Have you ever found a feather – a Gaurii – and wondered whose it was?

Wagana - Gaurii - Boobook OwlsFrom a very early age, in their traditional upbringing, Aboriginal children learn to be very acute observers of the natural world around them. They learn to understand the seasonal variations in the behaviour of birds and animals and the plants on which they depend for food and shelter. They learn to imitate movement and sound and to enter into the meaning of each of these beings in their lore.

Wagana - Gaurii - Nest - 4All this came home to me as I watched the opening scenes of Wagana Aboriginal Dancers‘ latest production Have you ever found a feather and wondered whose it was . . . Gaurii. Choreographed by director Jo Clancy, assisted by Becky Chatfield, five dancers – Jo, Becky, Nadia Martich, Michaela Jeffries and Brad Smith were presenting a final version of a 35 to 40 minute show they plan to present at schools and festivals in 2016. They were performing at NAISDA Dance College, Kariong, near Gosford, on September 30, where Jo was completing a Birrang Creative Residency. With a few brief remarks that introduced the audience to their characters, they launched into a graceful and entertaining performance as a flock of crows. Humour was never far from the surface as the birds performed separately and in unison.

Wagana - Gaurii - Matilda, Maude & MurphyThe basic black of their costumes could quickly transform to other birds with the addition of feather trims around arms, waists, or as masks. In the photo top, the girls were rehearsing as boobook owls. A giant nest woven from sticks and vines provided their main versatile prop, see rehearsal photos above right and at bottom. We found ourselves listening to sounds and songs of the bush and laughed at the antics of emu chicks Matilda, Maude and Murphy, above left.

Wagana Aboriginal Dancers are based at Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains and many friends and family members had travelled a long way to see the production. Jo was keen to have feedback to ensure the production would appeal to children in particular. She was left in no doubt that audiences loved Gaurii. If children hadn’t been aware of birds and their behaviour before seeing the show, there is little doubt that their interest and observation would have been sharpened after seeing the performance. By October 14, shows at schools before Christmas were already almost booked out.

Gaurii Wagana - Gaurii - Nestpresents Aboriginal dance, puppetry, language and stories connected to Crow, Emu, Lyrebird, and Owl with music and sound that convey many more birds. School shows are on Thursday and Friday, December 10 and 11 and there will be many more next year. Phone 0409 651 290.


Cross cultural music, writing and Aboriginal dance uplift and inspire

Syd Sacred Music Fest 15 - Sacred ExchangeLast Saturday’s opening night concert of Sydney Sacred Music Festival 2015, at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, was even more extraordinary than might have been anticipated. In the preceding week, two of the five featured musicians, Uyghur bard, Shohrat Tursun and Sudanese multi-instrumentalist Asim Gorachi were unable to return to Australia in time. Taking their places were Nicholas Ng on the Erhu/Chinese violin and Yolngu vocalist from Arnhem Land, Gambirra Illume. Gambirra is also an exponent of ceremony and could only confirm her presence 24 hours before the concert.

As a tribute to their skills and professionalism the resulting Sacred Exchange was seamless. Each of the musicians gave an individual demonstration of their instruments and explained their origins and roles in diverse religious or cultural ceremony. Australia’s Grand Master of the Japanese shakuhachi, Riley Lee; Mongolian throat singer and horse fiddle player Bukhu Ganburged; and Australia’s leading exponent of the Indian Tabla, Bobby Singh joined Gambirra and Nicholas in an atmosphere of meditation and transcendence. Humorous little insights were often given into the performers’ personal experience of their instruments. Bobby Singh drew laughter after the players combined in an improvised collaboration, when he reflected that this was a Sydney Saturday night. They could have been anywhere in the world, uplifted in harmony, while others were at the football, or drinking beer. On stage, above, are Gambirra, left, Nicholas, Bobby, Buku and Riley.

1-Syd Sacred Music Fest 15 - PAS - WritersThe festival continues to September 19 and includes Stories of the Sacred tomorrow night, Thursday, September 10, at Parramatta Artists Studios. Writers Walter Mason and Maryam Azam, left, will investigate the everyday revealing those sacred spaces we never usually notice. A concert at Campbelltown Arts Centre on Friday night explores Ancient Rhythms, Future Visions. It’s a collaborative performance featuring the “Godfather of Indian Electronica” DJ Coco Varma with some of Sydney’s finest South Asian performers melding sacred dance and music with Sufi poetry and electronica. At Bankstown Arts Centre on Saturday night Sacred Rituals of Sudan is a multimedia concert that features the sacred ritual and ceremonies of Sudan. The Sudanese Sufi community of Sydney comes together to showcase Sufi traditions in song, dance and video. The night will feature the Sufi Chant group Bashier and the visual art of Ghasan Saaid. Click here for festival details for the next 10 days.

Wagana - BarangarooAt the opening of the new Barangaroo reserve on Sydney Harbour, on September 6, Wagana Aboriginal Dancers, right, performed with Janawi Dance Clan, NAISDA, Matthew Doyle, Clarence & Tim Bishop, Excelsior, Thomas Kelly, Darren Compton and Koomurri.

For several weeks they have also been developing a new work Gaurii – Crow – using an area of burnt out bushland in the Blue Mountains as their inspiration. Gaurii is part one of Have you ever found a feather and wondered whose it was? The new work in progress is intended for schools and festivals later in the year and throughout 2016. Director Jo Clancy says, “I’ve been working with Jacinta Tobin and 4 dancers Becky Chatfield, David Newton, Nadia Martich and Glory Tuohy-Daniell. Now we hope to get some feed back.”

Wagana - GauriiYou are invited to join them for their first public presentation on Saturday, September 19, at 5.30pm, at Kindlehill Performance Space, Lake Street, Wentworth Falls, in the Blue Mountains. Tickets are available at the door for $10 and $5. Call 0409 651 290. The dancers would love to hear your responses and ideas. Photo above by Jamie Murray. This first development is being supported by the Blue Mountains Aboriginal Culture and Resource Centre and funded by the Blue Mountains City of the Arts Trust.

Three events celebrate Aboriginal culture and achievement

Only one of these events may have been planned for NAIDOC Week 2014, but three  certainly coincide to recognise Aboriginal culture and achievement.

1-Wagana - Bangalang - BMCC - 0614The first is the presentation of Bangalang, by five young members of Wagana Aboriginal Dancers, who depart for the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival, in Glasgow, on Friday, July 4. Their performance of Bangalang, a Wiradjuri word for autumn, was presented to an appreciative audience at Blue Mountains Cultural Centre last Sunday. Bangalang was choreographed by their teacher and mentor Jo Clancy, in collaboration with Becky Chatfield, with music and song by Jacinta Tobin.

Following their invitation to participate in the festival, Wagana members spent more than a year raising the $35,000 needed to deliver their team to Glasgow. In fact they exceeded their target by another $5000, which enabled them to fund beautiful costumes and props like the emu puppet heads seen in the photo. While each participating country is limited to a maximum seven minute performance, their days will be spent in workshops run by the other countries, with performances each evening. The Wagana dancers are thrilled with the global cultural experiences and networking opportunities offered by the festival.

1-The Life of Riley 0614Another event gaining attention in NAIDOC Week is the launch  of Christina Green’s book The Life of Riley. As a three year old child, Christina (then Riley) was taken from her Wiradjuri family into foster care. Following a series of horrendous experiences, she was then detained as an 12 year old, charged with her own neglect, in the notorious Parramatta Girls Home. From there she survived three periods of incarceration in the old Hay Gaol. In recent years, as survivors of the Parramatta Girls Home have come together to seek healing, she has worked with fellow Parragirl Bonney Djuric to ensure the future of the home and the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct as an international Site of Conscience.

The Life of Riley is Chris’s own life story pieced together during 25 years as she struggled to understand what had happened to her and why. Although a record of crushing privation and loss, it is also an extraordinary story of survival, spiritual strength and great wisdom. The Life of Riley, by Christina Green, $24.90, Paypal – email cchristinag@outlook.com. Leave a message including your name and postal address. Purchased books will be delivered in 5 – 7 days.

An alternative payment method is through direct deposit:
Westpac bank
Christina Green
Bsb – 732 183
Acc – 596 014
Please note when purchasing The Life of Riley to message Chris through Facebook with your name and address and the book will be in the mail with your receipt delivered within 5-7 days.

1-Brendan Penzer - Wirnda Barna ArtistsFrom mid-west WA’s Upper Murchison region comes news of the third event, Wirnda Barna Aboriginal artists and their exhibition Drawing a Line in the Sand, at Hazlehurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre, Gymea, in Sydney’s southern suburbs. The link with western Sydney is the manager at Wirnda Barna Artists, Brendan Penzer. Brendan is a visual arts and social ecology graduate from University of Western Sydney, where he conducted much of his research. Drawing a Line in the Sand continues at Hazlehurst Gallery until July 8. It will be great to have more news of Brendan and Wirnda Barna artists.

Wagana Aboriginal Dancers leave soon for Glasgow

Wagana prepares for Glasgow in JulyOnly 5 weeks now until Wagana’s Youth Company leaves for the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival in Glasgow. Wagana is thanking the Blue Mountains community for getting behind their fundraising efforts and invites everyone to a free showing of their work Bangalang on Sunday 29th June at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre in Katoomba at 3pm. Choreographed by Jo Clancy in collaboration with Becky Chatfield with music and song by Jacinta Tobin, Bangalang will premiere at Tramway Arts Centre in Glasgow on Friday 11th July. — with Jess Oehm, Helen Lee, Nadia Martich, Niki Park, Jo Clancy and Michaela Jeffries.

Wagana dance troupe update

Wagan on the road 0314In the lead up to their Glasgow tour in July, Blue Mountains Wagana dance troupe is on the road according to a report in Deadly Vibe online magazine. Click on the blue link for more detail. The group is led by choreographer Jo Clancy. Photographer Jamie Murray has captured 13-year-old Wiradjuri girl, Nikita Parker, the youngest dancer performing at Homeground on April 5 and 6.



Wagana books tickets to Glasgow!

Wagana Aboriginal DancersThey are on their way to Glasgow and the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival in July!

Director of Wagana Aboriginal Dancers Jo Clancy reports that their 1920s fundraising night last Saturday “was our most successful fundraiser yet. We raised $2,300 towards the trip and are thrilled. We were also successful a few weeks ago with a $6,000 grant from the Layne Beachley Foundation.

“We are very close to our goal now and are booking our flights this Friday.”

The Wagana Aboriginal Dancers perform contemporary & traditional Aboriginal dances inspired by the Blue Mountains & Central NSW West country.

Young Aboriginal dancers on their way to Scotland

Jo in Swamp (2)Jo Clancy, seen here in Keep the Dragonflies Dancing, directs the emerging indigenous dance company Wagana Aboriginal Dancers based in the Blue Mountains. Wagana Aboriginal Youth Dancers are thrilled to be invited to perform at the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival in Glasgow, Scotland, in July, 2014. A graduate of UWS Nepean Dance in the mid-90s, Jo was proud to report last November that they had already raised more than $20,000 of the $35,000 they need to take a small troupe to Scotland. They are working hard to raise the rest. Enquire about coming events or making a donation Blue Mountains Aboriginal Culture and Resource Centre.