One of the highlights of Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival is the opportunity to wander through the camping area and watch as various groups practice their routines. Here, kids from Hopevale, Queensland, kick up some dust backstage.

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    For many young performers, the crowd of 5000 or more spectators at Laura is a first-time experience. For some festival veterans, however, this is all part of their career – many of these dancers make their living from performing around the country and internationally.

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    Lealon Schrieber, 5, waits in line to perform for Yarrabah State School. The school caters for an indigenous student population across three separate campuses within the community of Yarrabah in Far North Queensland.

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    The festival celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, with a focus on education as much as friendly competition.

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    An elder from the Aurukun Dance group prepares for his first performance. Aurukun men typically prepare separately from the women.

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    Townsville’s Whantunahjaban dancers cut through the dust in the late afternoon sun.

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    A young Lockart River dancer relaxes before a performance. The Lockart River region is home to six traditional language groups. The region’s dance group brings one of the largest and most entertaining performances to the festival.

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    As the sun sets, the energy of the dancers increases. To the rumble of the didgeridoo and sharp sounds of the clapsticks, dancers tell their age-old stories to a hushed crowd.

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    To witness the passing of culture to a new generation is one of the festival’s most moving aspects.

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    The grounds at Ang-Gnarra, 140km west of Cooktown, Queensland, are respected as a sacred Bora (ceremony) site, and have hosted gatherings and events for 30 years. By day three, the dust never seems to settle, as dancers continue to perform with incredibly intense energy.

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    A performer from the Injinoo Dance Group from the Gudang tribe in Far North Queensland. This group’s dances of animal Dreaming and cultural practice are among the highlights of the festival.

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    Each day of the festival, the performance program kicks off at 10am and lasts well into the evening. Dances telling of story, culture and place are shared with audiences from around the globe.

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    Performers at the festival hail from 20 remote communities across Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula. Lockart River and Cohen are among the most highly anticipated groups to perform each year.

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    The Marrinyama dancers are from Duchess, a small community south of Mount Isa in central Queensland. The Marrinyama usually stick their feathers on with blood, though for the festival a glue stick was used. This community adheres to age-old traditions, and they are one of the last groups to still perform circumcisions as a rite of passage.

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    A young performer from the Kuranda region, which the Djabugay language group of Aboriginal people have called home for over 10,000 years.

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    Girls from the Lockart River group enjoy the end of the day in the camping area. The grounds at the festival are basic, with quality food, coffee and hot showers on offer.

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    A dancer from Townsville’s Whantunahjaban paints lines in clay that tell their own stories.

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    A young Injinoo performer on the final evening of the festival. The Injinoo country runs from the Skardon River on the west coast to Captain Billy’s Landing on the east coast, and up to Pajinka at the tip of Cape York.

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    A Lockart River dancer cuts through the shadows. Nighttime performances are a highlight of the festival: the constant rhythm of the didgeridoo drifts across the grounds while performers move artfully through dim lights before an appreciative crowd.

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    Like the dance moves performed, white clay and ochre lines painted on performers help to tell the Dreamtime stories of each group.

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Gallery: Queensland’s Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival

By AG STAFF | July 26, 2013

Indigenous culture was on display at the Laura Dance Festival held every two years in Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula.