Māori choreographers, she says, produce work of enormous “power”, informed by their kapa haka (ranks of dancers in rows accompanied by singing or chant) and connection to culture.

Patterson also holds a reputation for choreographing these expressions for non-Indigenous artists, such as the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

“He had these experiences of how you work with people unfamiliar with your style – how you translate that and break it down.”

The Light Inside, Patterson explains, is about “honouring Indigenous knowledge and our matriarchs. [We have] a very strong matriarchal line as I was talking about before, growing up with my mum and aunties on the lake shore.

“That whole kind of upbringing is a light inside us. I carry that story and I carry that love.”

As prominent First Nations leaders, Patterson and Rings are adamant cross-cultural collaboration has huge socio-political impact. Top of mind for Patterson are current land rights claims and protests surrounding New Zealand’s Waitangi Treaty.

“It’s really concerning,” Rings says of proposals to redefine the Treaty. “We’re in solidarity with [the Māori] because we know they are in solidarity with us.”


“My role is to really speak to the hearts and minds of our young people, of our elders – to let them know I am thinking of them,” Patterson says.

“I’m remembering this history, I’m remembering the beautiful moments that we share, the stories that we want to keep telling.

“It keeps our communities strong, it keeps us resilient, it keeps us inspired. It keeps us returning home as we have a vision of building into the future.”

Rings says the recent past has been a disappointing time for Indigenous people in Australia.

“The disappointment of the referendum, but also truth-telling,” she says. “That’s something Indigenous people face globally.”

She has just returned from another international symposium. The Indigenous worldwide collaboration, she says, is like the new work with Patterson: “a vibrant dialogue…a way of amplifying this and saying: it’s not just us that are facing this.”

The Light Inside is part of Horizon by Bangarra Dance Theatre, June 12 to July 13, Sydney Opera House.