Young members of the Illawarra Suzuki Violin group join in with the band
Sandy Brechin from Scottish band Burach joins in with the Wednesday acoustic dance band (September 2001)
|Since 1989 The Wongawilli Colonial Dance Club has held a social bush dance every Wednesday night at the Wongawilli Community Hall, West Dapto Road, Wongawilli from 8pm to 10.30pm. And it still does!
The evening generally includes 10 bush dances which are all called and walked through. Novice dancers and musicians are invited to participate. Sheet music is provided for musicians. Members of the Wongawilli Bush Band form part of the Wongawilli Hall Ceildih Band.
Special theme nights are also held in which other country's folk dances are taught. They include Welsh for St David's Day, English dance on St George's Day, Scottish dancing on St Andrew's Day, Contra Dance on American Independence Day and even a selection of Italian Folk dances for Italian National Day.
Over the years some great dance musicians have visited and performed at the night including Sandy Brechin & Burach from Scotland, Karen Tweed (UK) and Faerd (Den/Swe/Fin), Felpeyu (Asturias, Spain), Seamus Begley and Jim Murray (Ireland), Jeppokrydonna (all girl band from Finland), Emily Smith Band (Scot) and Fanch and Jean-Pierre from Brittany.
The dances began in 1985 in Dapto, see below for the history of the dance.
A light supper with tea and coffee is provided also. The cost is generally only $2.50 per adult and children free.
Wed 4 October 2006 - Scandinavian Ceili with Faerd (Denmark, Sweden, Faeroe Islands)
Wed 29 November 2006 - St Andrews Day Dance
Wed 6 December 2006 - Irish Ceili with Seamus Begley, Jim Murray from Ireland
Wed 20 December 2006 - Final Dance for 2005.
Wed 17 January 2007 - First dance for 2007.
Wed 24 January 2007- Pre-Australia Day Bush Dance, part of the 22nd Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli Heritage Hotel
Click here to go to the main page
Click here to go to the Event Calendar with all the special dance dates and themes
Click here for directions to the Hall
2005 - 20 Years of regular Wednesday Night Bush Dances
Bush dance is a form of traditional folk dancing that has been brought to Australia by its European settlers. The dances are a majority mix of circle, couple, longways and quadrilles formations.
The music that accompanies the dances again has European origins although there are quite a number of Australianised tunes now in the tradition from bush fiddlers and other musicians.
During the 1950s there had been a revival of folk music in Australia following a similar revival in America. Collectors travelled the countryside looking for old tunes, songs and dance before they died out with their bearers.
Bush dances were revived based on these collected dances, introduced dances from Europe and newly composed dances.
In 1984 a group of musicians interested in traditional music began to gather at Seamus Mackey?s home on Monday nights in Avondale Road, Dapto in an informal session surrounding. Musicians would bring their tunes to share and learn. It was suggested that the music should really be used for its original intention - dancing. And so it was that the search for a hall began to begin a regular bush dance. The hall initially selected was the Heinenger Hall in Dapto in 1985.
The format was simple - the musicians would play music to suit dances, and people would learn the steps. A number of WEA courses attracted a regular audience. Any musician with an acoustic instrument was welcome from accordions to fiddles to piano to even a tuba! Of course there were the quintessential Australian instruments - the lagerphone and bush bass (tea chest bass).
From the musicians came initially the Warrabush Band and later the Wongawilli Bush Band.
In 1987 it was decided to formalise the dance into a non-profit incorporated association. The name of the association agreed upon was the Wongawilli Colonial Dance Club that tied in with the newly formed Wongawilli Bush Band and Wongawilli Colonial Dancers.
At around the same time Wollongong City Council was allocating Community Halls around the Illawarra region. The Wongawilli Community Hall became available for the Club and the bush dances. So in 1989 the Wednesday night bush dance moved to the Wongawilli Hall.
Over the years dances have continued with charity nights; many visitors from overseas and nationally; theme dance nights such as Italian, French, American, English, Scottish and Welsh; and guest musicians from Spain, Brittany, Finland, Scotland, Denmark and Sweden.
The name Wongawilli has become recognised as an icon in Australian traditional music and dance with the bush dance a major backbone.
In the end, the dance is still fun, lively and a great way to see Australians at play.
compiled by David De Santi, who has been there from the start!