep connection to Bangarra," she said.

"Stephen is a national treasure and his legacy cannot be underestimated, he has done so much for this nation.

"On behalf of the board I thank him for his unfailing dedication to his people and his work in bringing cultures together through art, which will be honoured forever more."

Ms Rings was born in Adelaide and grew up in Port Augusta until the age of eight, while her mother is from Koonibba, near Ceduna.

An internationally celebrated dancer, choreographer and arts leader, Ms Rings originally performed as a dancer with Bangarra, before making her choreographic debut with Bangarra in 2002 with the critically acclaimed Rations, as part of Walkabout.

She has since choreographed eight major works for the company, cementing herself of as of Australia's leading choreographers.

Ms Rings has choreographed for many of Australia's leading dance companies, including West Australian Ballet and Tasdance, and has danced for Australia's leading choreographers and companies, including Meryl Tankard, Leigh Warren and Legs on the Wall.

"When I joined Bangarra as an aspiring young artist I became a part of a family, a clan of Indigenous artists who all shared the same vision: to tell the stories of Indigenous Australia in our distinctive languages, to shift societal perspectives, and affirm our position as an integral part of the national cultural identity," Ms Rings said.

"I didn't arrive here without the mentorship and guidance from our current artistic director, Stephen Page, [who] is an icon of our industry, a cultural leader and esteemed visionary. He is our national treasure.

"What I inherit is due to his incredible hard work, sacrifice and indomitable belief in the power of our art form and its ability to create lasting change."

She said Mr Page's profound impact on the industry is a lasting legacy that will resonate for generations to come.

His resignation marks the end of a 32-year tenure as artistic director at Bangarra, which is one of Australia's leading performing arts companies.

Since his appointment in 1991, Mr Page has developed an unsurpassed signature body of works that went on to become milestones in Australian performing arts history, setting a benchmark for storytelling in Australia and internationally.

Mr Page said Ms Rings was an exceptional dancer and a gifted and visionary choreographer.

"Her works for Bangarra, among them the acclaimed Unaipon, Terrain and Sandsong, stand as precious works of profound artistic and cultural truth," he said.

"I am delighted to now entrust the future of Bangarra to this deeply committed and community-connected cultural leader not only because of her sensational artistry but because her lived experience is that Bangarra is so much more than an arts organisation."

Audiences in 2022 will have the opportunity to experience Mr Page's largest major stage work as artistic director, with the world premiere of Wudjang: Not the Past, as well as one of Ms Rings' most lauded works, Terrain, as the company embarks on a 10th anniversary tour of the landmark production.

This story Rings appointed new Bangarra artistic director first appeared on The Transcontinental.