“There’s always a story. It’s all stories, really. The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything’s got a story in it. Change the story, change the world.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!
Would you prefer coffee, tea or something else?
Can you believe it’s December already? I sure can’t. Well I sort of can because all that end of year madness is already in full swing. Aside from buying presents, I haven’t even thought about Christmas.
Rather, the end of the year is also concert season. Last week, our daughter performed at NSW Schools Spectacular in Sydney and next weekend, is the dance concert. Miss does jazz, modern and ballet so that’s three costume changes. Today, there was a rehearsal and tomorrow is photo call. Well, there’s photo call after she does a guest appearance at her friend’s birthday party. I know she’s doing too much and it is exhausting, but I want her to have a balanced life. Friends are important.
I have some exciting news this week. I’m finally making progress on the book writing front. For many, many years now I’ve been reworking and reworking books in my head and I can see the words cascading like a fountain without sticking to the page. For me, the trouble has been knowing where to start. How to start. Moreover, just when I’ve got in the groove and the flow is well and truly flowing, there’s been some significant catastrophe which at the very least, has blocked the flow or redirected it. Finishing a book is not that easy, especially when you can’t get started.
So, I’m thrilled to have a plan and even though I’m back to my usual “research mode”, I’m making headway. I can see a structure, a plan, a purpose. Even better, I can feel it all coming together.
That’s why I’m fessing up here. I need to make myself accountable. Commit to this course of action in paper and ink…even if it is more a case of tapping away on my laptop.
Anyway, I’ve spent much of this week trying to immerse myself in Paris to reawaken all those slumbering brain cells of mine. I need the to take me back to the past to lead me into the future. Fortunately, I have photos, diaries, letters from the trip as well as the world wide web at my disposal. I guess you could say it’s now been redefined as “material”.
You might like to check out some of my Paris posts:
I am continuing to read Tim Harford’s: Messy: How to be Creative in A Tidy-Minded World. I’m now about halfway through and am going to try to keep going with it while throwing myself into Paris and that writing. I find it hard to split myself up like that, especially when I’m already juggling the family and the house. Well, I’m not exactly juggling the house. I think I dropped it on its head awhile back and it’s never recovered. Besides, I’d much rather write.
I’ve had another go at Friday Fictioneers. The prompt this week depicted a camping scene. My effort is called The Camping Virgins. I should point out that the title refers to first time campers…nothing more, nothing less.
The rest of the week feels like a blur. I’m sure it’s there somewhere.
How was your week? Good, I hope.
This has been another contribution to Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at Part-Time Monster.
If a mighty caffeine hit is what you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. I’m inviting you to join me on an almighty cafe crawl through Paris’s left bank, as I desperately try to find the cafe where I used to hang out back in the Summer of 1992.
By the way, I apologise if our tour darts and criss-crosses all over the place. This is a virtual tour and you’ll find me curled up in my ink-stained writer’s chair inconveniently parked in Australia. So, the dots could well be scattered all over the map.
Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m desperately trying to find the cafe I hung out at with my friends in Paris.
So, after much preambling, you’re invited to join me on a cafe crawl through the Left Bank. By the way, I can’t help wondering whether we’re being joined by the ghosts of creatives past…Hemingway, Cézanne, Picasso, Braque and Jim Morrison. Who knows?
Our first stop is La Palette at 43 Rue Seine on the corner of Rue Jacques Callot in St Germain. It has a large terrace overlooking Rue Jacques- Callot. The restaurant’s façade and the interior of the second salon, are registered as historic monuments. The second salon has a larger back room with dining tables, and is stylishly decorated with ceramics from the 1930s-40s. Meanwhile, the bistro is traditionally a gathering place for Fine Arts students, nearby gallery owners and artists. La Pallete was frequented by Cézanne, Picasso, Braque and later by Ernest Hemingway and Jim Morrison. Today’s celebrities include Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts.
Our second Stop is Les Deux Magots. Its outdoor terrace is apparently a great spot to soak up the atmosphere of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. From there, you can also see the historic Saint Germain des Pres Church and Abbey. The nave and bell tower date back to 1014 AD, while its foundations date back to 543 AD. So, definitely worth checking out.
Les Deux Magots was founded in 1812 at 23 Rue de Buci and in 1873, it moved to Place St-Germain-des-Prés. In 1885, the shop gave way to an alcohol-serving café, which took on the name.
The Café started playing an important role in Parisian cultural life and Verlaine, Rimbaud and Mallarmé, to name a few, were regulars at the café. In 1933, the cafe launched its Prix des Deux Magots award. This is a major french litarary award presented to new works, which are generally more off-beat and less conventional than the more mainstream Prix Goncourt.
Les Deux Magots has also been frequented by numerous famous artists including: Elsa Triolet, Louis Aragon, André Gide, Jean Giraudoux, Picasso, Fernand Léger, Prévert, Hemingway and others, the café hosted Surrealists under the aegis of André Breton, and Existentialists around Sartre and Beauvoir.
Our next stops are going to be a lot quicker…
3) Cafe Dauphine 17 Rue Dauphine
4) The Luxenbourg 4, Place Edmond Rostand
5) Cafe Le Depart 1, Place Saint-Michel 75005, Paris
6) Cafe de Flore 172, Boulevard Saint-Germain
7) Cafe Le Buci 52, rue Dauphine 75006 PARIS
Finally, I stumbled across Cafe Conti at 1 Rue de Buci. Finally, this could be it. I have emailed the details to a friend, hoping he can see or remember something I can not.
By this stage, Geoff is also home from work and I’m handing him the photo album and the laptop to help playing spot the difference. Did my photo match the image? We couldn’t be sure and in the end, all we had was eye-strain.
In a way, I hope it is. However, because it closed this year, I’d rather it was somewhere else. I’ve always wanted to go back and enjoy another cheap cafe au lait watching the crowds pass by. I’m sure my friends are still sitting there, looking exactly as they did 24 years ago. After all, haven’t you ever noticed how memory does that. It freezes moments in time for eternity.
By the way, speaking of Cafe Conti, it’s recent claim to fame is its dog. Or, perhaps I should be saying that the dog is famous. His name is Orson and he’s an exceptionally cute Cairn Terrier. You can read about his travels here: Orson Paris dog and there’s also an exceptionally cute video.
So, that ends our rather exhilarating yet exhausting cafe crawl of Paris’s Left Bank. I hope none of you objected to me appropriating Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night, also known as The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum and transporting it from Arles to Paris. For me, it’s the ultimate French cafe scene. I had to use it.
Do you have a favourite cafe in Paris? Please share. I love a good story served up with a coffee and a French pastry is an extra special bonus.
Thank you for joining me!
I’m digging around
at the back of my head,
but all neuro pathways
are hopelessly dead.
I can’t resurrect them.
Their heartbeats have stopped.
Help can’t get through.
All roads have been blocked.
I fumble around for a sign,
For some clues.
Return to the scene,
where I hope to find you.
But almost a lifetime’s
flowed along down the Seine,
although ancient Pont Neuf
still looks much the same.
I return to the cafe
where you broke my heart.
Still bearing the scars,
you said weren’t your fault.
The City of Love,
Was my city of pain
where romance turned to heartbreak,
and sun turned to rain.
And now I am back there,
with my husband and kids
not saying a word
about that Summer we kissed.
30th November, 2016.
A fictional poem, although the heartache was real.
I am currently writing about the two months I spent in Paris as a backpacker in 1992. That’s over 20 years ago now and the memories are very strained despite having my own diaries, photos and letters to refer to as well as the net. I was making very good progress on this project a year ago. That was until the office roof was destroyed in a hailstorm and then the hard drive developed “complications” and not everything could be salvaged. So, I am starting over trying to re build the patchwork quilt almost from scratch and trying to cover the gaps. It’s incredibly difficult but I am thankfully making progress.
The featured image was a selfie taken in the Luxenbourg Gardens, Paris, July 1992.
Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!
Not quite sure what type of beverage to offer you today. Being Summer over here, a glass of water might hit the spot and you might want to save your hot drinks for cooler climes.
How was your week?
After celebrating my husband’s 50th Birthday last Sunday, the big event this week has been attending NSW School Spectacular held last night at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena. Our daughter was singing with her school in a huge mass choir with 3,500 students all dressed in matching white skivvies. It’s been a full on week. She had two full days of rehearsals midweek followed by two performances on both Friday and Saturday. So as much as being a part of School Spec is fun, it also takes commitment, hard work and a lot of organisation behind the scenes. Unfortunately, as we forgot to plant a locating beacon or take the Hubble telescope, we didn’t actually see our daughter perform but were with her in spirit. Meanwhile the featured acts were very impressive including Fletcher Pillon, who won Australian X-Factor this year with a heartbreaking song about his little brother Benji who was tragically killed when he was run over riding his skateboard. I must also mention that I took much more notice of the dancing this year and even recognised many of the steps from my lyrical dance class. Not that I’d pulled them off with such agility, grace and finesse. However, I wasn’t watching myself dance in my lessons. Both eyes were focused on my teacher and naturally, I absorbed her moves as my own.
Quite aside from School Spectacular, I’ve had a creatively productive week.
Firstly, Merril Smith put me onto an online magnetic poetry site. They provide you with a selection of words to a theme and you try to build a poem out of it. You can get words relating to various themes such as nature. I’ve written a few magnetic poems this week and found the exercise extremely encouraging. The words gave my poetry rich symbolism and stretched my thinking. I was thrilled with the results and recommend you have a go. Please pop back and share your efforts. I’d love to read them. You can also read my efforts: The Path and The Poet Muse.
In addition to the magnetic poetry this week, I’ve also started reading an absolutely incredibly amazing book: Messy: How to Be Messy in a Tidy-Minded World. I recommend you all rush out and buy it. I promise it will significantly expand how you experience creative inspiration through opening your mind to messy and chaotic approaches, which often yield surprisingly impressive results.
One of the things I have found most interesting is the idea of jolting yourself out of a creative block. I was so intrigued by a set of random cards created by Brian Eno called Oblique Strategies, that I wrote a post about them and intend to try them out. After reading about choreographer Twyla Tharp, I read elsewhere that she advises dancers to “jump” when they experience a creative block.
I also participated in Friday Fictioneers. This week’s prompt was a locked, chained door set into a sandstone structure. It looked quite intriguing and reminded me of a door I’d seen attached to a sandstone cave on the waterfront at Palm Beach. Naturally, this door has always intrigued me and I thought it would make a perfect pirate’s lair and pictured mermaids swimming through the sea around their ship. However, instead my flash was called: “Never too old for Divorce”. It’s the story of a retired gent whose wife is a monomaniacal cleaner and he’s withdrawn to his cave to have some breathing space. Unfortunately, I had to cut a lot out to meet the 100 word limit. In the original version, his cave was decked out with a flat screen TV, microwave, boxes of Chardonnay and he’d also salvaged his trophies from the roof. Of course, she’d banished them up into the roof calling them dust traps although her precious collection of tea cups was okay. Indeed, the tea cups had moved into his trophy cabinet. It was hard to leave all of that out so I’m working on an extended 1500 word version.
Yesterday morning, I also had some photography fun. While I usually do the dance run and my husband drives our son to sailing, we switched roles yesterday and Geoff took Miss to School Spectacular and I found myself at the Sailing Club with menacing storm clouds on the horizon. Yummy! Well, perhaps Yummy is not the right word but I LOVE photographing clouds and the darker the better. While these clouds weren’t quite up to the hail clouds two years ago, I’d rather watch those clouds on TV these days. Getting caught in that storm was pure terror.
By the way, in case you’re wondering what Mister was sailing, he had a go in the Optimus better recognised as “the bathtub” and then moved onto a Feva (I thought it was a “Fever” but what would I know.) As much as I love sailing, I’m pure ballast and just strive to keep my head away from the boom.
Now, we’re switching gears as Christmas parties and the end of year dance concert approaches. Unfortunately, yours truly won’t be performing. The adults have respectfully been shown to our seats. I’ve also bailed out on my violin concert. With so much going on, I decided not to do ensemble this year and decided to perform early in the new year at a soiree in the studio. As much as I love performing, with so much on, it’s been a relief.
What have you been up to? How’s your week been?
I hope things are going well.
As I mentioned in my last post, I am currently reading Tim Harford’s: Messy: How to be Creative & Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World.
In Chapter 1 on Creativity, Harford introduced me to “Oblique Strategies”. They are intended as a creative tool for musicians and were developed by legendary producer Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt – the pair originally both came up with the same idea independently in 1975, and joined forces to make it a reality.
Oblique Strategies is a deck of cards, about 7×9 cm in size, supplied in a small black box labelled “OBLIQUE STRATEGIES”. The cards themselves are black on one side, white on the other, and have obscure, cryptic aphorisms printed on the front in small letters.
Eno’s own description explains the idea very well:
“The Oblique Strategies evolved from me being in a number of working situations when the panic of the situation – particularly in studios – tended to make me quickly forget that there were others ways of working and that there were tangential ways of attacking problems that were in many senses more interesting than the direct head-on approach. If you’re in a panic, you tend to take the head-on approach because it seems to be the one that’s going to yield the best results Of course, that often isn’t the case – it’s just the most obvious and – apparently – reliable method. The function of the Oblique Strategies was, initially, to serve as a series of prompts which said, “Don’t forget that you could adopt *this* attitude,” or “Don’t forget you could adopt *that* attitude.”
By the way, Brian Eno had found fame as Roxy Music’s crazy Keyboard player and had also created a new sonic aesthetic called ambient music.Eno used the cards in song writing sessions in Berlin with David Bowie and Tony Visconti and Messy tells how “the strange chaotic working process produced two of the decades most critically acclaimed albums, Low and Heroes, along with Iggy Pop’s most respected work, The Idiot and Lust for Life, which Bowie co-wrote and benefited from the same messy approach.”
Here’s a few examples of what’s written on the cards:
Have you ever tried using the Oblique Strategy cards?
I am thinking about buying a pack but will make a few of my own cards first and see how it goes.
I’d be interested in your feedback.