Every day for one hour starting at 4pm, the Town Square lawn area of Ayers Rock Resort yields to the rhythms of the body-painted Wakagetti Cultural Dancers. One of an assortment of free activities now available at the resort to encourage visitors to learn more about Aboriginal culture, these performances are arguably the most popular. Others include garden walks, bush yarns told by a local Anangu storyteller, spear or boomerang throwing, didgeridoo playing and more.
As the dancers I met were not local Anangu (the traditional owners of the Uluru parkland), their knowledge of song and dance pulled from different Aboriginal cultural groups all across Australia. Before each dance, in addition to explaining the meaning of several of the moves, the dancers paid tribute to the elders from whom the dances were learned. And, of course, at the top of the show, they acknowledged the Anangu caretakers of the land on which they perform the moves of other cultures.
The word wakagetti means “dance,” and that is not only what the dancers did, but what they encouraged audience members to do as well. Toward the end of each show – at my young son's wide-eyed and impassioned insistence, we were in attendance three times over the course of four days – the troupe encourage men to join them in a kangaroo dance and then ask women to take part in an emu dance.