New Zealand / Australia Diary
Saturday 5 May 2012

The dancing hall

Grey skies greeted me as I stepped out in the morning but the relentless rain had finally eased. As I breakfasted & prepared for the workshop the clouds rolled away and blue skies stretched overhead, contradicting the weekend's wet forecast. A beautiful day.

As we drove to the hall I got my first real look at the countryside, no longer hidden behind curtains of rain or the shadows of night. The tall trees seemed more diverse than in Tasmania with big variations in height, leaf colour (although nearly all had the slightly olive tint that marked them as 'exotic' to my European eyes) and bark. The soil was richly red, something that seems quintessentially Australian to me, and provided a contrasting background to the vegetation that emphasised the openness of the bush land we drove through.

After about twenty minutes we arrived at the hall, a sturdy brick built structure at a crossroads in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. However taking a longer look I could make out a few houses set back from the road and several driveways, marked with Australian-style mailboxes, leading off into the forest. I'd seen a lot of this as we'd driven along, at first glance the land was mostly empty but on closer inspection there were houses all over the place, concealed behind fences or (more often) dense greenery or glimpsed at the end of long dirt tracks snaking away from the road.

The hall was large, spacious & cool, a raised stage at one end had stacked tables & chairs but the dance area was clear & empty, no need to organise or tidy anything away. The two organisers (we'd been joined by Karen who I'd met at the dancing the night before) set about the million and one tasks that running a dance workshop always seems to require - mostly involving the kitchen, centrepiece & power supply - and I was left to get a feel for the space and try not to rearrange my plan for the thousandth time. I had a small panic when I realised there was no sound system but was reassured that someone was bringing it later. (Well, mostly reassured, there was a certain amount of fretting until the promised system finally arrived and I had a chance to play with it.) It turned out to be a venerable looking amplifier and speaker, more like a band's PA than a hi-fi, but it came with a connecting plug that fitted my iPod and when it was all turned on it was clear & more than loud enough. I arranged my list, iPod and water bottle then took the last few minutes to greet & chat with people as they arrived.

Old meets new

The workshop ran between 10:00 and 4:30 which, with breaks for tea & lunch, broke down into four one-hour teaching slots. For the first three I taught three dances in each, teaching & dancing each one in turn and then reviewing and repeating all three at the end. For the final slot I just repeated everything we'd done, going over the steps fairly briskly but adding extra information and focussing on particular details where it was appropriate. It's taken me a while to come up with this format but it seems to work very well, working through a dance quite intensively at the start, giving it a rest before repeating it, then letting it sink in through the day before revisiting it at the end. Part of me still goes through panic after the first, wobbly run throughs of a dance before I see the confidence grow and the harmony of the group emerge as the day progresses. As each group can be so, so different it's hard to not get sucked into over-managing the process and trying to 'push' people towards the end result (or what I see as the end result) rather than trusting in both my experience and their capabilities and gently 'steering' & encouraging them. Somewhere inside me is a Serene, Confident & Professional Dance Teacher but often it feels like there's a little me that's standing there, frozen in the spotlight & not knowing if the words will come. And maybe that's the way I work best, being well & truly present (& in the present) with all my fears and insecurities but trusting that the right thing will come at the right time.

It seemed like the right thing did turn up (again!) as the workshop went very well, the dances came together smoothly & quickly and when we did them all for the last time during the final session the group were really dancing them. The feedback was very positive and people said some really nice things about my teaching & my dancing, the little me was suitably reassured.

But I was also tired and not a little sweaty. After getting home and having a long, cleansing shower Pat & I, joined by her husband Nigel, went out and had a rather nice Chinese meal at a nearby restaurant, celebrating the success of the workshop and avoiding the need for cooking (or washing up). But that was about it for me, after the meal I found my eyelids growing heavy and before too long I was crawling into bed once again.

Karen setting up the centrepiece

The hall framed by the surrounding trees

Previous day

Next day