Tag Archives: Jazz

Christmas 1921

As many of you will be aware, I’ve been researching WWI rather intensively for the last two years in what has emerged as a series of research projects. Those of you who also research in a more intuitive fashion and allow yourselves the luxury of pursuing all those twists and turns others might dismiss as “distractions”, “rabbit warrens”, will be familiar with the joy of discovering new worlds and perspectives you never knew existed, rather than simply proving your own point. It was this seemingly random fossicking, which led me to Australian author, Ethel Turner from an entirely different angle finding a message of hope, human kindness and generosity we sorely need today.

To do this story justice, I’m going to straddle the story of Christmas 1921 across both my blogs here at Beyond the Flow, and over at Tea With Ethel Turner. Here I’ll provide more of the social and political background and context to Christmas 1921 and why it was special while over at Tea With Ethel Turner, I’ll share how she made a difference to Christmas 1921 with her band of Sunbeamers.

While the 1920s is often portrayed as a time of unrestrained celebration after the horrors of WWI, the reality was much more complex and certainly Christmas 1921 was a time of very mixed fortunes. Sure, the war was over. The Spanish Flu was also officially over as well. On the 6th December, 1921 the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed seeing independence for Southern Ireland and ending the Anglo-Irish War. The Washington Conference was also promising peace in the Pacific. Yet, following his speech on the 20th December, 1921 Mr Stanley Bruce (the 8th Prime Minister from 1923 to 1929) who was representing Australia at the League of Nations, was described as “a supreme pessimist: sees nothing but trouble” after these dire warnings :

Mr Stanley Bruce

“SYDNEY, Tuesday.—Mr. S. M. Bruce, speaking at a National Club luncheon, remarked: “When one comes, back to Australia one is a little horrified to see what is going on. The whole of Europe to-day is struggling in a morass and it is doubtful whether it will ever get out. It is recognised if nothing is done to restore the economic stability of the world a wave of Bolshevism may spread all over the earth. We in Australia have a land where everything is good. Our country is the soundest of any in the world, but it is going to be faced, with the same troubles as the rest. We do not seem to have recognised this. We are only squabbling amongst ourselves.1.”

Gee, does this sound strangely familiar?

Anyway, here’s “Christmas 1921” which was published in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on Christmas Eve, 1921:

CHRISTMAS, 1921

For many thousands of people throughout the world this must be a “black” Christmas. Almost every country is suffering from the effects of those five years of war, during which production was stopped and the savings of decades were scattered. Thousands of families to-day will be clouded with anxiety because there is no longer a market for the goods the production of which has furnished them with a means of living and their breadwinners with employment. To other families Christmas brings back memories which, though they are colored with pride, arc memories of sadness. It seems impossible that in the lifetime of this generation Christmas shall ever be a season of unmixed rejoicing, except for the children, whose festival it is. Yet throughout the world it will be recognised that the Christmas of 1921 is more in accord with those universal ideals which it connotes than any that we have known for many years past. To-morrow men can take part in a festival of peace and hope without any reflection on the vanity of human effort or the insincerity of all professions of faith. The year has been one in which a genuine and fruitful attempt has been made to banish the dangers of war. For the first time for a hundred years the statesmen of the world have given a practical demonstration of their faith that peace should be the goal of their policy and is the greatest .of human blessings. The delegates to Washington have set aside personal ambition and national avarice in their work for the good of mankind. The delegates from Great Britain and Ireland have agreed that each nation may have failed to appreciate the point of view of the other, and that each must make sacrifices of its own beliefs for the sake of peace. And when these public achievements are noticed men will be driven back to remember the many private acts of beneficence that have been carried out during the past three years. “There is a budding to-morrow in midnight.” It may pass unnoticed while men are oppressed by the surrounding darkness, but it should be acknowledged when we have at last arrived at the dawning of an era of peace and goodwill. In almost every epoch there are lamentations at the incurable selfishness of mankind or at the degeneration of the human species, and invariably they are answered by convincing examples. Before the war we were told that the age of self sacrifice had passed, that men had degenerated physically and morally, that the virtue of patriotism would be practised only by barbarians. The last months of 1914 answered, that reproach. Never was there a clearer response to the appeal of idealism, never did men come forward more spontaneously to avenge and to rescue the oppressed. Every day of the blackest period of human history was illuminated by some act of devotion, when men sacrificed themselves for one another or for their cause, when the motive of self interest, conspicuous though it was, was less frequently exemplified than any other. Since attention has been concentrated on the struggle for the spoils of victory the nobility of hundreds of thousands of obscure lives has been forgotten, but to-day it can be remembered and can be acknowledged as of the same quality as the self-sacrifice which has been placed at the service of the famine-stricken peoples of Europe. To-day we may rejoice in the efforts made by statesmen to establish peace among nations. But while these same states men were manoeuvring other work more urgently and immediately needed was being carried on with even less regard for international boundaries. In Austria and Ger many citizens of the victorious countries have given their money and their services for the sake Of their former enemies. The war, though it has founded much hatred and bitterness, has produced the clearest practical recognition of the brotherhood of man. The period In which lamentations at the folly and avarice of men have be on most frequent, and apparently most abundantly justified, has again seen them answered by the most indisputable examples. “Man, what is this? And why are thou despairing? God shall forgive thee all but thy despair?” The same question might have been asked, and the same comment made at any time during the period which is now coming to an end. At no time has there been so much self-sacrifice; at no time have individual citizens been so ready to spend their lives in the service of their fellowmen, and, if necessary, to ignore the boundaries ‘between one nation and another. Was there ever a more heroic instance of such devotion than that given by Sir Arthur Pearson, who “turned his necessity to glorious gain,” and set himself to brighten-the lives of others stricken with the same infirmity as himself? In this last period the work of the individual has been -in contrast with that of the statesmen; but we cannot afford to forget it now that the statesmen are giving themselves to the furtherance of peace and concord. Rather the inference should be that the impulse towards peace and brotherhood is never dead, but moves forward continually until statesmen are compelled to reduce into the form of a. public document’ the desire of hundreds of thousands of their constituents. We cannot say to-day that these efforts towards pacification have been completely successful. Both at Washington – and In Ireland there are elements so blinded by tradition that they cannot obey the force of reason. But all the ‘omens for peace are good. Not since the reign of – Caesar Augustus have there been so many signs of unity among the nations that make up the civilised world, and not since the Great War ended has there been so good a prospect that the men who fought there will reap the fruit of their sacrifices In the elimination of one of the chief causes of future wars.”2.

I can’t help looking back at these precious people of Christmas 1921 with their varying degrees of pessimism and hope, but still probably largely believing something could be done. That the Wall Street Crash, The Depression along and WWII weren’t just around the corner, although the writing was already on the wall.

Those babies born at Christmas 1921 would be 19 years old in 1939. It is unthinkable that so many of them went on to fight on the very same battlefields as their fathers, and that Australia’s sons would also find themselves fighting the Japanese and defending home soil. Our women weren’t immune either.

Yikes, sometimes time travel isn’t much fun after all, is it?!!

Meanwhile, while I’m tapping away here about Christmas 1921, we’re watching the movie: Don’t Look Up. A comet is threatening to collide with the Earth and the response of Americans is let’s just say “a concern”. I know that while we’re focusing on covid, climate change is our big threat and most of us don’t see it coming either. I hope this movie isn’t too prophetic!

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this. Hauled up at home on a wet and overcast day with covid spreading like wildfire all around us, I feel like I’m talking to myself. However, I know you’re out there and I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena Curtin

References

  1. Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), Wednesday 21 December 1921, page 13
  2. Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 – 1930), Saturday 24 December 1921, page 10

Weekend Coffee Share – 7th February, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

After a hot and sunny day, it’s now after midnight. I can hear the rain outside cleansing the air, watering the earth, and all that grows. The blinds are drawn. So, I can’t see outside, but I can hear the raindrops, and a bit of wind and an intermittent soft pitter-patter on the roof. Of course, the dogs are inside sheltering with their humans, and the rest of the family is asleep I should be sleep too. However, after a hectic day yesterday, I slept through much of today and am out of synch again. Things also feel much more straightforward at night when there’s only myself to think about. There’s peace and quiet, and this sense of nothingness. I think that’s the sense that catastrophe is only just being held at bay, and this is but a stolen moment of respite from it all. Intermission. However, even intermission is good, isn’t it?!!

The highlight of this week was our daughter’s dance competition. She doesn’t enter many of these, and they sort of hover on the horizon with a mix of excitement and dread. I really love watching her dance. Not only because she’s my daughter. She’s also a magnificent dancer. Moreover, as a poet and writer, dance appeals to my soul, my inner most being. Well, at least some of it does. Lyrical, which is essentially about telling a story, is my favourite genre. It tends to remind me of some of my favourite poets…Kahlil Gibran, Rumi, and can be rather connected to nature. However, I do become quite entranced by ballet and all its trappings…tutus, satin pointe shoes and tiaras. However, I also want depth to any dance, and not just flouncing around.

Anyway, the concert began in earnest, two days earlier when we ended up on a last minute pointe shoe run. Our daughter had ordered in a pair, and they hadn’t arrived, leaving her seriously in the lurch, and with only two days for us to find a pair. For the uninitiated, pointe shoes need to be fitted, and for that you need an appointment. We had no appointment. On top of that, finding the right pointe shoe reminds me of Prince Charming trying to find the foot which fit into the glass slipper, only in reverse. We had the foot, and now we need to find the one in a million pointe shoe which was not only going to fit, but also offer exactly the right amount of support. It’s a very precise science, and our daughter’s had a few pairs now and has a pretty good idea of what she needs. Thankfully, we managed to find the pair, and on Saturday we were off with the car loaded up with costumes, shoes, food, a newspaper, and a book. It was going to be a 12 hour day, and even if you love dance, it’s a lot to watch and a lot of things you could be sorting out at home. As it was, she came first in her ballet solo, third in her duo and third in her Contemporary. However, just getting through all of this and all the preparation, is an achievement for us both. I was pleased I didn’t screw anything up.

Meanwhile, now that school has been back for a few weeks, I’ve started getting back into my WWI research and am focusing on a series of bios of people on the home front. It wasn’t my intention to write about the home front at all. However, I came across these stories and outliers while researching our families’ stories and working towards a collection of soldiers’ bios. Now, that I’ve been thinking about the home front more, I feel the link to the home front and the battlefield is closer than I thought and they’re quite interactive, even though they’re geographically quite distant in Australia’s case.

You see, the soldiers themselves are coming from the home front, so what’s going on there obviously has a strong influence on why they enlisted. Then, there are soldiers returning home, who are also bringing experiences and news from the battlefield to the front home. Anyway, right from the get go, it’s been riveting, and it’s exciting to see it coming together. By the way, this research turned into my covid lockdown project and it’s really given me a strong sense of purpose during these uncertain times, especially when we were in lockdown last year.

Have you had a covid project?

Actually, speaking of Covid, have you had the vaccine yet? It isn’t available here yet, and I’ll need to speak to my specialist before I go ahead. BTW for those of you who are wondering why get vaccinated if it doesn’t provide full protection from the virus and negate the need for masks, my view is that all these precautions add up and will hopefully be effective as a whole. It’s like wearing a suit of armour. You still need your sword.

Anyway, I’m going to head off because it’s way too late.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer at https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share… 19th October, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you this week? What’s going on in your neck of the woods? For those of you who don’t know or can’t remember, I live just North of Sydney, Australia and so it’s Spring here and we’re also in what seems to be a Covid bubble as it stands.

As time goes by and these truly radical lifestyle changes have become the norm, I’m feeling more relaxed about going out, but trying to remain vigilant. Until there’s a vaccine, we’re in it for the long haul which requires a different approach to getting through than a sprint. That’s not to say I’m taking risks, but I’m no longer Alcatraz either. Well, not when there’s such a low risk of transmission. Meanwhile, I’m somewhat conscious of increases overseas, and hoping and praying for all affected and hoping the numbers will drop. Melbourne is doing much better here, which is great news.

Meanwhile, life here’s been busier than usual, but mostly in a very positive way.

Our daughter with yesterday’s dance trophies

Yesterday, our daughter competed in a local dance eisteddfod and received two 1st placings and a second placing in her ballet solo (she was only .5 behind 1st place). This was the first time our daughter’s placed first and she’s been competing for a couple of years. So, this was a big step forward for her. She’s keen to pursue a career in dance, especially classical ballet, and so it’s important for her to place well to head down that trajectory. It’s also such a buzz to win, even though I know I’ve brought up the usual benefits of having a go when things haven’t gone so well in the past. That said, I’m pretty sure she’s always placed with her solos.

After the competition, we headed off to Terrigal to meet up with her cousin for lunch, and we wandered along the beach front afterwards. I only captured this quick snap of the three of us and didn’t bother with scenic shots as it was a bit overcast and I’ve had better conditions in the past. Terrigal is one of the tourist focus points on the NSW Central Coast and is more touristy and built up than our local beach. It’s also more upmarket. However, we’re surrounded by National Parks and also closer to the train to Sydney. So, we’re happy where we are.

Last week, was a big week for our son. He was off on work experience at a local youth centre where they have a radio station and sound set up. He received very encouraging feedback, which is more than I can say for his commentary on my driving. I had to get across three lanes of traffic to get to our turn off coming home and it really was quite hellish, and people were not real keen to let me in either. I really needed to be able to wave a white flag. Or, have a sign saying: “Mum’s taxi’s having a rough day. Please give me a break!!”

Last week, my aunt, Dr Anna Haebich from Curtin University in Western Australia, was interviewed on Radio National by Phillip Adams:

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/german-botanist-in-wa/12761494?fbclid=IwAR3tyA3egsS0Ht33SWHn8jZ4OoGSAFImhN-6-46LISh7T06k_WkoyI2VUv4

Meanwhile, last week I was also pretty shaken up. I found out last Sunday that there was a devastating car accident locally involving local teens. Unfortunately, now that my kids are also local teens, it also meant that we knew some of the people in the car and there was also that awful realization that we could also get a knock at the door at some point. I’m also a community-minded person and so I’m trying to be there for my friend and find out more about what our teens are up to. This incident has made me realize that while our teens are very well connected via social media and mobile technology, us parents are probably crashed out at home or happy to be catching up with a few of our friends and enjoying our own new found freedom without being aware of the undertow. I’m now applying my research feelers to this to get up to speed. I’m talking about brain speed here, not putting my foot down in the my Alfa Romeo.

Anyway, I’d better call it a day and crawl into bed.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Stage Entry – Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.

Sorry I’ve been rather intermittent lately. Life has been uber hectic what with school holidays and performances and I’m longing to put my feet up and relax.

Rowena & Amelia Coastquest

In so many ways, this week’s door is very ordinary. However, for the performers at Coast Quest, our regional dance eisteddfod, it was the point of no return where they embarked on the exhilarating thrill, or abject terror, of being on stage. For many of the dancers, it was probably a mixture of both.

DSC_5055

Of course, this eisteddfod could have been anywhere. Held in any school or local hall where the stage has that worn out look of a bygone era and there’s no signs of the bells and whistles which come with performing at the likes of the Sydney Opera House.

Yet, these local competitions and performances have their place bringing the best local talent together and extending the dancers’ experience beyond the four walls of their studios. While they might not be the big time, they celebrate a moment in time or might even be a stepping stone. Moreover, for the doting audience, it means the world to see our dancers up there on stage. Indeed, we had a good group of supporters from the studio in the audience and there were cheers and applause as our dancers took to the stage. It was fantastic!

Of course, whenever my daughter competes, I naturally believe she’s the best. I’m absolutely dazzled by her performances. During her new lyrical solo, I even had goosebumps. That’s what it is to be Mum and it’s not my place to be critic. I’m simply her adoring fan. She did very well and naturally we’re very proud. However, quite aside from the results, it was the experience which mattered and it was also very helpful to receive the judges feedback. No doubt, this matches what her teachers have been saying. However, having those thoughts written down in a report by a judge also adds weight.

Tomorrow night, we’ll be off to see our son perform in the Scout & Guides Central Coast Gang Show. So, I’ll be returning with a different stage door next week.

Thursday Doors is hosted by Norm 2.0

What, if any, experiences do you have of stage door? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share: 9th April, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee  Share!

Our TV was disconnected this week so No. 1 son could get his assignments finished. While I could’ve questioned why the rest of us had to miss out on his account, you won’t find any complaints here. Indeed, I felt liberated and was delighted to see him reading his book and we got back to having dinner at the kitchen table. That had lapsed over the hot Summer when we escaped into the air-conditioned lounge room. It’s now time to move back. After only one family dinner around the table, I could see the difference as we discussed so much and started to moved closer to the same page. With so many comings and goings and these only intensifying as the kids get older, the family dinner as corny as it sounds, is worth fighting for.

The other thing about turning the TV back on, is hearing the news.

Our condolences to the people of Sweden.

This past week, was the last week of term one for the kids. This saw our son frantically needing to finish off some assignments, which had lagged after he’d  been sick for about a month. We also had open week at the dance studio. I felt so privileged to be able to watch my daughter’s classes and  also see her teachers’ dance. I have become intrigued at how it could well be the seemingly little things which differentiate a good and great dancer. That how you point your foot or hold your hands, and smile while dancing, make an enormous difference. I could well be a case of “take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.”

I spent the day at the studio yesterday. My daughter is now in Dance Team and they put on more of a performance and the students taking privates, performed their solos. Naturally, performing in the studio, is a great stepping stone, easing them into public performances. Contrary to the stereotype of very extroverted performers dominating the creative arts, I find so many creatives are actually exceptionally sensitive, intuitive and can find performing excruciatingly difficult. From what I’ve seen the likes of Sia, who doesn’t want to show her face in public, aren’t the exception. So, well done to all the students who got out there and performed their magic. I loved each and every performance.

Anyway, after a very stressful week and feeling so relaxed watching the dancing on Friday night, I decided to do my taxi runs and dinner and head back. My daughter decided not to join me as she needed to unwind. Said she’d be trying to work out the steps in her head and being a serious observer. I told her that I would be doing the same thing. That said, my expectations of being able to are set at a realistic zero, where she has aspirations. Huge aspirations which seem to be getting bigger and bigger by the day and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for “mortal mum” to keep up. I’m still trying to get one foot in front of the other and am thankful I have a place for my car keys.

Last week, my Alphabetical Tour Around Tasmania for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge continued. So Far, we’ve been to:

map_of_tasmania

Theme Reveal

A- Ashgrove Farm (Here’s the cheese!)

B-Bridport.

C- Convict Brick Trail, Campbell Town.

D- Doo Town, Eaglehawk Neck.

E- Eaglehawk Neck.

F- Ferndene, Penguin.

G- Gordon River Cruises

It’s been fantastic to revisit our holiday and a timely reminder to keep putting the photos away, reprint some more and write up some kind of family journal. After all, this was no ordinary holiday. My husband is Tasmanian and his roots go back as early as the 1830s. So, we had a lot to catch up on as well as checking out the usual tourist spot and nature escapes.

I’d love you to join us on this epic journey.

Well, I hope you’ve had a great week and I look forward to catching up!

The Weekend Coffee Share was created by Part Time Monster .  Thank you Diana for all the great Coffee Shares in the past!  If you haven’t heard, the Coffee Share is now hosted by Nerd in the Brain.  Thank you Emily!  You can join this week’s Coffee Share on her blog or by clicking on the “Linkup Linky“.  In fact, I encourage you to click on the “linky” to see what’s been going on in the lives of other bloggers and even join us if you haven’t before….Trent put this too well to come up with something better myself!

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena

I wish I Had Dance Feet…

People often say to me, ‘I don’t know anything about dance.’ I say, ‘Stop. You got up this morning, and you’re walking. You are an expert.’

Twyla Tharp

As you may recall, I’ve been attending a weekly adult dance class for roughly the last year. This has been a huge step for me, because I live with a severe muscle-wasting auto-immune disease as well as hydrocephalus and let’s just say mobility and coordination are not my strengths.

However, as I’ve mentioned, my daughter dances quite seriously and after watching countless open days, concerts and at times having serious difficulties getting her to class, I started getting sick of being stuck in the driver’s seat. I wanted to dance myself.

My motto – sans limites.

Isadora Duncan

Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.

Martha Graham

At first, I started dancing in my head and was amazed by my grace, poise and ability to jeter across the room.

Well, to be honest, it wasn’t exactly me. Taking a leaf out of the bower bird’s book, I sub-consciously “borrowed” or perhaps you could even say, that I moved into Miss Larissa’s feet and became a legend inside my own head.

That’s when I first started feeling like a dancer, even though I was unable to dance and to be perfectly honest, often struggled to walk, especially on public footpaths, which are forever trying to trip me up. In what felt like a very bold leap at the time, I gingerly approached my daughter’s teacher and confessed. Naturally, this felt rather “weird” and I wondered if I’d finally tipped the scales of madness to the point of no return. Dancing was light years away from “me”…a writer, photographer and someone living with a chronic illness.

writing

So, it was from this very tentative and reticent corner of the room, that I arrived at my first adult ballet class fully expecting to spend most of the night sitting in a chair. From where I sat, this wasn’t so much a position of defeat. Rather, even being in the room as a class member was an achievement and it felt incredible just to be a part of the inner sanctum. As I didn’t know what to expect of myself,  I simply hoped to have beautiful, ballet hands at the end of the six week course.

While I clearly didn’t have much in the way of personal expectations, even turning up was brave and courageous. That being there in itself, represented a huge gear shift I could be proud of. After all, wasn’t most of the world parked in front of their TV, computer or mobile phone screens, while I was stepping out and being challenged by something completely out of my realm.

Sometimes, you deserve  a bit of praise and enthusiastic applause simply for getting out of bed. and if you make it out the front door that’s a bonus.

That’s where I was coming from. So, my expectations of being able to dance weren’t great.

So, you could just imagine my delight when I was somewhat keeping up with the class. That I didn’t spend the entire class in a chair and wasn’t as uncoordinated as I’d thought. After all, there’s nothing like a bit of brain surgery and tinkering away in your head to get the cogs moving.

Those early nights of adult ballet classes, almost feel like a dream a year down the track. I’ve since done two short contemporary/lyrical classes under Miss Karina Russell. She’s not only been teaching us about dance and choreography, she’s taken us on a journey through various choreographic styles and given me something to Google when I get home. I was as proud as punch of my research and the growing list of dance quotes I’d compiled, until she asked me if I’d actually watch them dance. Of course, not.  Yes, I was still very much the writer and researcher than a dancer…a woman of action. Yet, it was still early days.

Last night, we had our last contemporary class for the time being and next term, we’re switching to tap. So, last night was special and a bit like performing at the end of year concert. I wanted to put my best feet forward and perfect our routine. Or, at least, be facing the right direction at the right time.

However, after going on our long walk on Sunday and obviously overdoing it round the house yesterday, my systems were overstretched and I couldn’t get it together. For the very first time, I was struggling with left and right as we attempted pirouettes, and was facing all the wrong directions doing our warm ups and stretches. This was so bad and as much as I laughed it off, there was also that frustrated, annoyed dancer stuck inside me trying so hard to get out, yet battling the mortal realm.

Why couldn’t I have dance feet? A dance brain? I was feeling like someone had switched all the wires over and when I meant to go left, I went right. Or, I just ended up in a mental knot…a spin which was anything but a shanay turn.

Aside from the fatigue, there was another sound explanation for my brain-body confusion.

While watching Miss Karina so intently, I was absorbing her moves as my own and couldn’t understand why my body wouldn’t cooperate. Why didn’t my foot point like that. Why couldn’t I stand on one leg while rotating my hands and foot without wobbling and falling over like a house of cards? It was like I was having some kind of massive computational error…Miss Karina in, Rowena out. There was a definite bug in the program!

However, I’m not that hard on myself that I didn’t know I was tired. That I wasn’t dancing at my best. Or, that Miss Karina not only has natural talent, she’s also worked exceptionally hard for a very long time. As  she will testify, there’s no fairy Godmother and no magic wand either.

“Destiny, quite often, is a determined parent. Mozart was hardly some naive prodigy who sat down at the keyboard and, with God whispering in his ears, let music flow from his fingertips. It’s a nice image for selling tickets to movies, but whether or not God has kissed your brow, you still have to work. Without learning and preparation, you won’t know how to harness the power of that kiss.”
― Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Yet, I am simply grateful to be a part of it, find acceptance even on an off night, and to be able to see Miss Karina dance up close and appreciate all the detail that goes into being a brilliant dancer. Not only for my own benefit, but also for my daughter. Since I’ve been doing these adult dance classes, we’ve been able to share a common language and last weekend when I saw her draw a semi-circle in the sand with a pointed foot, I knew exactly what she was doing.

“Think of the magic of that foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It’s a miracle, and the dance is a celebration of that miracle.”

Martha Graham

 

dance feet

Secret dance business. We only reveal our feet.

“My feet are dogs”.

Rudolf Nureyev

So, last night at the end of our class, I lined everyone up for a few photos. I’ve really been hanging out to photograph all our feet. While this might seem strange, for me our diverse range of footwear reflects who we are. There were socks, joggers, toe shoes, jazz shoes… as well as me wearing my pink satin ballet slippers with the satin ribbons to a contemporary class. We are a motley crew who take our dance seriously and work hard. Yet, there’s also this constant laughter, good humour, fun personalities as well as the joy of belonging and being part of the dance, which is an incredible feeling all by itself.

I don’t know why more creatives don’t cross-train and do some painting, dance, try some artistic photography with an SLR instead of their “camera phone”. While cross-training has become standard for athletes, I get that sense that creatives are still very much absorbed by their thing and it’s a rare soul who ventures beyond the usual streams which go together. In the performing arts, you hear about being the “triple threat”. That means you can dance, sing and act. Yet, I’m not aware of an equivalent term for someone who can write, do photography and say graphic design.

There’s so much to be gained from stepping beyond our comfort zones and what we’re naturally good at and enjoy. Instead of every writer writing about what it means to be a writer, you can write about the exhilaration of dance from an inside perspective instead. You’re not just a voyeur watching life pass by through the keyhole. You’re living it too.

That is, even if you’ve only got duck feet.

Do you dance?

xx Rowena

Musical Reflections 1941…

In March 1941, while London was in the throws of “The Blitz”, my grandmother was performing in Newcastle, a regional city North of Sydney. She was a concert pianist and after studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, she returned to Australia in 1940 to tour with famed conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham…and no doubt to escape the bombs!

Fast forwarding to 2017, and I’m meticulously going through old newspapers online, transcribing text and pasting articles about her into word documents by year. It’s taken me years to come up with this approach for compiling all these bits and pieces, especially as filing isn’t exactly my forte.

An interesting aspect of my grandmother’s career, at least from the perspective of a storyteller, is that she lived through an extremely turbulent, yet fascinating, period of history. That included: the Great Depression, WWII, “women’s lib”  and also the Cold War when she actually performed behind the “Iron Curtain” in East Germany and Soviet Russia (the latter being quite an “interesting” thing for Grannie to do and she even brought back some Russian coins which was not allowed!!)

So, when I stumbled across this little discussion in the Newcastle paper about the conflict between classical music and Jazz, I thought of a few bloggers who’d find this interesting and I’ll be popping round to “your place” and dropping off a link. You never know when little historical snippets like this could come in handy:

So, here goes:

“WORDS CONTINUE, like pebbles, to be thrown into the stream of controversy that races between followers of jazz and the classics. One writer, who attempts an impartial summing up of the question suggests: “The highbrow’s error is to suppose himself a different creature from the low brow. He loathes himself if he is betrayed into humming a tune that all the world is singing or into tapping his feet in time with the band. And failing to recognise or contemptuously rejecting these instincts in himself he has nothing but scorn for their manifestation in other people. To him the lowbrow is the person who likes ‘that kind of music.’ How much better if we realised that there are occasions when we all like ‘that kind of music” when our superior faculties are enjoying a rest. “This problem must be giving the B.B.C. a headache in compiling its feature programme. ‘Music while you work,’ since obviously there must be some who would prefer to make a bullet or put an engine together to the accompaniment of a Beethoven sonata than to ‘Roll Out the Barrel.’ “Germany, if reports are true, is producing special music to aid the war effort. Soldiers now march to tunes which automatically control their breathing to enable them to go longer distances without becoming exhausted.”

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) , Friday 21 March 1941, page 18

This tension between classical and contemporary music, rings bells for me back at school, even in the 1980’s.

As if being a teenager wasn’t confusing enough, while the rest of the teenage universe was into  pop/rock/punk etc, my best friend was into classical and drew me under her spell. In retrospect, she was one of “those kids”. Their family only watched the ABC and she never ate junk food. Indeed, she didn’t even know what a Mars Bar was. That should have been a warning in itself, but your best friend is your best friend. Sink or swim, you do it together…even if you do die a social death.

So, if I could speak to my 13 year old self, I’d tell her that she should stand on her own two feet. That before you publicly declare you love classical music, remember you played Grease at your slumber party, which was anything but. Anyone who is your true friend, can accept a difference of opinion and give you the space and freedom to be yourself. You don’t have to be clones. Also, if you decide to go against the flow, make sure it’s for something you strongly believe in and that you’re prepared to cop the fallout. Otherwise, it’s just not worth it.

These are life lessons I’m now trying to pass onto my kids. Navigating your way through high school is a veritable minefield and hopefully they can learn from my mistakes and make different ones of their own.

Meanwhile, getting back to the tension between different styles of music, I’m sensing that this has eased up over the years and we enjoy much more of a smorgasbord of styles these days. That we can be wonderfully eclectic. Is that your take as well? I’d love to read your reflections.

xx Rowena

 

Return of the Dancing Queen.

“I like attractive people who aren’t so terribly aware that they are attractive… people who aren’t afraid to roll on the floor and make fools out of themselves.”

Bob Fosse

Watch out world! The Dancing Queen is back.

Tonight, my dance class kicked off again for the New Year, and I was there with bells on. Well, I was actually still wearing my pink satin ballet slippers, pink ballet tights and a new addition…the black “tutu” I picked up from Vinnies (charity shop) last weekend.

While this might all sound pretty “normal”, it was a contemporary/jazz/lyrical class. For the uninitiated that means you DO NOT WEAR BALLET ATTIRE!!! However, I’ve created my own space with my pink satin slippers and they’ve sort of become “me”. Besides, they really are too pretty to hide away in my cupboard, now that we’ve changed codes. By the way, I’m not the only one who’s turned up to class with a certain je ne sais quoi either. Our adult dance class has a few subversive elements.

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While you might find someone with limited mobility is an unlikely dancer, perhaps that’s why dancing has suddenly become so important to me. That when something gets snatched away, you realize how precious it is and you want to grasp it with both hands and swing from the chandelier. Moreover, I’ve also found a safe and accepting place to dance and we’re a great bunch of people!! That has certainly made a world of difference! I can simply have a go. Do my best and hold onto that sense of sheer exhilaration for as long as I can.

I’ve also realized, now that I’m nearing 50, that I’m finally stepped out of my metaphorical cage. Indeed,  I’ve finally found my wings.It’s such a shame, in a way because I’ve lost a lot of time and they were always there waiting for me. However, I guess that’s why you have to earn your wings. They need to be appreciated, valued, treasured and used. They’re not just pretty ornaments.

Like so many, my reluctance to dance and my paralyzing self-consciousness,  wasn’t self-imposed. The cage came from outside. That constricting peer pressure, which decreed that only the cool girls could dance. That anyone as “unco” as me, shouldn’t be seen dead on the dance floor. Rather, you had to hide yourself away.

Yet, dancing is for everyone and by denying people the opportunity to dance and set themselves free in the physical realm, you’re cutting them off from their soul.

That’s not just rhetoric either.

While the context is a bit different, I still remember that dreadful scene in Dead Poet’s Society where Neil’s Dad wouldn’t let him perform in the play and pursue a career in the theatre, and he took his life. He couldn’t live being so estranged from himself.

That’s an important scene to keep in mind as a parent for a multitude of reasons.

Anyway, I digress. Getting back to tonight’s class…

Tonight’s class was inspired by the choreography of Bob Fosse. Fosse was born in 1927 to a performing family and hit the vaudeville stage at a young age. In addition to his more traditional dance education, Fosse had first-hand experience with the burlesque style of dance, and this informed much of his choreography. One of his earliest dance creations, choreographed at the age of 15, was a suggestive nightclub number featuring girls wearing ostrich feathers. This early moment hints at the larger thread of sensuality that would run through all of his work. However, his work isn’t purely burlesque. It is its own unique amalgamation that results in cool jazz movements.

“Live like you’ll die tomorrow, work like you don’t need the money, and dance like nobody’s watching.”

Bob Fosse

However, Bob Fosse was another world away tonight, and my eyes were glued to my teacher, Miss Karina Russell, who translates professional dance into something I can almost follow. By that, I mean something I can almost write about. The actual doing needs a lot more work. My  arms and legs were all over the place, which is to be somewhat expected with a new routine but I’m still trying to take in what I see  and am a long way of translating that into my own movements. Yet, not to be too hard on myself, I am on the way and it was only the first take.

Moreover, despite my struggles, I received nothing but encouragement. We had fun, laughed and I stretched myself beyond my comfort zone and also extended my body and mind beyond the width of my laptop. That’s important in itself. I spend hours writing, researching and not stretching my body beyond my chair.

Have you ever attended an adult dance class? Why or why not? How did you feel about it? I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

 

Our Enchanting Little Dancer

I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night
And still have begged for more
I could have spread my wings and done a thousand things
I’ve never done before

I’ll never know what made it so exciting
Why all at once my heart took flight
I only know when he began to dance with me
I could have danced, danced, danced all night

My Fair Lady – I Could Have Danced All Night
Mesmerised, spellbound,enraptured…this afternoon we attended our daughter’s annual dance concert. Every year, I literally get swept off my feet by the incredible dancing, the music and the lighting and how it all comes together in a way that sweeps me away on some kind of magical carpet.

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Miss suffering having her photo taken yet again. I can see her starting a support group for kids with papparazzi mums.

Our daughter has been learning ballet since she was 4 years old. She did a year of tap. Switched to jazz. This year, she also did musical theatre and next year, she’s going to pick up modern. I don’t know enough about dance technique to know how good she is but she certainly looks like a dancer and that’s not simply because her hair’s in a bun. Put a dancer in a hessian sack and you can still spot them in the crowd.

Amelia with ballet shoes

Miss with dancing Shoes

Of course, simply looking like a dancer isn’t enough but surely it must help somewhere along the way?!!
Today, Miss performed with her jazz and ballet classes. While I was very impressed by the jazz routine, I was exceptionally moved by her ballet performance. The girls looked like a flock of graceful white swans, in the most beautiful white tutus.  They were absolutely beautiful and Miss looked incredible. My mother was so moved by her performance that she had tears in her eyes.
As I watched Miss dance, you would never know that she hasn’t been well this year. That she’s been through so much. We are so proud of our Little Aussie Battler!
Well done!
Now, a new battle is set to begin. I’m wanting to photograph Miss in her tutu down at the beach. After fighting with her to take her photo before the concert today, I strongly suspect it’s going to take some serious bribery and even then I probably have a snowflakes chance in hell.
Stay tuned!
xx Rowena

Dancing Away the Rain.

The last week has been pretty intense for our daughter.

Last week, I finally managed to get her to see a vocal speech therapist about the vocal nodules which were picked up a few months ago when her gastro-intestinal issues were diagnosed. These nodules are like calloused blisters on your vocal chords and by the time we finally reached the specialist all that yelling at brother and mother not to mention stomach acid, had created quite a hurdle. Sure, we knew her voice could be quiet but there was also the shouting and we’d I guess just become accustomed to her squeaky little girl voice which my friends considered “cute”. My daughter loves singing and so having trouble with her voice, indeed, being diagnosed with severe vocal nodules and talking about how her voice is already struggling to produce full words was alarming, catastrophic. In essence, I was told that her voice was badly broken and needed the vocal equivalent of a wheelchair. At the moment, that is temporary and there are exercises and quite a lot of restrictions. Failure to cooperate will have serious consequences and I don’t think she’s just talking about “down the track” or “in the long run”. We’re talking NOW!

Of course, after all of that bad news and feeling like I’d been zapped with a stun gun, we succumbed to retail therapy. I can’t even remember what I bought her but I bought myself an adult colouring-in book with motivational quotes inside as I felt myself being sucked down a very long drain pipe.

As a kid, I could never understand why my mother became so distraught when something happened to me but now I finally get it.

Our little dancing star!

Our little dancing star!

When something happens to your kids, you actually feel 1000 times worse because you wish it had happened to you and you KNOW that you are somehow part of the problem and there’s that incredible, crippling stomach-churning guilt. Either you should have stopped it. Acted sooner. Jumped in your private ambulance and pushed the accelerator flat to the floor and driven like a bat out of hell.

That’s what my grandmother did after my uncle sustained third degree burns to his hand while she was changing his brother’s nappy and I think her pressure cooker also exploded that morning leaving beans glued to the ceiling.

Miss as Gretel from the Sound of Music.

Miss as Gretel from the Sound of Music.

Anyway, Miss isn’t supposed to sing at all at the moment and I can’t quite remember the speech therapist’s exact words. However, essentially her voice needs to pack its bags for a bit and sit on a beach and read through that stack of books which is falling down beside my bed. Being a kid, there will be so cocktails but I’ll allow her a lemonade with a slice of lemon and one of those cool and groovy little umbrellas on the side.

However, let’s get back to the real world.

My little girl is growing up but for a precious moment, time stood still!

My little girl is growing up but for a precious moment, time stood still!

Last Sunday, Miss had her mid-year dance concert and she also does Musical Theatre. Not even a week after being told not to sing at all, there she was, crime of crimes, up on stage singing…singing a solo even. It was only one line but just like you pinch the last chocolate and hope you don’t get sprung, I knew this was a stolen moment. That one line was no doubt doing damage but when I saw her up on that stage in the baby-pink satin dress being Gretal from The Sound of Music, even if it was only an excerpt and they were only in the school hall, I was so incredibly proud!! It also made me tear up a bit as they sang: “So long, Farewell”. With my bad health over the years, these dance concerts are emotionally confronting but this time when I saw her dressed up as a little girl and knowing she is growing up so fast, I couldn’t help but feel I was waving goodbye to her. After all, next year she turns 10!

My gorgeous girl!

My gorgeous girl!

We returned to the speech therapist this week and had good news. She had noticed an improvement just in that first week. She has been given more exercises and appointments are shifting from weekly to fortnightly. I know I can be a master of denial but I was very relieved. After seeing my grandmother lose her voice after a series of debilitating mini-strokes and what that meant to her, knowing that my daughter had already lost much of her voice was devastating. Therefore, ever the faintest glimmer of hope and improvement is such a relief! We are actually turning the tide.

Just to elaborate on this “we” business a little, my voice is also struggling at the moment and I am doing my daughter’s exercises as well not just to support her but to also let my own voice out of jail. It’s very hoarse as well.

So what with dance concerts, musical theatre and good or at least, improved news from the speech therapist, those dark, heavy rain clouds lifted and a rainbow appeared!

How do you feel when your children experience similar setbacks?

xx Rowena