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Russell Page in Venice
, 1997

by Brenda L. Croft

triptych of type C photographs (each framed: 108.0 cm x 74.0 cm)

Russsell Page (1968-2002), choreographer, dancer and actor, was from the Nunukl (Noonuccal) people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh people of south-east Queensland. The youngest of twelve children, he grew up in the working class Brisbane suburb of Mt Gravatt. He was a skilled rugby league player, chosen to play for the Queensland Zone side, but at the age of 16 he chose instead to follow his brother to study at the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association's Dance College in Sydney. Overcoming his initial rebellion at the discipline of dance, he quickly became 'pure spirit' in performance, equally breathtaking as an earth-bound or aerial dancer. With brothers Stephen, an artistic director, and David, a composer, he was a founder of the Bangarra Dance Theatre, and was its principal artist from 1991.

Page occasionally took time to dance with other companies, including the Australian Dance Theatre in Adelaide and the Aboriginal and Islander Dance Theatre in Sydney. Page was also a seasoned television and film performer, appearing in the feature film Kick, the contemporary opera Black River, ABC TV's Poison, Tracey Moffatt's film Bedevil and Christine Anu's Wanem Time. He represented Australia at the 1997 Venice Biennale and appeared in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. The Bangarra production Walkabout in which he was a principal dancer received typically ecstatic reviews from critics, with Page's solo singled out for special praise.

Russell Page tragically passed away shortly after the close of the Sydney season of Walkabout in July 2002, leaving his family, Australian art, dance and Aboriginal communities mourning an irreplaceable loss.

Brenda L. Croft, artist, curator, lecturer and freelance writer, is from the Gurindji nation in the Northern Territory. In 1997 she co-curated the exhibition fluent: Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Yvonne Koolmatrie and Judy Watson as Australia's contribution to the 47th Venice Biennale. Page performed his interpretation of the painting in the Australian Pavilion, for the first two weeks of the Biennale. Judy Watson painted the designs on his body with reference to the works in the exhibition. These photographs were taken in Venice shortly before one of Page's performances.

This image is displayed with the permission of the family.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2002
Accession number: 2002.71.a-c