Zorba the Greek Aboriginal style: A dance sensation

When the Chooky Dancers from remote Elcho Island showed their Yolngu version of Zorba The Greek the world went nuts. Now the group, renamed to Djuki Mala, tours internationally.

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How the Chooky Dancers became famous

In late 2007 and early 2008 a group of Aboriginal dancers from the remote Elcho Island, off the coast of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory (550 kilometres northeast of Darwin), made headlines.

The Chooky Dancers became famous when they performed Zorba the Greek in Yolngu style at the Ramingining Festival on 30th September 2007, painted and all.

This is a great example of how adept Aboriginal people are and always were. Each new challenge is met with ingenious creativity. Another good example is the movie Bush Mechanics.

The Zorba the Greek dance video went viral on YouTube. It was shot at a festival in Ramingining in 2007 by their manager, Frank Djirrimbilpilwuy from Milingimbi. Within 12 weeks it had peaked at over 500,000 hits worldwide and to date it stands at more than 2.5 million views.

Lionel Dulmanawuy, Frank’s youngest son, created the dance as a thank you to a friend. Discover more about the story behind the Chooky Dancers.

Since 2007 the Chooky Dancers have created a number of shows combining their own interpretation of contemporary Yolngu culture and dance with narrative and drama. They have performed to roaring crowds in Greece, China, the Solomon Islands, Canada, the UK and elsewhere in the world, as well as on TV and at numerous festivals and events.

In 2013, the Chooky Dancers changed their name to the Aboriginal words Djuki Mala. Djuki is the adopted word for ‘chook’ and ‘Mala’ means a group or set of people who share a common feature.

These dancers have put Elcho Island on the world stage in an innovative and entertaining way—blending traditional and contemporary dance with Greek music.

— Steve Larkin, AIATSIS Principal

Indigenous dance isn't just Indigenous dance—it's a map in itself, a directory of the culture behind the dance.

— Elverina Johnson, Aboriginal Consultant Curator

Some facts about Elcho Island

Did you know? Elcho Island has a population of only 3,000 people, but the island

  • has inspired a song featured during the closing ceremony at the 2000 Olympics (My Island Home);
  • produced musicians of the calibre of the Warumpi Band's George Burarrwanga, Yothu Yindi, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu and the Saltwater Band;
  • had close clan connections with two Australians of the Year (Galarrwuy and Mandawuy Yunupingu);
  • is home to at least 12 artists, including Gali Yalkarriwuy Gurruwiwi who has exhibited in Paris and Chicago and whose work is held in the National Gallery of Australia.

Map showing the location of Elcho Island east of Darwin.


View article sources (4)

[1], retrieved 16/6/2017
[2] 'Yolngu darlings of YouTube wow Canberra', Koori Mail 419, p.3
[3] 'Dance in the dust', Koori Mail 437 p.54
[4] 'Island life makes a splash with rich heritage', SMH 23/10/2010

Cite this page

Korff, J 2019, Zorba the Greek Aboriginal style: A dance sensation, <>, retrieved 16 June 2024

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