By Jenna Chia

    The COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions have had a devastating impact on the arts and creative industries in Melbourne as events, venues and opportunities for collaboration were limited by lockdowns and restrictions on group gatherings. This was particularly challenging given the need for creative experiences, and the associated connections and joy during a time of enormous social disruption and uncertainty.

    Local songwriter and artist Alice Andersen experienced firsthand the impact of the restrictions on her creativity and the difficulty of going without the simple things in life that bring happiness. These experiences inspired her to write her debut single ‘Dance with You’ and speaks vividly to the challenges of the time. “The song came to me at the end of 2020 when things were starting to relax after the lockdowns,” says Alice. “I had been out for a really fun night — the first time in ages — to spend time with friends and listen to beautiful music. But dancefloors weren’t yet open, so we were quite literally dancing in our seats! There is a line in the song, ‘I’ll dance on the street if I have to,’ and that was very much true!”

    As a member of song writing collective Westsong, Alice is only too aware of how connecting over shared interests and collaborating with fellow artists has a significant influence on creativity. Alice describes her experience as a member of Westsong as revolutionary for her song writing. “Westsong was really a game-changer for me, it really accelerated my song writing. That sense of community is so important to creativity.” She references author and lifestyle coach Barbara Sher who famously said, ‘isolation is the dream killer, not your attitude’. “That is so true in a creative community” says Alice. “Whether it’s through lending each other gear or just encouraging each other to submit songs. It’s really such a reciprocal relationship. My own song writing took a huge dive with not having that connection to community during COVID.”

    A devoted fan of the West following her move to Footscray five years ago, Alice is the daughter of a Norwegian immigrant so appreciates the inclusive and diverse community that characterises the area. 

    “Footscray really has everything, it’s like its own little ecosystem. Diversity gets thrown around a lot, but Footscray really is a truly diverse place. It’s a melting pot. There are so many cultures. It’s just such an interesting place and I think it’s a very welcoming and friendly place. I don’t think I could leave it easily now. I’ve become a Westie!”

    The film clip to ‘Dance with You’ follows Alice and a group of friends as they dance through the streets and is a beautiful homage to Footscray. Taking in local shopping malls, vacant shopfronts, graffiti and enduring landmarks including the Saigon Welcome Arch, it captures both the grittiness and beauty of the area that makes it so unique. “One of my friends, song writer Dom Rogers has written some of the best songs about Footscray. There’s one song where he talks about the smell of the injera bread and the VU students sinking tins down at Footscray Park. He just paints the whole picture of the suburb. I really wanted to capture the uniqueness of Footscray in the video.” However, Alice has also observed the impact of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on the area and the local community. “It has been hard to see the shopfronts that are empty and some of the music venues that closed. The disconnection was really devastating for the music community.”

    Despite the heavy themes, ‘Dance with You’ is a surprisingly joyful song that captures both the frustrations of life under COVID-19 restrictions while also celebrating community, the experiences that bring us together, and the joy that comes with shared creative expression. “It’s really about that moment when things were lifting, and you could go out and see people, but you still couldn’t dance and fully connect with others and express yourself. But it’s joyful because it was really that feeling of coming out of lockdown and being able to see your friends again.”

    ‘Dance with You’ also marks Alice’s first foray into the indie pop genre after a background in Alt-Country and Folk music. “This song just came to me, and it just felt like a dance song. I thought, ‘maybe I can go in two different directions at the same time and that’s ok’. Alt-Country and Folk music are great mediums for telling stories, but I’ve realised through this that pop is a great medium too. It was important for me to go where the song wanted me to go and where the story wanted me to go and to let the genre emerge from there.”

    The result is a beautiful, expressive song that eloquently expresses both the challenges and hopes of the COVID-19 restrictions. Music and art more broadly have the ability to capture the intense emotions inherent to human experience and provides a means to process those emotions and experiences. ‘Dance with You’ is a poignant snapshot of a moment in time that will be vividly remembered for years to come. “The narrative of ‘Dance with You’ really summarises the two years of the pandemic, all the things that had happened, and the ups and downs of that. At its heart it is about connection and community.” 

    Alice Andersen’s debut single “Dance with you” is out now. 

    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

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