Capturing the sounds of Many Dances by the Wollundry Lagoon
Published: 10 Jul 2023 10:22am
A soundscape installation inspired by the Wiradjuri/Wiradyuri meaning of Wagga Wagga, ‘a place of many celebrations or many dances’, has been capturing the imagination of audiences walking along the Wollundry Lagoon boardwalk during the Festival of W.
Many Dances is a temporary public art installation commissioned for Festival of W by Council.
Sound artist Peter Mcilwain collaborated with local First Nations dancer Ivy Simpson to create the ever-changing soundscape, recording the sounds and gestures of Ivy dancing on the boardwalk over the Wollundry Lagoon.
“Many Dances is about the gesture of dancing, so instead of including music in the work, what I’ve focused on is the sounds that dance gestures make,” Peter Mcilwain said.
“When people hear a dance gesture, they immediately connect it to a motion, a body, so the work is about hearing bodies moving in space, and in this case, in the space of the boardwalk over the lagoon.”
In developing the work, the artist undertook research into the history of dance and celebration in Wagga Wagga, including Wiradjuri/Wiradyuri and First Nations gatherings, the Dixieland Dance Hall that floated over the Murrumbidgee River in the 1920s and 1930s, and the many different cultures that now live in the city.
“Almost immediately I thought it would be great to create a gestural piece that is focused on dance,” Peter Mcilwain said.
“It was a great joy to work with Ivy Simpson to create these sounds. She’s a First Nations dancer and since childhood she has learned all kinds of dancing.
“She was perfect for this idea that many dances can be many cultures, many people, and many forms of engagement with the place, with life, and with the future.”
For Ivy Simpson, who is completing her final year of study at Kooringal High School, being involved in the creation of Many Dances was a unique experience.
“I had no idea of what I was coming into, and I came out with so much knowledge,” Ivy said.
“I learnt how to communicate what I felt, and what Peter felt just through the sound of my feet and the gestures, and that was completely out of the box, and it was super creative.
“Through this creative process I got to embed my culture, being a Kamilaroi woman and being very strong and independent and loving my culture.”
Many Dances will be in place at the boardwalk at the Wollundry Lagoon daily during the Festival of W and remain in place until Sunday 30 July 2023.
Festival of W: 1 July – 16 July
Sunday – Thursday, 10am to late
Friday – Saturday, 10am – 5:30pm
17 July – 30 July
Every day, 10am to late