Dance exploring Indigenous identity coming to Campbelltown Arts Centre

"This dance was born out of my frustration with the expectations people would have when I say that I'm Indigenous."

Jasmine Sheppard is bringing a deeply personal dance to Campbelltown Arts Centre in January as part of the Sydney Festival.

The Complication of Lyrebirds explores Sheppard's relationship with her own identity, and how that'd been shaped by the comments and expectations of others, and Australia's history of colonisation and the White Australia Policy.

The dancer said that the lyrebird adopts the calls of other birds in order to appear attractive and find a mate. She sees comparisons with the way Indigenous people often face external pressures to prove their 'blackness'.

"This work had been brewing for quite a while," Sheppard said.

"I felt like it was time to explore my frustrations about the ways people want me to be as an Indigenous person, through my medium, dance.

"This happens to a lot of people, and we don't really talk about it a lot.

"There's no one way of being Aboriginal - it's a unique journey.

"The implications of colonisation have affected families in different ways, and that has been manifested throughout generations in different forms.

"It creates unique life experiences, identities and ways of expressing indigeneity.

"We shouldn't be put into boxes - we're all unique."

Sheppard said her experiences growing up as a child with mixed heritage was different even from her own siblings.

"I came out dark, but my brother and sister came out a lot fairer," she said.

"It's been really interesting throughout our lives seeing the different ways that people approach us, despite the fact that we share the same parents and geneaology.

"The way people expect me to act, the way I'm treated in shops, and the amount of cultural knowledge I'm expected to have as opposed to them is interesting in itself.

"There's another whole issue around fair-skinned blackfellas - and that's also been really important for me to delve into."

Sheppard said she hopes her performance, which comes on the back of a lot of research and is a carefully crafted story of dance to reflect specific emotions, gets people thinking and talking about what it means to be Indigenous.

"On a very base level there's expectations about the way you look, but on a deeper level it's about the way you speak, your cultural knowledge and your life experiences," she said.

"I feel like I've had a lot of pressure placed on me to prove how Aboriginal I am and this work is in reference to that as well.

"Members of other communities deal with this too - this question of identity and other people feeling that it's their right to comment on your life or square you away into a box that they're comfortable with. If you don't fit that box, it just stumps people.

"I hope when they see my work people start to reframe the idea of what Indigenous, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities look like, and I hope they feel like they know more about our history."

The Complication of Lyrebirds runs January 20-23 at Campbelltown Arts Centre.

More info, tickets: