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Australian Aborigines take Zorba to Greeks

Last Updated: Friday, April 4, 2008 - 14:19

Canberra, April 04: A group of Australian Aborigines is taking Zorba back to the Greeks after their quirky version of the classic dance proved an unlikely Internet hit and won an invitation to perform in Greece.

Since being posted on YouTube late last year, the "Zorba the Greek, Yolngu-style" dance, performed barefoot by the indigenous Chooky Dancers in loin cloths, ceremonial white body paint and headbands, has been viewed more than 734,000 times.

The short clip has also screened in the town square on the Greek island of Kastellorizo and the group has been invited to perform in Athens, Crete and even Cyprus when they can.

"It's become a full-time job. The crowd just love it, you know, everyone, the children, women, dogs," dance organizer Frank Djirrimbilpilwuy told Reuters of Friday, adding the group hoped to make the trip to Greece next year.

The 10 dancers, aged between 14 and 36, mix traditional Aboriginal performance with clubbing and classic Greek moves. The dance was first performed at the indigenous Ramingining Festival in the outback Northern Territory last September.

"They are interesting," Greek deputy ambassador Antonios Papakostas said. "I have seen them perform at Greek community events and festivals, but as far as their eventual trip to Greece is concerned we don't have anything firmed yet," he said.

Djirrimbilpilwuy said the idea for the dance, which can be seen online here came from his 19-year-old son Lionel, who heard a tape of music from the 1964 Zorba the Greek movie starring Anthony Quinn.

The group have performed at the National Multicultural Festival in Australia's capital Canberra. The dancers come from Elcho Island, a stronghold of traditional Aboriginal culture off the coast of Arnhemland in Australia's tropical remote north.

At home they are heroes to their Yolngu clan, who have few jobs and still live largely traditionally hunting "bush tucker" foods like turtles and dugongs.

Australia's 460,000 Aborigines are the country's most disadvantaged group, with high rates of alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment and imprisonment, often while living in remote outback communities with poor access to health and education.

The Chooky Dancers are also working on their own version of a Bollywood dance, while a local group of Elcho island girls were now working on an Aboriginal line dance, Djirrimbilpilwuy said.

"I think what we're trying to do is paint a different picture of indigenous Australia. Maybe it is the right time to let the whole world know what these Yolngu people are made of, that we're not just a mob of drunks," he said.

Bureau Report



First Published: Friday, April 4, 2008 - 14:19
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