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The Competition

Dance Rites 2019

Join us for the heats and finals of the Dance Rites competition as hundreds of the greatest First Nations dancers from around Australia come together to share their cultural knowledge and compete to win! 

Groups representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island nations from across the country will present three dances: a welcome and a farewell dance - one of which must include a chant in local language – and a ‘wildcard’ dance of the group’s choosing.The groups will be judged by our expert panel with the top 8 performances moving on to the Finals on Sunday evening.

On the Forecourt

Saturday 23 & Sunday 24 November, from 3:30pm each day

Times are approximate and subject to change. 

This is a free event
No registration required

This is a free event. No registration is required.

Suitable for all ages

Young people under the age of 15 must be accompanied at all times.

Dance Rites Judging Panel 

Meet the incredible Australian creatives who make up the judging panel of Dance Rites 2019.

Mark Howlett

Waangenga Blanco 

Waangenga is a star of the stage after dancing as a celebrated principal artist for over 13 years with Bangarra Dance Company. He won an Australian Dance Award and Greenroom Award for his performance in the 2014 production of Patyegarang. Waangenga broke out on screen in 2009 featuring in the acclaimed film Bran Nue Dae, and then again in The Turning (2013) and Stephen Page’s SPEAR (2016). Most recently he won the Helpmann Award for Best Male Dancer in 2018. He hopes to inspire his deep love and connection to Country and culture through his work.

Tim Chappel

Deborah Brown 

Deborah has over 15 years of experience in dance theatre, including performing as a Senior Artist and choreographer with Bangarra Dance Theatre. In 2013, she made her choreographic and directorial debut, creating a short dance film titled Dive for Bangarra, leading her to create IBIS as part of the lore national season in 2015. Her career highlights with Bangarra included returning to Country - including Mer Island and Yirrkala – performing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theatre and partnering with The Australian Ballet at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

While completing her Masters in Screen Directing at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS), she has been exploring directing theatre and choreographing. In 2017, she returned to acting as the lead Layla, in the short film Water, directed by John Harvey. She choreographed and assisted the new Australian production, Spinifex Gum, including their sell out seasons at Adelaide Festival 2018 and Sydney Festival 2019 and performance at Garma Festival 2019. She was also assistant director and choreographer for The Long Forgotten Dream for Sydney Theatre Company and more recently Winyanboga Yurringa at Belvoir St Theatre. She is currently assisting on The Beauty Queen of Leenane at STC.


Damian Robinson

Matthew Doyle

Matthew Doyle is a descendant of the Muruwari people and grew up in Southern Sydney on Dharawal land. At fifteen he was accepted into the prestigious Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre (AIDT), where he completed a three year course. In 1990 he became a founding member of their professional company.

Matthew has since become one of Australia’s leading performers and has toured extensively. He has recorded many CDs and collaborated many Australian, musicians, dancers and composers including the Bangarra Dance Theatre, Christine Anu, Professor Michael Atherton, Yothu Yindi and Leah Purcell. He has performed at Stomping Ground, Survival and The Festival of The Dreaming (in his acclaimed self-devised work Wirid-Jiribin: The Lyrebird) and was part of the closing ceremony at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. A documentary titled ‘My Spirit is Black’, a biography of Matthew’s life, was filmed by ABC TV in 1986.

Matthew started the Year 2000 with his sunrise didjeridoo performance atop the peak of the Sydney Opera House for the ABC Millennium broadcast, and appeared in the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. In 2005 he was in Japan for the World Expo and in 2006 he toured nationally with Taikoz Japanese Drummers and performed at the Musée du quai Branly, Paris. Matthew performed on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 2007 for the 75th Birthday celebrations.

Find out more on each competitor in our Guide to Dance Rites 

A guide to Dance Rites

Your handbook for the song and dance of Australia's ancient cultures

Your handbook for the song and dance of Australia's ancient cultures



Witness the powerful coming together of traditional customs and contemporary culture, with hundreds of First Nations dancers from around Australia and performers from around the world.

Join us on the forecourt, a First Nations meeting place for thousands of years, to share in this free festival of live dance, music and community.

Find out more about Dance Rites

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the transport options to the Opera House?

Dance Rites will take place on the Opera House Forecourt.

You can catch public transport (bus, train, ferry) to Circular Quay and enjoy a 6 min walk to the Opera House. If you’re getting dropped off in a car head to the roundabout at the bottom Macquarie Street where staff will direct you to a safe place to pull over.

Driving? Park in Wilson’s Car Park, you’re just minutes to your seat.  Need a bit more info? Click here

What time do I need to arrive before the event?

Dance Rites runs from 3pm till late on both Saturday and Sunday, so you’re welcome to join us on the Forecourt at any point throughout the afternoon.  With performances running throughout the day there’s always something to do.

If you are attending a particular performance, please arrive 30 minutes  prior to your start time as there may be queues to enter the site.

Can I take photos during the event?

Yes, if you’re taking a few snaps for personal use. Make sure to switch off your flash and be conscious of the people around you and the performers on stage. We’d love for you to tag #sydneyoperahouse on your social channels.

What can I bring with me?

Your safety and security is our number one priority. As a safety precaution and condition of entry, mandatory visual bag inspections will be carried out by SOH venue security staff on all bags and personal belongings. Additionally, patrons may be subject to random electronic screening. 

Please travel lightly, arrive early and allow additional time to access the venue. 

There is no cloaking facility available for this event. Items that will not be permitted inside the venue include – but are not limited to – extra-large backpacks, umbrellas, briefcases, suitcases and other items that may be hazardous or restrict the movement of visitors. At the discretion of Opera House venue security staff, additional items of an irregular size may also be deemed a trip hazard or safety risk and will be prohibited from the venue footprint. 

We thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation. 

Find out more about venue security at Sydney Opera House.

What should I wear?

So long as you’re wearing shoes and a shirt, whatever you like. We’re pretty informal here at the Opera House.

Dance Rites will takes place outdoors on the Opera House Forecourt so comfortable shoes and sun-safe clothing are recommended. 

Where can I eat and drink?

Food and beverage pop-ups will appear across the Sydney Opera House Forecourt.

Dance Rites food pop-ups will open from 3pm, Saturday and Sunday.

More Dance Rites...

Indigenous Enterprise
Nov 23 & 24
Indigenous Enterprise are a professional Native American dance group, made up of champion dancers from tribes and Nations in Canada and the United States. They arrive in Sydney for Dance Rites to proudly showcase their tradition and culture through powwow dancing in a colourful feast for the eyes.
Nov 23
Rhyan Clapman, aka DOBBY, is a drapper - a rapper and a drummer. A proud Filipino and Aboriginal artist, he uses hip hop as a tool to express knowledge, culture, identity and family.
Nunukul Yuggera
Nov 23 & 24
Internationally acclaimed Aboriginal dance group Nunukul Yuggera prides itself on being one of the very best Australia has to offer. The winners of Dance Rites 2018, they are making a triumphant return to delight the audience with their mesmerising brand of performance. Prepare for the Dreamtime to unfold before your eyes.

Dance Rites 2019 Acknowledgements

A very special thank you to Yuwaalaraay artist Lucy Simpson for the creation of the 2019 Dance Rites artwork. 

Thank you to our donors for their commitment and ongoing generosity to the Dance Rites Travel Fund.

* Founding Dance Rites Donor 
~ Sydney Opera House Idealist

Dance Rites Donors

Shar Adams
Michael and Janie Austin *
33 Creative
Ryissa Fogarty *
Linda Herd
Jane Kift *~
James & Claire Kirby Family Fund
Alexandra Martin ~
Jean McPherson
Regal Health Group *
Crispin Rice ~
Bronwyn Simons *
Sue Spencer *

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