New Zealand / Australia Diary
Monday 30 April 2012

Today we were off to the other side of Tasmania, north to Launceston. I'd been invited to run a session to help a new group to get established and it was a nice opportunity to see another part of Australia. We breakfasted (relatively) early and were soon on our way out of Hobart on the Midland Highway, heading north.

The road led through the interior of Tasmania and as we rose higher above sea level the trees thinned out to reveal a very open terrain. Flocks of sheep appeared with increasing regularity and it was no surprise to hear that this was wool country. It felt very empty, we would go for miles with no towns, branching roads or any other interruption to the open road. A single track railway line parallelled our course for long stretches but this is apparently only used for freight, there's no passenger service.

There was some unexpected entertainment along the way. Every now and again we'd come across a topiary hedge in a strange shape - I saw a crocodile, what looked like a giant rabbit and several others that weren't recognisable but were definitely the product of creative clipping. Then there were a collection of silhouette sculptures - a settler family with their wagon, a group of thylacines (Tasmanian Tigers) and a highwayman robbing a horseman.

When we arrived in Launceston our first stop was at the City Park Radio studios where I was to be interviewed. This turned out to be a much more professional and businesslike affair than my appearance on Hobart FM, Ron (the host) fired a series of questions at me and kept things briskly moving between topics before thanking me and moving on to the next record. I definitely felt like I'd been 'processed', an impression that was reinforced when the next interviewee was shown in just as I was being shown out. It wasn't an unpleasant experience but it didn't have the warmth & friendliness that I'd felt with Betty in Hobart. On well, that's show business.

Teaching in Launceston

After a lunch of fish & chips (just a child's portion for me as I'd be teaching later) we had some free time so we wandered about Launceston town centre taking in the sights. It was a very nice looking city with lots of impressive and unexpectedly colourful buildings, most of them built in the early years of the 20th Century and in very good condition. As is usual in modern cities you needed to ignore the flash & tackiness of the ground floor shop displays to see the good stuff but once you kept your eyes pointing upwards there were some very handsome buildings to be seen.

Soon though it was time for the dancing and we made our way to the (very impressive) church hall in which it was to take part. Inside there was a bit of a surprise as a diagonal wall, painted in stylised graffiti, fenced off part of the floor but it still left ample room for dancing so was merely a visual distraction. I checked that my collection of connectors allowed my iPod to talk to the sound system, helped Julie (my host) roll up the carpet, put on a clean shirt and got ready to begin.

But there was one more thing to do. As I was coming back into the dance hall Julie led me over to two people sitting off to one side and introduced them as a reporter & photographer from the Launceston Examiner, here to do a little article on the dance session. With just a minute or so before we were due to start (I like to start on time & reward the punctual ones) I gave a one line description of what I hoped the workshop would provide and agreed that pictures could be taken if the group were OK with that. Then it was time to get going.

I'd been asked to do a more 'Findhorny' workshop in Launceston so I based the programme on the Experience Week dance sessions I used to run back in the Findhorn Foundation. This meant more emphasis on group experience, giving people suggestions on what a dance might symbolise or mean for them, and using simpler dances with less of a focus on steps & style. In some ways it's more work to lead a session like this where I have much more of an explicit holding & nurturing role but once the group starts to come together it gets much easier, there's a strong sense that the participants are moving in the same direction (even when physically this isn't quite happening) and sharing a journey together. This feeling can also come with more advanced or experienced groups but it's particularly strong when a circle of beginners begin to discover (or rediscover) the joy of dancing in a supportive & non-competitive way. Or even just a sense of belonging in a situation where they weren't expecting it. A very human need.

The workshop went really well. People were quite nervous and uncertain early on (especially when the press photographer started clicking away) but over the course of the two hours they started dancing with ease, confidence and maybe even a dash of style. I had a great time getting back into some of my less frequently taught dances and seeing them come to life again in the fresh enthusiasm of the group. The time flew by and it was a surprise to virtually everyone when I announced we were doing our last dance.

We finished just after 5pm and set off to drive back to Hobart rather than linger in Launceston. Our plan was to eat en route in Campbell Town but when we arrived there we found that the restaurant we were intending to patronise had just this week decided to close on a Monday. There was nowhere else open in the town so we pressed on, eventually arriving in Ross where a foursquare pub was the only option in town. I was apprehensive about eating at the Man O' Ross (yes, that's the real name!) as I've had some decidedly dubious experiences in rural Aussie pubs in the past but this one turned out to be rather nice. They had no problems coming up with gluten-free food for Krista and my Traditional Sri Lankan Curry, a very unexpected entry on an otherwise conventional menu, was delicious.

Arriving home well after dark we disturbed a mixed group of wallabies & rabbits who were munching away on the grass verge opposite Peer & Krista's house. Although they all fled as we got close they seemed somewhat half-hearted about it and some judicious braking was required to avoid hitting them, particularly the wallabies who lolloped away with no visible sense of urgency. I followed their example and lazily found my way to bed.

Colourful Launceston buildings

Post & tower

Dancing beside the graffiti wall

Previous day

Next day