MonthJune 2018

Australian Dance Theatre – The Beginning of Nature

Canberra Theatre Thursday 14 June 2018

First a disclaimer: I have worked with ADT founder Elizabeth Cameron Dalman OAM for 10 years.

Thus it is that when I watch ADT dancers perform and think about the choreographies of current and longest standing Artistic Director Garry Stewart, it is with the knowledge and consciousness of the 50 years that have brought the company to this place.

Elizabeth founded ADT in 1965 and it may be difficult for today’s audiences to grasp just how revolutionary it was. It was at once a child of its time, the sixties when traces were being thrown over and new ideas across society and politics being espoused. The tumultuous history of this company makes it remarkable that it is thriving today and especially as it is based in Adelaide in an Australian arts scene that is so determinedly Sydney-centric.

The Beginning of Nature is a stunner. Shall we descend into clichés and say it is a tour de force? (from  ‘a performance or achievement that has been accomplished or managed with great skill. Synonyms: triumph, masterpiece, supreme example, coup, marvellous feat, feather in one’s cap, wonder, sensation, master stroke’)? Yes, let’s.

I sat glued to it, on the edge of my seat for its 80 minutes. There is not a moment when you can take your eyes off it, not a dancer you can stop watching. The thing that struck me most though were the echoes of the work of Elizabeth – from certain stylistic features like the movement of arms, the gathering of stones, the structures built by bodies on the stage to the green A-line costumes worn for most of the show. I can point to works from the past 10 years by Mirramu Dance Company and the historic choreographies of ADT under Elizabeth’s directorship 1965 to 1975 where we will see just these things.

The theme too takes us back to the heart of Elizabeth’s work, firmly seated in the natural world, the need for our respect for it, its primal hold on us as part of a web of all living things.

And there is a wonder in this for me.  I feel I am watching blood and history. Not only has Garry Stewart with this beautiful work completed a circle of creative choreography, he and his company have moved us, made us feel – and so much theatre does not.

The story is told in the Indigenous Kaurna language of the Adelaide region and the music seamlessly performed by the Zephyr Quartet and singers Shauntai Batzke, Karen Cummings and Heru Pinkasova.

The Canberra audience on opening night was sadly less than half a theatre. I hope it is full elsewhere as the work deserves wide acclaim – many audience members at this performance were from the dance community, people who know their stuff and know that this company delivers today, as it has for 50 years, something groundbreaking.

Without ADT and the work of its pioneers in opening minds and hearts, we wonder where and if we would be with contemporary dance today.

The Beginning of Nature tours nationally till August 2018. Find ADT at

Barbie and Richard attended The Beginning of Nature at their own expense.

Four exhibitions at M16 Artspace

Four exhibitions open at M16 Artspace in Griffith on Thursday 14 June 2018. I spoke to three of the artists while they were installing their work. Beautiful, beautiful – don’t miss these exhibitions.

Hear the interviews:

M16 is open Wednesday to Sunday 12 to 5. Find them at

Claris – The Chicest Mouse in Paris by Megan Hess

Megan Hess’s website tells us that she ‘is an international fashion artist who works with some of the most prestigious fashion designers and luxury brands around the world, such as Dior, Fendi, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Montblanc, Givenchy, Valentino, Balmain, Jimmy Choo and Tiffany and Co.’

You might expect her picture book about Claris (Hardie Grant Egmont Australia 2018) to be pretty and it is. It is Hess’s first venture into children’s books and was irresistible on the bookstore shelf. I have added it to the basket of Francophlia which lives in the guest bedroom, though I will also share it with my granddaughters.

This rhyming tale of a little country mouse who dreams of living in Paris and wearing fabulous frocks is also a story of risk taking, kindness, friendship and courage.

The story’s penultimate page features an image of a beautifully suited cat and pink frocked mouse with the Tour Eiffel in the background and a room full of French clichés from fashion labelled boxes and store bags, dressing screen, handbags, belle epoque furniture, pink flowers and macarons –  but what is there not to love?

And the text –

Because nothing’s more stylish in life than compassion –
It matches so well with a good dash of fashion!

Megan Hess is also the Creative Patron for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation and her website includes an appeal for support for the foundation.

Harry Hartog June Book Club

The Yellow Room by Emily O’Grady

This book received a tick from the group for Emily O’Grady’s excellent writing and depiction of a family haunted by the legacy of a murderous grandfather. Told with admirable and astute attention to character in the voice of 10 year old Cub, the book takes us on a grim ride.

The engaged discussion in the group today was testament to O’Grady’s capacity to capture audience and hold suspense. Most people said they would recommend the book to others but with a warning of its grimness. Thanks again to Harry Hartog’s bookstore for hosting us and to Claire for leading the discussion again so very well. To join in contact the store. The meetings are held on the second Saturday of each month.

Exhibition openings Tuggeranong Arts Centre

Three exhibitions opened at Tuggeranong Arts Centre on Thursday 7th June 2018.

We joined a large excited crowd as they squeezed into the Hunting Lodge for the announcement of the youth art prize and introductory speeches by Director Rauny Worm and special guest form the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Minister Counsellor Mr Ateeq Zaki.

The exhibitions continue until 30 June.

Hangama Obaidullah – an exhibition of paintings, photography and hand-embroidered fabric entitled Street Children of Kabul and other works. On Thursday 21 June in association with TAC, Hangama will present a  forum focussed on global women’s issues. Men and women are welcome. Please phone TAC on 6293 1443 to indicate your attendance.

The My Human Condition Youth Art Award – self-portraits by more than 40 local high school and college students. The prize, which is sponsored by law firm Aulich, was developed in response to the exhibition Another Day in Paradise. Entrants were tasked with creating an original self-portrait reflecting their unique identity in order to be eligible for a share of the $1600 prize pool.

Local artists Rachel Corsini and Alfredo Lango with a collaborative exhibition Entropy: Interrupted, reflected. The exhibition considers the entropic production of waste in a fast-paced consumerist society.

Siva in Me at The Asia Bookroom

A roomful of hardy souls braved a rather chilly night to attend Padma Menon’s presentation at The Asia Bookroom about her recently published book, Siva in Me. The book presents four manifestations of Siva in the way this deity expresses aspects of Padma’s life, physical and spiritual.

The concise philosophical text is realised, in the true sense of this word, in a local context through photographic  images created by Barbie Robinson. Padma danced Siva and then presented some ideas and information about the religious and philosophical background to this publication and the new work she is currently undertaking in her Moving Archetypes courses.

Thanks to Sally and Gai at The Asia Bookroom for generously hosting this event.

Wild Voices Music Theatre Studio Concert

Sunday 3 June, Larry Sitsky Room, ANU School of Music

It was both a pleasure and a privilege to have been invited by Dianna Nixon to this concert by her students. The performances were varied and designed to showcase the full range of talents and aims of these students, ranging from quite young primary aged performers to adults, in both piano and singing. As much as anything for us it was a tribute to the art of teaching, to the importance and capacity of good teaching to help bring to fruition the dreams of one’s students.

This concept was beautifully and movingly presented in the full cast finale number A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman. Equally as poignant though was the excellent performance by Madeline Betts of the touching song As far as the eye can see, dedicated by Dianna to her Mum (who was in the audience) and her dad and her own childhood on the land. We can be assured that whatever the dreams of these talented and dedicated people, they will be more reachable with this learning experience under their belts.

The Yellow Villa

The Yellow Villa (Viking/Penguin/Random House Australia 2018) is Amanda Hampson’s third novel after The Olive Sisters and The French Perfumer. Hampson writes with humour and an easy narrative style, creating characters at times charmingly lacking in self-awareness, allowing us to journey with them on their paths to enlightenment. There is a lightness of touch here that should not be mistaken for surface understanding of the human condition.

We can emphathise and groan with impatience in one swift paragraph, but never be uninvolved in the exploits and discoveries of her cast both principal actors and bit part payers. Hampson’s plots twist and turn and take us into laneways as narrow as those of the French provincial village which is the setting of this story. Find the author at

  • Listen to Barbie’s interview with Amanda Hampson

A List-Less Life

Local voice Darcy Delany can be found at her website where she tells us she is a modern-day woman with a love of all things classic.  Whilst harbouring the desire to write and publish her own stories from a very early age, she studied law and business and ‘followed the expected career path, getting a graduate position with a large corporation.’ She also studied International Relations so she could earn money living her dream. This career led to a stint in Papua New Guinea where much of her latest book is set. A List-less Life (publ. 2018) follows the fortunes (up and down) of Gina Trent on her path to true love. I have told Darcy that I found Gina incredibly irritating and accept that perhaps the failing is mine.

Want to win a copy? Email us via the contact form and I’ll let o you know if you are the lucky winner.


Molly is the debut novel of Bowral based writer William Davies. It is a psychological thriller set in a fictitious African nation, examining the effects of mental and physical abuse on a vulnerable young woman. Davies came to writing after a lifetime working as a grazier. He is deeply interested in the art of story telling and has a strong interest in issues of social equity and justice. He also writes poetry and plays and enjoys an amateur acting and speaking career. Molly is available as an e-book or paperback from and at the National Library Bookshop in Canberra.

Tuggeranong Arts Centre

For more than 25 years, the Tuggeranong Community Arts Association has delivered artistic programs and events, with a focus on participation and accessibility, and helped shape a sense of pride in the local community.

Embracing the Valley’s broad array of artistic interests, the Arts Centre presents a vibrant program of activities – engaging professional and community artists alike, cultivating a unique creative personality for Tuggeranong.

Its dynamic youth programs continue to develop the skills, outlook and cultural awareness of young people in the Tuggeranong region and beyond.

The centre is principally funded through a triennial agreement with the ACT Government’s arts funding agency, artsACT, and also draws funds from a variety of other government agencies and philanthropic funds.


Artistic Vision Gallery

Artistic Vision Gallery rescues, rediscovers and highlights retro Australian  paintings for the appreciation of a new discerning audience at an affordable price. Their raison d’être – too often pieces of art that depict the Australian landscape, life style, flora, fauna and culture are discarded as unfashionable. These however depict our artistic heritage and the talents of Australian visionaries. Too often a splash of colour replaces a fine work of art or a creative depiction.  Artistic Vision Gallery can be found at Unit 6/51 Tennant Street Fyshwick. Find out more at

The Song Company

The Song Company logoFrom its beginnings in 1984 The Song Company’s schedule has grown to include a mix of national and international touring, a subscription series in cities across Australia, recording and broadcast projects, education activities, and special collaborative projects.

The Song Company’s repertoire covers vocal music from the 10th century to contemporary works and is unique in its stylistic diversity. The Company remains at the forefront of contemporary vocal music through an extensive commissioning program and collaborations with artists and composers of the highest calibre from around the world. A longstanding commitment to education sees the ensemble perform regularly in schools throughout the country, including bringing music workshops to children in regional and remote areas.

From 2016 the ensemble has been led by the British composer, conductor, producer, and lecturer Antony Pitts, whose award-winning career has taken him from the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace and New College, Oxford, via the BBC, the Royal Academy of Music, and performances in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and the Berlin Philharmonie, to the forefront of the Australian music scene as Artistic Director of The Song Company.

Since the dawn of history, the human voice and the act of singing have been intrinsically linked with storytelling and the acquisition of culture. The Song Company belongs to a land whose first peoples used songlines and vocal music to pass knowledge and culture from generation to generation, and is proud to continue that tradition, in a unique way, sharing music from across western and non-western art traditions.

Shiny Bums photoshoot

It was a biting southerly that swept across the lawns by Old Parliament House (now known as MOAD) today when we joined The Shiny Bum Singers for a photoshoot to promote their upcoming fund raiser, Seize the Day.

However, with the steely commitment and good cheer for which artistic types are known, we had a wonderful time, and encourage you to go to to book your tickets for this worthwhile AND entertaining event to be held on 1 July.

Proceeds will go to MyHome in Canberra, a charity supporting homeless people with mental health issues.

There will be wonderful things to attend right through the Canberra winter and as we said last month, artists need to eat all year long and your attendance at some of these not only facilitates this but will make your life richer and more rewarding.