About This Residency


Our residency project is a collaborative and co-led initiative involving four pan-indigenous dance artists: Bella Waru (Ngāti Tukorehe, Taranaki Tūturu), Danni Cook (Ngāpuhi), Amelia O’Leary (Gamilaroi Yinarr) and Karlia Cook (Ngāpuhi). This inter-cultural project is grounded in the rich tapestry of kinship-based indigenous knowledge, linking all of existence in mutually beneficial relationship across deep time and space.

During the residency we cultivated culturally considered and responsible practices of exchange, reciprocity, respect and sharing. We dedicated our time to the embodied practice of deep listening and deep observation as we journey together through processes of reclaiming, recovering and honouring the ever-evolving relationality between our body, our ancestry and the lands and waters that we come from, grew up on and travel between. In the process of making we are building worlds between the physical and the ancestral, the local and the cosmological. Conversing, unearthing and dancing alongside the many voices, ancestral memories and bodies of water that our bodies are a meeting ground to.

These research processes address some key questions: How do we bring into a relational space our individual histories, ancestries and cultures for the purpose of culturally considered and responsible practices of exchange, reciprocity and sharing? How do we create choreographic and performative processes that enables a meeting in a considered way on stolen land for the purposes of listening, hearing and moving forward?

We are excited to continue unravelling the depths of these questions, provocations and journeys embarked upon throughout our residency, and planting the seeds to develop and honour a choreographic practice that is ever nurturing and evolving. We are shifting perspective from a colonial patriarchal lens to a soul enriching perspective of First Nations matriarchal control, offering the gift of what this world is missing out on.

– Karlia Cook, Danni Cook, Amelia Jean O’Leary & Bella Waru

Artist Bios

Amelia Jean O’Leary (she/they/yinarr) is a proud First Nations Gamilaroi Yinarr from Northern New South Wales who is currently living in Naarm (Melbourne). Her dance practice is about human and spiritual experiencing, through complexity and adversity she finds ways to tell coded and poetically rich stories. Her dances are personal and personified from her multidisciplinary skills in theatre, film and sound design. Through dance she is trying to understand this world and herself deeper. Her practice and works have relevant questioning and provocations that are resilient and inquisitive. After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Dance) from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2021, O’Leary performed her first full-length work ‘Yinarr’ in Adelaide Fringe and Dancehouse in 2022. She was also a part of ‘Collision’ by Jo Lloyd presented at Junction Arts Festival and ‘Garabari’ by Joel Bray at Arts House in 2022. In 2023 O’Leary created two more major new works. Her second work ‘A Certain Mumble’ presented by Darebin Arts Speakeasy in Frame. Her third ‘STAUNCH ASF’ presented in Melbourne Fringe performed at the Meat Market in the BLAK LODGE as part of the Deadly Fringe program.
Amelia Jean’s website

Karlia Cook is a Naarm based contemporary dance artist of Māori, Mā’ohi and European descent with ancestral connection to the Ngāpuhi people of Aotearoa. Her interests as a dance practitioner is in performance and choreography that is grounded in kinship-based indigenous knowledge systems that link all of existence in mutually beneficial relationship across deep time and space. Karlia is currently working as a freelance Dancer and Choreographer and recently completed a Masters of Dance at the Victorian College of the Arts. Previously, Karlia completed a Bachelor of Performing Arts (Contemporary Dance) at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and since graduating has worked with companies and artists such as Chunky Move, Joel Bray Dance, New Zealand Dance Company Julie Minaai and Bella Waru. Most recently performing in Joel Brays world Premier of Garabari at Arts house in December 2022. In 2023 Karlia choreographed a short work ‘Oneness’ on New Zealand Dance Company apart of the Matariki Hunga Nui program.

Bella Waru (Ngāti Tukorehe, Taranaki Tūturu, ia/they/them) is a performer & choreographer of movement, sound, space and language, and an eternal tauira of the Māori healing, weaving & martial arts. Living and listening on sacred, unceded Woi Wurrung, Boon Wurrung country in so-called-australia, Waru creates stories and spaces founded in embodied practice, emerging from and returning to the communities, contexts, lands and peoples who have made them who they are, with reverence and acknowledgement of those that came before them, and those that will follow after. Their practice centres the embodiment of living culture and culture making, exploring connection, legacy, healing, whakapapa, whenua and warriorhood. Works of note include RESONANCE (MAV Commission, Melbourne Museum 2023), Where We Stand (DanceOn 2018, Dancehouse 2019), Kaitiaki: Sovereign Reflections (Future Lens 2020, Bodies of Woven Code Corbans Estate AKL 2022), FAMILI (Midsumma 2020) & internationally award-winning feature documentary, Knots (2020).
Bella Waru’s website

Danni Cook(she/her) is a contemporary dancer of Māori, Mā’ohi and European descent with ancestral connection to the Ngāpuhi people of Aotearoa. She grew up on Dharawal country, training as a company member with Austinmer Dance Theatre under the direction of Michelle Maxwell. She has recently graduated from Western Australia Academy of the Performing Arts (WAAPA), receiving a Bachelor of Arts in contemporary dance. Danni has been influenced by who she has worked closely in creative spaces with, some names include; Thomas Bradley, Sam Coren, Jenni Large, Anouk Van Dijk, Lloyd Newson, and Didier Théron. Danni is deeply inspired and impacted by her connection to the land and her role as an artist creating on this country. She is interested in constantly deepening her knowledge and connection to the land and waters, allowing those energies to inform her practice and influence the way she leads or is a part of creative spaces.