Dance-maker Lucinda Coleman making dance with wily words and syllables that clamber to be stories gently moving.

Dance with Me

July, 2016

The naming of the world, which is an act of creation and re-creation, is not possible if it is not infused with love.  Paulo Freire (1996)

The simplicity of pedagogy of the arts is overlooked and too easily discredited by dominant literate cultures. Literacy programmes which emphasize learning, knowledge, dialogue, and empowerment for an illiterate Other, often miss acknowledging the literate wisdom of the body, the home: of beauty unspoken yet communicated . . . of wisdom shared in silence poignant with understanding. There is knowledge and power that is communicated in ways other than written or spoken literacy modes. There are other forms of literate knowing that have greater potential to address systemic inequity and the politics of oppression. But I suggest it must include all people in the movement of the dance. This goes beyond gesture; though that is a good beginning. This goes beyond self-conscious, self-effacing laughter in the moment of agreeing to dance; though that is also a good beginning. It requires willingness to lose oneself in the gaze of another person - who may sing, dance, perform, paint, recite poetry - and most certainly invite understanding through a dialogic exchange. It requires humility, selflessness, curiosity, and compassion for one’s self to be responsive to the danced text of another person’s body: to touch the soul of the human being offering the true self: vulnerable, strong, free. This place of encounter is the beginning place of knowing and of knowledge: of love.

Dialogue cannot exist, however, in the absence of a profound love for the world and for people. The naming of the world, which is an act of creation and re-creation, is not possible if it is not infused with love. Love is at the same time the foundation of dialogue and dialogue itself . . . - Paulo Freire (1996)

July lucid

Photography of Rio Fontego Dei Due Tedeschi, Venice by Lucinda Coleman ©2015, reprinted with permission.


Them and Us

June 2016

My teenage daughter recently suggested if I wanted to fit in with the other parents at her school that I should tie my hair back and stop waving my arms around so much as I speak. If only my hair was under control and the crazed gesturing minimised, I would be like ‘them’. I was surprised at her advice as I thought my peculiar eccentricities were what made me interesting; quirky perhaps but at least different. But it seems ‘different’ can feel uncomfortable, threatening or even frightening. It suggests that there may be other ways to do things. It suggests that ‘things’ may not be black or white, or even right or wrong . . . that I may threaten the status quo and question ‘why’.

There has been a lot of rhetoric about ‘them’ and ‘us’ in political and cultural discourses lately. I find the language troubling because it generates a binary form regulating identity, and categorising people (and ideas) as oppositional. Them&Us rhetoric does not allow for nuanced thinking: for the space between. ‘They’ are the cause of problems; ‘we’ are the ones with correct answers. I’ve noticed people in positions of power tend to talk in slogans that reinforce a divisive Them&Us. The language gathers the group of Us, inscribing authority and reinforcing power and power systems to keep Us in a dominant position of Same.

Yet the differences of the Other is what allows for changes: good, constructive, innovative changes. Diversity of opinion permits questioning of dualistic thinking and suggests there is a spectrum of possibilities for any one situation or position. There is hope. There are options to unsettle exclusionary practices discursively constructed by Them&Us rhetoric.

I have always been drawn to creative expression as an avenue to address dualistic thinking and tackle binary structures. The movement of one body towards the other is the dance of discourse: a sacred and intimate gesture of peace wherein the distinctions of Them&Us disintegrates. I encounter this ‘space between’ as a site of equity – and place of responsiveness to another Human Being. This is not body OR mind; it is spirit AND flesh. And in my vulnerability; in my sharing of self as I am, hair flying, laughter cackling, arms flailing in wild abandon  . . . I hold eternity and understanding of another soul with gentle respect and quiet awe. This is the space of our togetherness. Encountering the Self in the Other challenges Them&Us  . . . it changes the way we think and feel. Yes, maybe it is also threatening. But move closer; smile a little. As we take a chance on embracing another person’s perspective, brilliant awareness is birthed in the beauty of our shared humanity.

image for June RT

 Image credit:

Photography of 1868 Alcott Chenin Blanc for winery psalms by Amanda Humphries ©2016, reprinted with permission.

Six Degrees of Lee

May 2016

In memory of Lee Avery (13 November 1956 - 27 May 2016)

Rain. Grey skies. Cold. 6° Holding sadness and stillness in the tiny cupped cells of my skin. Strangely at home in a moment of suspended time: droplets of grief clean and fresh on my upturned face. Darkness cowers under the torrent of rain relentlessly sheeting down on streets flat and familiar. I went past the house I used to live in. It’s not my home now, but it is still my street. The city moves as I move within its winding fragrance. I notice details and understand. I love this place between the ocean and the frosted hills. I smell eucalyptus and know I am Australian - a traveller returned home, south by 6°. The rain washes clean all my grimy anxiety; fear swept away as I stand at the pedestrian crossing, waiting for a break in the traffic. I hear the rain pounding the roads. I breathe in. I don’t need to pray. I just know. Rounded danced droplets are smashing the streets; the soundscape a cacophony of vehicles, rain, wind, restaurant noises. I am still. The rain dances. It’s cold outside but I’m warm inside. I feel. I am present in the moment. There is nothing to fear; nothing to decide. It has all been said. They hold each other. There is only the simplicity of rain on a quiet afternoon and 6° of Lee, separated by a few glistening smiles and breath held, expelled.

Ellen and Lee at ty and dannis wedding

Image credit: Photography of Lee Avery by Ellen Avery ©2016, reprinted with permission.


That Damned Flower

April, 2016 

1472 Aligheri Verdelho 1 for RT

"Your city, which was planted by that one    
who was the first to turn against his Maker,
the one whose envy cost us many tears
produces and distributes the damned flower
that turns both sheep and lambs from the true course,
for of the shepherd it has made a wolf”.

- Dante Alighieri, ‘Divina Commedia’ 

Imagine if you woke up one morning, turned on the radio and there was no music: only news and sports commentaries. Imagine you walk through your home and there are no photographs, artwork or images on your walls or shelves. Your books are gone. There are no movies on your television. You go out for a meal and there are no pub bands, live jazz or funky artwork hung in cafes. Imagine there are no dance parties on the beach, no clubs or bars with poetry readings or late night stand-up comedy; nor buskers or face-painting for children on the streets. Imagine the galleries are closed down, cinemas shut, the museums empty and there are no dance companies, orchestras, or bands. These are the things of art work and art making and as writer C. S. Lewis once observed are unnecessary for art “has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival”.

I suspect if the things of art making were suctioned from our cultural spheres and a great void yawned wide, there would be a sudden flood of funding to restore such value to our survival. People would clamber to find the story-tellers, the dancers, the singers, the writers to beg for a glimpse of colour, the strain of a melody, a fragment of text to move the heart to feel. We are so used to art delighting, inspiring, challenging, comforting us that we expect it to be everywhere: to be excellent, exciting, moving, accessible, and free (or at least cheap).

And perhaps it should be! But we live in a broken world and something about our budgeting is unbalanced. Italian poet Dante Alighieri references that “damned flower” (the florin) as the cause of spiritual corruption and the demise of Italian culture in his well-known ‘Divine Comedy’. Money can still be a source of angst and that “damned flower” continues to disrupt our choices or divert our attention from things of value.

There are a lot of sad and lonely things in our world. There is hatred and anger: hurtful things made which darken the void. But art lets in the light. And the makers of art carve lines in the darkness to tear through our prejudices so we may encounter perspectives illuminated maybe only for a moment – but sometimes for a lifetime.  For every extraordinary artwork there is likely hundreds of hours of work by a person who has likely trained for hundreds of hours to create that one sound, that one dance movement, that one stroke on a canvas that might reduce you or I to tears as we encounter sheer brilliance, beauty, horror, grace . . . or any manner of things. Imagine if this was all gone.

Image credit:

Photography of Amanda Humphries’ artwork for 1472 Aligheri Verdelho by the artist, reprinted with permission.





On the Exchange of Tenderness

March, 2016

If only life could be a little more tender and art a little more robust. - Alan Rickman

My husband has been riding the same 1200 Suzuki Bandit motorbike for the past 15 years. By 2015 there were 142,000kms on the odometer. It’s really not surprising that despite looking after the bike, it began to falter last year and wound up in the shop for one thing and another.

The thing about motorbikes is it’s really the reason my husband of 20 years spoke to me in the first place. He was 20 years old at the time. I was 25. We were at an Aussie church bush-dance in a small town outside Brisbane, Queensland. He had noticed I walked in holding a bike helmet. I was there for the dancing. To this day, I’m not sure what he was doing there at all.

Because I had that bike helmet, he managed to start a conversation with “Do you ride a bike?”

“Yes” I smiled, “Just a Yamaha 250. Do you ride?”

“Ah, no, I don’t have my licence yet, but I’m going to get it”. Small awkward pause.

“Yeah, well, it doesn’t run very well,” I quickly responded. I was always pretty quick to fill the silent spaces then. Now I tend to wait a bit.

He offered to have a look at the bike and see if he could fix some of the problems. Turns out he was really good at fixing things, and very soon the bike was running a lot better and we were spending more time together. In the first few years of marriage, we had a bike each but I stopped riding during the years I was pregnant and/or breastfeeding babies. It just didn’t seem worth the risk.  As our children grew however, the old hankering for my own bike flared up and I began to talk wistfully of riding again.

The Bandit was in the shop for 6 months towards the end of last year and although my husband became used to getting the bus to work, we both could not believe how long it was taking for simple repairs. But it’s always good to remember that this is a man strategic and clever; very good at fixing things. He did some research on bikes and then negotiated with the blokes in the shop to trade in his old Suzuki Bandit for a new Triumph Bonneville - for me to ride.

The tenderness in the gesture came because he actually didn’t want me back on a bike. He holds a crazy notion I’ll crash and kill myself, and more than ever he doesn’t want that to happen. So for some time he had been resistant to me getting back on a bike. But he also knew I was missing riding. So while his old bike sat in the shop, parts delayed again and again, he battled with his own preferences. Eventually he came to a resolution, and made the decision to exchange his old bike for a new one for me.


Luci bike