Tag Archives: performance

Courageous Ballerinas Out In The Arena.

Courage isn’t something you usually associate with ballerinas. The usual gamut of adjectives includes: “beautiful”, “gracious”, “exquisite”, “the swan”. Yet, there’s also that sense of speechless awe. How could they possibly move like that?

However, there’s a whole other set of words which go on behind the scenes. These include: grit, sheer bloody-minded determination, perseverance, incredible organisation and impeccably presentation. I also remember a funny comment… ballerinas sweat. Indeed, they might even smell, which I still find rather hard to believe.

Of course, this is all a world away from the jewellery box ballerina I was entranced with as a little girl. I carefully turned the silver winder at the back and opened the lid. Hey presto! There she was twirling around to Love Story. I was bedazzled. In my case, my admiration didn’t perform some kind of magic and turn a clumsy elephant into a ballerina. However, I was recently reading through my old diary, and it seems a pair of dress-up ballet slippers I bought for Miss when she was three, sowed the seed of her lifelong dream.

Miss age 5.

Anyway, the reason I’m back here posting yet another photo of Miss in her ballet tutu, is that I wanted to acknowledge the latest. Last Thursday, Miss competed in the solos at the Sydney Eisteddfod for the first time. While it mightn’t be a huge deal, it’s the biggest and most prestigious eisteddfod in NSW, and an intimidating juggernaut. So, it’s a good step forward. Moreover, like everything else, the extended covid lockdowns we’ve had impacted on the Eisteddfod making this significant step all the more daunting not just for her but also for us. We’ve been living in our home bubble for so long, it’s almost too comfortable. Added to that, we live about 1-2 hours drive away depending on the traffic. So, it’s hardly next door, and it was in an unfamiliar part of Sydney. This added quite an extra layer of stress, although we had a good run and phew! There was parking on site.

Yet, what I hadn’t anticipated was that the most stressful moment of the competition -and it didn’t even involve our daughter! Indeed, it was a complete stranger. As this young woman was dancing, the satin ribbon on her pointe shoe came undone and started flapping around her ankle like an evil serpent threatening to strike.

Being the consummate professional (albeit only 16 years old), this young woman kept smiling and kept going and going. I was amazed! The entire time my eyes were glued to her and my heart was in my stomach. I was so worried she was going to trip and have a really nasty accident. It was clear everyone around me was feeling it as well. I know dance mums get a bad wrap, but there was so much love and compassion for that young woman. However, she didn’t fall, and kept working her way through her routine spinning and leaping across the stage with this infuriating ribbon dangling from her ankle. Geoff thought she was aware of where the ribbon was, but it was subtle. I congratulated her when I saw her afterwards, because I figured getting through that made her a true champion.

Meanwhile, our daughter was backstage and she had her own crisis. She suddenly heard her music playing and thought she’d missed her cue to go on. The thing is, that when you’re in a studio, the pieces of music for your dances are yours alone. It’s as good as having your name plastered on the front. You own it, and hearing that music is always your cue to go on. However, at the Sydney Eisteddfod, there were something like 60 dancers competing just in the ballet solo section alone, and quite a few dancers were using the same piece of music. So, your music wasn’t your music anymore.

I can just imagine her dealing with all of that backstage when she’s already feeling it. Hearing her music at the wrong time must’ve hit her like an electric shock. However, to be fair, while we had the big board in the auditorium clearly showing which number was next, I don’t think they had that backstage. I just saw a few people hovering with clip boards near the door, and to compound the confusion, audience was going in and out.

No doubt there were endless other overcomings throughout the day, and although they might not rate a mention on the adjudicator’s sheet, are possibly even more noteworthy.

She also competed in her lyrical solo.

As it turned out, Miss didn’t place in the competition, but she scored well and with a lot of these things, you usually clock the first one up to experience.

However, I would like to congratulate her and everybody else who enters into these competitions for putting themselves through all the stress and rigmarole and actually entering the arena.

Indeed, I like to pass on this encouraging quote from —Theodore Roosevelt
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Have you or your family been involved in dance or something similar and gone through competitions and eisteddfods? Do you have any stories to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Driving The Tutu Taxi.

Frankly, parenting can take you down some wild and random roads, and I never quite know where I’m going to end up. Or, what death-defying challenge I’m going to be facing next. How I’m going to be stretched right out of my comfort zone. Stretched, and stretched and stretched until breaking point feels like blessed relief.

Geoff and I waiting for the concert to start.

Just as a bit of background, I’ll share that when our son was in kindergarten aged five, a friend and I cottoned on that what you really want as a parent, is an average kid. After all, academically the school system caters best for a child of average intelligence, and you don’t need to be Einstein to realize that if your progeny has any kind of talent, you’ll not only be driving from here to Timbuctoo, you’ll also need a second or third job to pay for it.

However, at the same time both my friend and I couldn’t resist booking our kids into enriching after-school activities, and we paid the price. Her son went on to excel in soccer, and she ended up driving out to the farthest reaches of the state, and almost into the outback. Meanwhile, we’ve driven to the ends of the earth for dance, sailing, and scouts. I have to be honest and say that in some ways being locked down for a few years gave us blessed relief. We could actually stay home. Yet, at the same time, we missed watching them, being part of these communities ourselves, and seeing our friends there as well. It hasn’t all been a one way street.

Anyway, this brings me to the actual good news, and that was that our daughter was accepted into the Youth in the Performing Arts Concerts (YIPA) held locally. It’s held annually for young people aged 13 to 21 years. Being selected was a significant achievement, and an indication that she’s climbed a few extra rungs up the ladder. Wow! Where the ladder is heading at this stage, we don’t know. However, progress is progress.

Photograph: Emily Stoddart.

However, the downside of these performances is all the work which goes on behind the scenes. Today, I spent the afternoon dashing around like a maniac chasing last minute paraphernalia she required, but we actually got her there, on time, in one piece, and she performed to perfection. We were so proud of her, but I’ve got to be honest and say I was just relieved it went without a hitch, especially given how she incorporates the rose into her incredible tricks. It always goes without a hitch. However, since I can barely walk with a mug of tea without spilling it, my own anxiety an run wild. Indeed, I spent most of this performance fixated on that rose and praying nothing would go wrong. Dance, is after all, a nerve-wracking business.

Yes! It all went brilliantly!

Notice the rose in her feet – photo Emily Stoddart.

Anyway, last night’s performance was breath-taking. We very proud of her…and relieved. I am now looking forward to watching her performance again on the video in the comfort of our lounge. Phew! Pure joy!

Does this trigger any memories for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Here’s a flash back to her first YIPA audition 2019. Aged 13.

Happy Easter Weekend Coffee Share- 18th April, 2022.

Wishing you a Happy and Blessed Easter and Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share! Easter was very low key and virtually non-existent at our place this year, because I fell at my daughter’s dance competition last Wednesday and for some reason haven’t been feeling right ever since in ways that go well beyond the sore foot.

Photo: Emily Stoddart Photography.

The dance competition was intense on steroids both in terms of how incredibly talented, moving and beautiful each and every ones of these dances was, but also in terms of the huge amount of physical and emotional energy it demanded from each of the dancers, their teachers and parents. Miss competed in seven dances I think, which really was a phenomenal effort especially when you factor all the costume changes and steps involved. It’s mind-blowing and I really don’t know how she does it, except she’s been doing it since she was three, and it is her absolute passion and calling. I doubt this is something you can even consider going into half-mast.

The life of a dancer is thwart. There are days where all your ducks line up andeverything goes your way. However, there are also times when it can completely fall apart, which we haven’t really experienced. While I’m a Christian, I still suspect there’s a Lord of the Dance out there too, who is either for or against you on the day. It’s almost like you need to leave a burnt offering on the altar outside when you go in. Well, of course, I didn’t do that, but I did pray that she would come first before she did her classical ballet solo with her new tutu and routine. I wrote a note to myself: Is it wrong to pray for your daughter to come first with her ballet solo? The other dance mums I conferred with thought it was fine, and were equally enthusiastic to see her perform, which was absolutely delightful and made my day. There’s inexpressible joy, but it can get a bit foreboding, and I can’t even begin to describe what goes through your mind while you’re sitting there. However, her dance went beautifully and she won. She has won other sections before, but this meant so much more. She was competing in the open section which is the highest level, but what it meant was that she’s on track for reaching her dream of becoming a ballerina. It was a resounding: “YES!!!” (although she still has such a long way to go!!)

Of course, I was proud. However, my overriding emotion was relief and pure joy!

BY the way, I drew on my years of supporting my daughter’s dance efforts, to write my 100 word weekly contribution to Friday Fictioneers: Last Flight of the Swans: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2022/04/13/last-flight-of-the-swans-friday-fictioneers-13th-april-2022/

However, somehow this ridiculously compulsive book addict managed to make it to the the local Pearl Beach Book Sale on Saturday. Trust me. For a book addict like yours truly, it’s up there on a temptation level right alongside a chocolate shop. Moreover, since all the Easter eggs had virtually sold out by Thursday according to my husband, feasting on books it is.

The other drawcard about this Pearl Beach Book Sale is that the books are top notch. Pearl Beach is a rather exclusive retreat, and attracts a lot of creative people, who seem to have great taste in reading material. I arrived mid-afternoon, and I don’t know how much the books were at the outset, but I was paying $2.00 each. Of course, this was an absolute steal. So, it didn’t make too much sense to be too selective. It was more a case of fill a box, another box, and while you’re thinking about it, why don’t you fill this one too. The irony of all this was that I’m actually in the process of seriously downsizing our book collection, and the boot of the very same car I drove to the book sale, was full of books I’m planning to drop off for the next book sale at the local PCYC.

Another issue is that I am not a voracious book reader. I read a lot doing my history research. However, that’s mainly involved old newspapers online. I also read blog posts. I also do a few Bible studies and try to read my Bible daily. So, it’s not like I’m not reading at all. I’m just not one of those people who polish off a couple of novels a week. Geoff was doing that without any dramas when he was commuting to work on the train. However, he’s been working from home for the last two years. So, he’s reading has dropped off a lot. He’s just finished reading a Harlan Coben novel: Hold Tight. Have you read it? We’ve been making our way through a few TV series based on his novels. I mostly love them, although there was one that I felt had too much violence, and was just too seedy. I managed to pick up another Harben Coben at the book sale: Just One Look.

Meanwhile, we didn’t really celebrate Easter. I haven’t been well since my fall last week, and my dad had surgery last week and we thought we’d leave it a week or two. Yesterday, was also my brother’s 50th birthday and he didn’t mind when we got together. However, I did spend last night going through my photos and fishing him out. I might actually manage to get this photo attempt printed up.

Anyway, I hope you and yours had a Happy and blessed Easter.

Love and blessings,

Rowena

All dance photos were taken by Emily Stoddart Photography.

Inside Outside – Friday Fictioneers.

Dimity was next up, but she just wanted to run.

“Idiot! You absolute idiot! How could you let him talk you into singing THAT song? Raw, red-raw, it was only meant for the shower.”

Delving into the agonizing depths of self-loathing, she’d turned herself so completely inside out, her heart was beating outside her body, and the neurones were spewing out of her head like the guts of a computer.

“It’ll help someone. Save a life,” he said.

Now, she was wondering why she had to sell her soul to save the world? Why couldn’t she just plant a tree?

…..

100 words exactly.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. Photo prompt © CEAyr.

As a closet musician, I related to this photo prompt of the stage. While naturally rather extroverted, I usually have no qualms about getting up on stage and doing that most dreaded of tasks….public speaking.

However, playing my violin has been a mixed bag and early on, I put myself through the intense stress and madness of doing my Preliminary exam. This is the most basic exam you can undertake, and yet it was much harder than I expected, although I was determined to get an A, not a C-. I remember stressing out so badly on the train on the way to the exam, and being rather hard on myself. Then, I realized I was doing this to myself. No one else had made me do. It’s not like I was a kid and I could blame my mother. Moreover, just to give you a bit of a laugh, you can picture me practicing in the bus shelter out in front of the exam venue trying to warm up my ricketty fingers. The stress was through the roof, but I’ll have you know, I did it. I got my A, and I haven’t done an exam since.

Best wishes,

Rowena.

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share…18th August, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Regardless of how you take your tea, coffee, or Bonox, around here you’re beverage of choice comes served with a mandatory side serve of stick from our over-zealous sheepdog, Rosie. There are bits of stick all over my chair and the carpet is looking like it’s been in a sawmill. The pups pulverize  these sticks until there’s almost nothing left yet still manage to deposit what amounts to a large splinter on my laptop expecting me to throw it. Some of them don’t make it very far they are that small. Indeed, I’m surprised they don’t disappear into the ether. However, as far as Rosie and her trusty sidekick Zac are concerned, size doesn’t matter. There biggest problem is how to get the humans moving. I’m sure they must be researching how to motivate humans. We’re worse than sheep.

Moon through the clouds

We spotting this ethereal moon rising down the end of our street during the week.

How was your week?I hope it’s been great.If not, there’s always next week, although in my experience it doesn’t work like that. That a good week doesn’t automatically follow a bad one out of some cosmic sense of fairness.

Overall, my week was pretty good, although I’ve been fighting off a bug and have also had sinus troubles. I’ve spent much of the week asleep, but had a few things on and have had to venture out. At this point, I’ve appeared on top of the world and my usual perky self and haven’t given much of an inkling that I’m struggling.

Rowena on stage

Hardly a rock violinist, but I almost look the part. 

Last night, I performed at an in-house soiree at the music school where I’ve been learning the violin for the last six years. I played Chopin’s “How Deep Is The Night”. This is a rather melancholy piece, which is also known as “Tristesse”… French for sadness. I had to pace myself yesterday. Needed to do some heavy practice, but didn’t want towear myself out. In preparation, I listened to Andrei Rieu play it, which was very humbling, but feel it gave my performance a lift. I’d been meaning to listen to it for months but hadn’t got around to it. While exams and performances are stressful, they do challenge you to lift your game put in those extra hours of practice and do what it takes to bring out the best in yourself.

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Here I am with my trusty sidekick Rupert Bear who was playing the broken-hearted romantic during my performance. Clearly, he wasn’t sitting there while I played. I’m not that good. 

Anyway, my performance went well. I did a duet with my teacher. I had to try and be steady. Not allow myself to be distracted by the faster quavers she was playing and hold my own. That was challenging and while I have good pitch, my sense of rhythm is shot. It was a good exercise, which I’d like to continue. I love playing with my teacher and she’s a wonderful encouragement…the wind beneath my wings.

This week, I also started a course about living with a chronic illness through our local health service. Since I’ve been living with my conditions for a long time now, I wondered whether this would be much use. However, I was blown away. The information is very useful and I was delighted to find one of my close friends is also doing the course and so she can be my partner in crime.

Red Door Pearl Beach

This red door in nearby Patonga appeared in Thursday Doors this week. Love a red door.

One of the outcomes of the course this week, was that we had to set ourselves a goal for the following week. It was something we wanted to do and not a chore. I probably should’ve been a good girl and chosen something exercise related. However, I’ve also fallen off my blogging perch over the last couple of months and so opted to write three blog posts this week. That was quite easy to structure around Friday Fictioneers  Wednesday night, Thursday Doors and now the Weekend Coffee Share. So, in addition to pulling off my violin performance, I’m also chuffed that I’m gaining additional information and support to overcome my health issues and making progress with my blogging again.

On that note, my posts this week have been…

Dancing In The Moonlight…Friday Fictioneers

Patonga- Thursday Doors

Moonlight in the Clouds

The Closet Violinist Breaks Out

By the way, if you haven’t visited Friday Fictioneers, this would be a good week to head over for a read and even have a go yourself. The photo prompt goes up every Wednesday and I guess the timing depends on where you live, but it’s night time here for me in Australia. The idea is that you write 100 words to the photo prompt. Some prompts work better than others. However, this week’s prompt seemed to work particularly well not only in terms of producing great writing, but also in termsof social commentary. After all, as writers we’re interpreting the world around us especially human interaction. These are definitely worth a good read. Here’s the LINK

 

Lastly, we’ve been attending meetings for both kids at the school regarding their subject choices for next year. This was fairly straightforward for our daughter. She’s two years younger than our son and it’s not life and death at her age. However, our son goes into Year 11 next year and despite what the school says offering words of reassurance, we parents know the hard truth. If this kid doesn’t work this out, we’re the ones picking up the bill. It might be his life, but it’s our bank account. We’re quite relieved that our daughter has chosen dance and commerce. That way,  when she’s a starving ballerina, she can at least work out how to budget. Our son is looking at advanced maths which is all well and good but we’re not too sure about his overall choices. I am generally pretty laid back as a parent.However, these subject choices have raised a call to action which makes bad cop look lame. Now, I’m left how to make NO, NOT OVER MY DEAD BODY!!! look more palatable and even how to get him to reach this conclusion for himself. Humph! It looks like we’re in for interesting times. Any advice would be most welcome!!

That’s not a good note to wind up on and I’m currently feeling like a lot more than a coffee if you catch my drift. However, I need to head off to pick up our daughter and her friends from dance rehearsal soon. I’m also intending to squeeze in a bit of a walk. This weird activity called exercise. Although I know it wards off colds, it’s the last thing I feel like doing when I’m under the weather.

Anyway, hope you’ve had a great week and I look forward to catch up with you over the next few days.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

The Closet Violinist Breaks Out.

Tonight, the closet violinist swung from the chandelier onto centre stage, dazzling the audience with a half-decent rendition of Chopin’s: “How Deep Is the Night” (Tristesse). However, if I’m honest, my entry onto the stage was much more reticent. Of course, I didn’t want to trip over which was quite a possibility with all the leads, drum kits etc to fall over. However, my violin teacher helped me out and my grand entry went smoothly. Now, I just needed to play…

In the days leading up to the concert, I second guessed myself something chronic.WHAT WAS I THINKING?!!! “You’re hopeless. It’s not ready. Don’t do it!!!” Of course, I’d done nowhere near enough practice. It was only in the last days before the concert, I actually got moving squeezing in all those critical hours of practice, which make such a difference yet almost came too late. However, despite the anxiety, I actually love performing and would love to get out there more often. It’s another one of those eternal, internal conundrums.

Rowena on stage

I could almost look like a rock violinist under these lights.

It was only a small soiree with fellow students and their families. Hardly playing at the big end of year concert, or heaven forbid, at the Sydney Opera House. However, no one likes making mistakes and there’s always that possibility of humiliating disaster. Yours truly has even broken her foot just before going on stage, but in true violinist fashion, it was on with the show. However, nobody in our household says “break a leg” before any of my performances now.

“How Deep Is the Night” is a particularly melancholy piece of music and the words are grab you by throat kind of dark…

SO DEEP IS THE NIGHT 

So deep is the night,

No moon tonight,

No friendly star to guide me with its light.

Be still my heart,

Silent lest my love could be returning,

From a world far apart.

So deep is the night,

Oh lonely night,

On broken wings my heart has taken flight,

And left a dream.

In my dream our lips are blending;

Will my dream be never ending?

Will your memory haunt me till I die?

Alone am I,

Deep into the night,

Waiting for the light.

Alone am I,

I wonder why,

I wonder why.

In my dream our lips are blending;

Will my dream be never ending?

Will your memory haunt me till I die?

Alone am I,

Deep into the night,

Waiting for the light.

Alone am I,

I wonder why,

I wonder why.

Frederik Chopin (m) 1832 Sonny Miller (l) as recorded by Richard Tauber March 29th 1940

However, who hasn’t experienced that all-consuming heartbreak and that sense of the surrounding darkness penetrating your soul? That’s one thing I don’t miss about my youth!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t share the words with the audience so I gave a brief introduction and parked a teddy bear in front. You can’t see it clearly in the photos. However, he has a red stone on his lap with “I love you” etched into it.

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I’d proud of myself for persevering with the violin, which has been very challenging at times. However, persistence and regular practice pays off. I’m making solid strides forward. It’s fantastic.

Rowena & Danni

Photographed here with my very encouraging and patient teacher, Danielle. We played as a duet. 

Do you play an instrument? Do you perform at all? Do you like it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share…23rd July, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’ve been a bit of a bower bird and we’re enjoying the warm fire at the Central Coast Bar and Grill where we indulged in a scrumptious Sticky Date Pudding. Indeed, we loved it so much, that I had to make one for dessert last night and added some pecan nut praline for good measure. Dinner was supermarket lasagna just in case you think I’m about to enter Masterchef myself.

Amelia Coast Quest

Last week, was jam packed with rehearsals and performances. Our daughter competed in Coast Quest with her dancing and went extremely well. Well, perhaps “extremely” is being a somewhat over the top. However, if you’d seen her beaming smile when she came second in her ballet solo and third in her contemporary (with a higher mark of 89), you’d understand. We don’t receive many awards, so these were pure gold.You can read about the the full experience here.

 

 

The kids were also performing in the  Scout & Guide Gang Show with four performances at Laycock Street Theatre. The show was fantastic, and this was more our son’s turn to shine. He even made an appearance as NASA astronaut Michael Collins from the Apollo 11 (moon landing) mission. He delivered his lines well and smiled throughout the entire show. He looked like he was having a ball. Our daughter’s involvement was cut back due to clashing commitments with dancing but just managed to stay in the show. It looks like it will be her last. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time last week in the audience. It is a role I cherish, and I turn it into a much more active role by encouraging the performers. I also love watching the performances, and really feel quite privileged. I’m definitely not there under sufferance.

Last week, I also took part in Friday Fictioneers. I actually had two attempts this week, after some feedback, and my second effort An Unpredictable End was much better received.

The kids have been on school holidays for the last two weeks, and school goes back tomorrow. So, I’m thinking along the lines of getting organised for the term ahead while writing on the blog. That works, doesn’t it? Humph…

Anyway, it’s actually a beautiful sunny day outside. Well, not quite as warm as I’d first thought. It’s about 18°C so still not what we’d consider “balmy”. It’s still rug-up weather as far as I’m concerned.

Hope you’ve had a great week and I look forward to hearing from you!

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Gang Show 2018

The Family Taxi is getting quite accustomed to chauffeuring our budding performers to rehearsals and performances. However, just because there was “another one”, that doesn’t lessen our excitement and enthusiasm, even if the petrol tank was getting thirsty.

After seeing our daughter place in a local dance competition through the week, last night we saw both kids perform in the Scouts & Guides: Central Coast Gang Show. Quite aside from being the proud parents and laughing at our son’s crazy assortment of pants and costumes including an orange sheet for a Flintstones’ scene, we had such so much fun. The theatre was intimate, and we were only three rows back from the stage. While we weren’t quite singing out load, I was definitely singing-a-long  in my head to the likes of Inspector Gadget, Flash Gordon theme, Pokemon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Scooby Doo. Indeed, with all those great songs, I’m surprised I wasn’t dancing in the aisle. You see, I can be the ultimate in embarrassing mums. The highlight for my son came, when he played the third NASA Astronaut, Michael Collins, in a skit.

 

While you might think of knots and camping when it comes to Scouts and Guides, the Gang Show has been around since 1931 when Ralph Reader, a Rover Scout trying to make his mark in theatre in the USA and London, was asked to write a Scout-based variety show to raise money for a swimming pool for the Downe Scout Camp (now a Scout Association National Activity Centre). Rehearsals began under Reader’s direction on 25 May 1932. Initially the show did not have a title, but during a rehearsal break, he asked a cast member if everyone was ready, and the response was “Aye, aye Skip, the gang’s all here”. The first production, The Gang’s All Here, ran between 30 October and 1 November 1932 at the Scala Theatre in central London.[1]The show was not a sell-out, but enough was raised to fund the swimming pool and the show was well received. Baden-Powell, the founder of scouting, persuaded Reader to produce another show in 1933. This was The Gang Comes Back and ran for a week.Reader continued to write and produce the London Gang Show. In 1934 the show became The Gang Show and Crest of a Wave was performed for the first time, becoming over the years the anthem. In 1937 the London show became the first amateur production to have a Royal Command Performance (an honour repeated in 1957 and 1964). A feature film called The Gang Show, starring Ralph Reader and The Gang, premièred at the Lyceum Theatre, London in April the same year, and in New York in December 1938. Now, it appears right around the world- Gang Show Wikipaedia The Central Coast Gang Show has been running for 32 years.

What I love about the Gang Show, is that it gets a whole load of young people up on stage, who might never have considered getting involved in the performing arts. These kids are singing, dancing and committed to six months of pretty solid rehearsals. That’s not a mild-mannered undertaking. These are young people who are learning to express themselves in meaningful, productive ways and are building up essential qualities like perseverance, having a go and being part of a team. I also believe the stage shouldn’t be confined to the likes of Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. We also need that amateur layer as well. Not as a charity case with positions occupied for those who couldn’t make it. Rather, because it offers us something else. A form of entertainment which isn’t Hollywood and that hopefully reflects, at least in some way, out local culture.

So, after all the excitement of watching my kids and all the rest dancing and singing under lights and going through a plethora of costume changes, the curtain fell and the Gang Show was over for another year. I have to admit there was a bit of disappointment. That sense of loss once the show is over. It was a great night.

Have you ever attended a Gang Show performance? Or, even been in one yourself? Where and when was it? What did it mean to you? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

The Journey Home…A Personal Quest.

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”

– Matsuo Basho

For those of you who have been following my blog for awhile, you’ve probably sensed that I’ve been grappling with something. Something like a whole lot of random puzzle pieces, and wondering why they won’t all fit together. Arranging and rearranging them and then darting down another wombat tunnel (these are rather long and extensive by the way) searching for another missing piece, hoping that this time, I’ll finally be able to see the entire picture. Or, at the very least, have all four corners and the edge pieces in place.

Fueling this quest has been a sense that something isn’t quite right, which might’ve been blown off as anxiety or misplaced perfectionism if the story had been a little different.

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The Good Little Girl.

Of course, the general recommendation was “to go with the flow”. The only trouble being, that I was beyond the flow. Moreover, nobody ever presented me with a map or gave me any directions whatsoever to try to find the flow, let alone a lift. Indeed, since whenever, I’ve never gone with the flow or even known what it was.  Hence, why I’ve called my blog “Beyond the Flow”.

Rowena 1981

Here I am in Year 6 aged 12. The Serious Student.

Lately, this sense of not going with the flow re-positioned itself, and I felt more like I was living in between the lines where I perhaps don’t belong to either group but see something in between that other people miss. This perspective is also rather interesting when you look at it from a visual perspective, as you’re inhabiting that white space between two sentences. Not that I can actually read either sentence, as I’m up too close. It’s all a blur. I’m just there. Indeed, I could well be fast asleep, and quite at peace in what actually seems an uncomfortable, or even isolating position.

Rowena Dressing up

I used to love dressing up and performing. My brother and I put on little shows at home.

By the way, I didn’t say that I was alone. I’m not. Indeed, I’m actually starting to wonder just how many of us hover in between worlds not really knowing where we belong and yearning to find our home. Or, perhaps we/they have reached a point of acceptance, or even giving up, and have pitched a tent where they are and set up camp.

For many of us, there’s a complicating factor which heightens this sense of living in between the lines. Of not going with the flow. Even, grappling to know who we are within our own skin, before we can even attempt to work out how we can find our place in the outside world.

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The Irrepressible University Student. You can see I’ve jumped right out of my box by now.

Personally, my struggle to know and understand myself raised up into something of a tsunami wave, after I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain when I was 26. Apparently, it had been there since birth, but randomly became symptomatic in my mid-20s. Suddenly, thanks to my diagnosis, I had an explanation for being quirky, uncoordinated, and not fitting in. Better still, I had a cure. A magic fix. I had brain surgery and was given a shunt, which not only reduced the pressure in my brain and improved my coordination, it also felt for a time like the lights had gone out. Indeed, I started to believe that the theatrical, extroverted independent woman I had always been, was largely the fabrication of this disease. That all this pressure in my head, had made me disinhibited. That at least some percentage of who I thought was me, was in actual fact the disease stepping into my shoes and even inside my very skin and taking over.

Poetry Reading

Performing My Poetry in Paris in 1992.

This, of course, left the door open for way too many questions, and they not only moved in, but also made themselves at home.

Indeed, it left many doors and pathways open as I grappled to find some rock solid sense of myself. That core at the very centre of my being. The bit that is left, when you remove and take off all the layers and external forces and just is.

“To know yourself as the Being underneath the thinker, the stillness underneath the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain, is freedom, salvation, enlightenment.”

Eckhart Tolle

Much of this exploration has either been unconscious, or going on in the background while I’m getting on with the realities of life. If you’ve lived with this , you’ll know what I mean when I say the front screen is running but there’s another screen running behind closed doors, behind the curtain, or even somewhere at the back of your eyeballs (the eyes being the window of your soul). I never intended to live and operate like this, and I must admit it’s been very frustrating. I’ve really struggled to know quite who I am, and then to confound it further, I developed a debilitating auto-immune disease, which side-swiped me like a massive monster truck. Of course, it didn’t stop to see if I’m okay, or to even help me get my bearings. It just kept going.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

Aristotle

Anyway, as I said, I’ve been niggling with this in the background and moving very much by feel. I feel comfortable, belong and really thrive in some settings, but in others, I shrivel up and am almost screaming in my skin to escape. I feel awful. There doesn’t need to be an explanation. Indeed, there often isn’t one.

Performance Queanbeyan 1886

 

I am coming to wonder whether it’s been this struggle within myself, which has taken me so deeply inside my family history. Indeed, now that I’ve found the missing piece of the puzzle, it feels like this is what I’ve been searching for my entire life. It wasn’t a coincidence that I wanted to swing from the chandelier. Or, that I wanted the be an actress right through high school (in addition to being a journalist). There was this pull from somewhere deep within my DNA, which didn’t connect with Mum and Dad or anybody in the near vicinity. However, deep within the lines of historic newspaper text, there it was. My grandmother’s grandmother performed in an amateur Minstrel Show in Queanbeyan, near Canberra. While it wasn’t New York, the programme was printed in the newspaper, and she wasn’t only the pianist. She was also acting. Indeed, Lizzie Johnston was playing Louisa in a romantic farce: The Rival Lovers. Finally, I had permission and acknowledgement of who I’ve always been. A constant beyond the ups and downs of life and collisions with life-threatening illnesses. An extrovert who doesn’t need a stage to perform, and can even perform in words upon the page, just like my kids sing and dance across the stage. Indeed, I don’t need a drink to perform a on stage either. Rather, I need someone to tie me to my seat in the audience.

Of course, that is not to say we’re pre-determined by our genes. However, personally I found it very encouraging that someone else in my family has been down this road, and I’m not crazy. That it wasn’t the result of too much pressure on the brain. It’s simply me. Moreover, there are quite a few performers on both sides of my extended family tree.

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My Great Great Aunt, Rose Bruhn, owned an elite hair and beauty salon in Brisbane but could also make kookaburras laugh on command, had a budgie who recited reams of Shakespeare. She appeared with them at charity fundraisers where she also performed poetry and she played the violin.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost.

Rowena Lizottes

The humble violinist. I was actually a rank beginner when this photo was taken, but I have an in-built sense of theatre.

However, I’m not sure that this discovery is going to change a hell of a lot. These days, I’m pretty content with what I’ll call “my lot”. I’ve been doing some performances on my violin, which isn’t quite the same as jumping out of a cake or swinging from a chandelier, but I now understand a little better why I wanted to perform, and wasn’t content to only play alone at home.

While this journey is incredibly personal, and having problems with your brain isn’t something to brag about, it was a story that needed to be shared. While it’s been a catharsis for myself, I wanted to reach out to people grappling with similar issues, and hold your hand. We are not alone.

The Missing Piece

Lastly, I wanted to share an animation of a favourite book of mine by Shel Silverstein: The Missing Piece . It might be simple, but it’s very profound.

If this post connects with you in any way, I would love to hear from you via the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Our Little Dancer & the Dance Solo.

Our Little Dancer gave her first solo performance today, and it was pure enchantment. More to the point, SHE was enchanting. Not just because she’s our daughter. Rather, because she’s reached that long awaited point, where she’s transcended years of training, commitment, lost ballet shoes, laddered tights, and entered the realm of magic. A realm so far beyond words, that I barely know where I am.

I don’t know whether you’ve been to this place yourself, but it turns being audience, into a flight without wings. One minute, you’re simply sitting in your chair. Then, inexplicably, you’re zooming off to unexplored realms and your feet are dangling in the air.  I suppose other people would simply describe this as their “happy place”, without all the flounce. However, as far as I’m concerned, a bit of flounce is quite approppriate. After all, we’re not describing a balance sheet here!

Unfortunately, at this stage, I can’t share any photos of her dancing or even in her dress. All I have at this point, is a photo of her costume hanging up last night. There was no time to even get that precious “before we leave” photo…her dark hair perfectly twisted into position, flawless makeup, lipstick, pink tuille all in motion swooshing out the door. Indeed, perhaps a shot of pink in motion, would have been more true to life than a staged shot in the hallway anyway.

Despite my spangled descriptions, my daughter wasn’t making her debut at the Sydney Opera House. Rather, she was performing with her dance school at a local nursing home. This was such a great place to start out. It not only gave students a chance to give to the local community, but it also allowed them to get experience in a less controlled but forgiving environment.  While the majority of residents were very attentive and could well have been seated in the Opera House, there was the occasional person walking through a performance on their Zimmer frame. A few sang along to one of the backing tracks and no doubt, there were those who fell asleep. Yet, this unpredictability is great, because it helps the dancers to  learn how to deal with distractions and adapt accordingly. A studio is a very controlled and largely predictable environment, which makes an excellent nursery, but the outside world is the stage.

Anyway, there I am in my seat wound up like a spring. I can’t wait and yet, I’m also absorbed in each of the other solos. I’ve seen them all before, and yet they still give me goosebumps. Take me on intense emotional twists and turns at 240 kph, which I can’t explain. I am just the passenger. A member of the audience. I don’t know how they make their magic. I just experience it.

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Ballerina Girl.

Finally, our daughter is centre dining room floor. She is beautiful. Beautiful, almost in an unearthly, ethereal way, becoming some kind of pink sylth whose materialized out of the air. Who is she? Where did she come from? Is she some kind of mysterious geni who escaped from an empty Coke bottle? I don’t know but she moves as light as a feather across the floor with such grace and poise that I’m totally spellbound. Me, the mother who gave birth to her earthly being, but this is a magic woven by her other “mothers”. Her dance teachers who’ve nurtured the butterfly out of her crysalis. Given her something I could not. Sure, I could give her the fire and the spirit, but I couldn’t help her mold and shape it into something that’s her own.

You see, as much as I love to dance and have even been doing adult dance classes for the last year, I have some disability and chronic health issues and let’s just say, that I’ve been unable to “reach my full potential’. Indeed, I try to resist saying “that she didn’t get it from me”, because I wasn’t me. I couldn’t be me with all that extra baggage, especially when I didn’t know it was there and what was causing my difficulties. I just thought it as me. Yet, despite having the hydrocephalus , I did ballet as a child and even had private lessons for awhile. I wasn’t always quite so clunky.

I often wish that I could experience more of my daughter’s dancing. At least in theory, I feel I could watch her dance all day everyday, which isn’t exactly true. However, as it stands, I feel like I’m peaking through a crack and I only get to experience the barest slither. Everything goes on behind closed doors, which it needs to, but I do crave for more. It would be nice if she danced more at home. Let me inside a little more. This is a comment lament of the parent, as sense of being on the outside when once upon a time, they were on the inside.

 

Yet, I know this is only the beginning. Not the very beginning but the beginning of her stepping up and starting to step out. Next year, she’s due to be getting her pointe shoes, and that really will be a huge development. That’s a ballet dancer’s coming of age…a right of passage. A ritual I never experienced, but I’ve been waiting for just as much as her. Indeed, I have my own pair of pink, satin ballet shoes with pink satin ribbons. They might not be pointe shoes but they’re beautiful, and they were my gift to myself. They were the materilization of a dream. That someone who struggles to walk, can also learn how to dance and dip their toe into ballet as a participant, and not always be a spectator relegated to the sidelines. After all, life’s too short to sit it out.

And now, my little dancer is asleep. All wrapped up in the world of dreams and I need to follow suite.

xx Rowena