New Zealand / Australia Diary
Sunday 29 April 2012

A nice place for Sunday brekkie

After nearly half a day of dancing & teaching (with a few breaks to eat) on Saturday it was time to recharge the batteries. Rather than breakfast at home we drove to Margate (yes, the British place names continue to amuse me) to dine at Brookfield, an old corrugated iron barn that has been restored & converted into a restaurant, café, music venue and generally funky place. While we were there we caught the end of a 24-hour piano marathon where people (of any level of ability) were invited to keep playing through an entire day. We heard a variety of show tunes, then some interesting chromatic ramblings, then some hits from the 60s while we were eating. The breakfast was excellent and it was a really nice place to just take some time.

On the way back we avoided the main road and meandered around some of the smaller places along the coast. There were great views of North Bruny Island and of the South Arm peninsula on the far side of the Derwent estuary. It was nice to take it slowly and to not think too far ahead, there was planning to do for the evening's workshop but lots of time to do it in.

This sounds like the build up to but suddenly it was time to go and there were a million things left undone but actually it worked out very nicely. I got home in the middle of the afternoon and had time to prepare a list of possible dances for the workshop, eat a light but ample supper, get myself (and my clothes, always importent to look good as a teacher) cleaned & tidied and was ready to set off well in advance. We arrived at the hall in good time and I was set up with time to spare.

Gently getting started with the dancing

My workshop had been billed as "Dances With Unusual Rhythms" which in some ways limited what I could present but this made it much easier to choose which dances to do. In the two hours I taught six dances which gave a brief taste of some of the 'lumpy' rhythms of the Balkans, none of them were particularly complex (in the sense of having lots of steps or parts) but they presented quite a daunting prospect to the participants who hadn't experienced these strange beats before - that is to say most of them. However I've been leading these sort of dances for many years now and (though I say it myself) I've gotten pretty good at introducing folk to the unknown pleasures of irregular dance beats. There were some wobbly moments early on but slowly people got a feel for how the rhythms are structured and before too long we were bopping along (in an uneven sense) very merrily.

It was very satisfying to see the group move on from their stuttering first steps (and I mean this very literally!) to really dancing in a smooth, controlled way to some very uneven & irregular rhythms. When I'm teaching I try (where possible) to use different pieces of music when repeating dances, this can seem like yet another challenge for the participants as they can't associate a particular piece with a specific dance but over time it can help them pick out the underlying rhythm and (hopefully) make them more confident about dancing to a previously unknown tune. That's the theory anyway, and I feel quietly confident that it does work in practice.

Another 'trick' of mine is to do different dances to the same piece of music. When I did it here I got a very common response - people said that the music sounded very different when doing the different dances. I find it fascinating how people react & respond to dancing and I like to encourage them to view the interplay between dancer and music as much more involved than just a simple one-way relationship, even when dancing to an unchanging recording.

At the end of the workshop I was instructed to stand in the middle of the circle while holding a candle, after which the group joined hands and did a dance around me as a Thank You gesture. It was a really nice way to end my teaching stint in Hobart and I playfully bounced around (although not jauntily enough to spill the candle wax) while I was bathed in blessings.

The view across to Bruny Island

Listening to teacher

Wild dancing in 7/8

Nibbles & drinks at the end of the evening

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