The business of shooting a ritual dance

Far North Queensland, October 1929

When recounting a corroboree he experienced, Colin Ross mainly writes about the challenges of capturing ritual dance on film.

Rather than describe the corroboree—an Australian Aboriginal dance—going on at his behest, Ross details his experience shooting it (see: Staging an encounter): finding a spot where the sun isn’t shining too brightly, getting finished before it stands too low, letting the dancers get used to the camera so they can perform in an authentic fashion. This chapter finds Ross, the engineer, interested more in his expertise as a cinematographer and director, in the craft of filming, than in any ethnographic knowledge it might record.

The show in front of his camera doesn’t quite convince Ross, anyway. In Queensland, where the sequence is shot, a rain dance is not a pressing matter. It is only performed for “strangers with presents” [p. 256] like him, he notes. Only in dry central Australia, Ross opines in a rather coldblooded fashion, Aborigines may still be desperate enough to authentically draw their own blood in the ritual rather than some animal’s.

Joachim Schätz

Colin Ross. Korrobori. In: Der unvollendete Kontinent. 1. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1930; 253–6, 256 recto, verso, 272 recto, verso.

Topic: Indigenous peoples
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

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