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

Spring into Psalms

September 2015

My husband has headed north for his annual fishing trip with friends. Every spring time he begins making rigs, then checks hooks, and selects reels to match rods he’ll need, based on the kind of fishing he’s hoping for. His mate with the boat calls planning meetings (at the pub) and they all begin checking weather forecasts off the coastline of far north-west Australia. I watch his preparation, a little bemused.  He pulls out his old hat, begins stockpiling gear in the lounge room and tries to get ahead of work emails so he can be ready to leave at the agreed time. There is tension when the weather changes, or when he suddenly remembers he has forgotten to buy sea-sickness tablets, or when he runs out of fishing line to make rigs. I watch him prepare: selecting and planning and hoping for a good catch and a change of pace from his busy work life in the city office.

When I kiss him goodbye, he leaps into the car overshadowed by boat. I note how the men wave with glee and roll on down the road without a backwards glance. They are ready and excited; driving towards a shared space keenly anticipated and each full of wondrous expectations. I think of them out in the ocean: salty fingers grasping the hull as it rolls and tilts in fathomless depths. I imagine their banter as they cast their lines. I picture those moments where the silence of sun and roar of ocean hushes these good-hearted men and they sing psalms of the sea and salt and soul. Their pleasure springs from time in the moment – and time invested in learning, and from experience. On other trips, they have lost rods, caught no fish, been sea-sick and sunburnt, and frustrated by unexpected squally weather. Yet they have persisted and have also caught big deep sea fish, laughed a lot and learnt more of the ways of fishermen and of each other, and of Self. They come home, voices resonant and eyes sparkling. My husband always has a scruffy stubbly face and the smell of fish in his skin. He proudly shows us the shared catch; telling stories of filleting, cleaning, tugging, losing, catching, laughing, hoping.

I think of my own sung psalms in his absence. My children’s giggles, the whish of the washing machine and hum of vacuuming a domestic soundscape for my heart-songs. I reluctantly acknowledge the change of season now requires new songs to be sung, new dances to be made, new ventures to undertake . . . some things to catch and release; others to reel in under a blazing sun with calloused hands and wind-whipped skin.

Lucid spring into psalms

Photography of Ala Moana Beach, Hawaii by Lucinda Coleman ©2015, reprinted with permission.


In Transit

August 2015

In between countries and across turbulent waters lies the flight path.  Transit affords the luxury of being suspended between time zones, nations, languages, commitments and expectations on the ground.  Phones are switched to flight mode.  Strangers are squashed together in neat little rows, facing forwards. Between the earth and the sun there is the flight.  Humming, we travel. Something about the quotidian suspended appeals to the adventurer in me.  I like being between spaces where I have no control on outcomes and feel weightless.  For those hours in the air, I am moving towards something; I have left something behind. I am coming back from being gone.

While I’m in the air, I like to watch films: to indulge in light-hearted movies, uninterrupted. I discover something in every story. At the end of ‘Insurgent’ I’m reminded it’s generally better to be divergent.  Characters in ‘Tomorrowland’ tell a story of two wolves fighting.  One wolf is called Darkness & Despair; the other is called Light & Hope. The question asked is ‘which wolf wins?’  The answer given is ‘the one you feed’.  I think about that for a while; then watch the ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’.  In this, I‘m reminded it’s an admirable thing to be planting trees under whose shade you will never sit, and that there are no endings: only the point at which you leave the story.  While watching ‘Hot Pursuit’ I laugh aloud and smother silly giggles, thinking how pleasure is a much neglected pursuit in serious art practices, at times.  

Then I find myself looking forward to being home.  Home is my husband and children, and my spot by the river, and our dog chasing galahs.  Home is the dry heat by the cold blue of the ocean and the vast Australian sky.  It is the river endlessly sucking salty seas into the dolphin waves. It is also my place to create and dream; to travel inwards and trust outwards.  Home is within the hereof now; a reflection of there – inexplicably recovered in the ballads of the spaces between. 



Behind the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow


Waikiki Beach 

Photography of Waikikki Beach, Hawaii by Lucinda Coleman, 2015, reprinted with permission


Saying the Said

July, 2015

“The Saying, before stating a Said – and even the saying of a Said – is the approach of the other and already testimony.” - Emmanuel Levinas

Moving towards; I gesture.  Tentatively.  I smile.  There is exquisite beauty in every face.  I’m drawn to eyes deep and curious.  My head tilts, unsure but eager to ask questions.  Who are you?  Where do you come from? What languages do you speak? 

The bangles dance on delicate wrists in this place of colour, spice and fragrance.  I am a traveller.  I am lost.  I move forward to understand what has been said.  The response is yes.  I’ve already forgotten my questions.  Of course the response is yes.  We share the same humanity and grief; the same inquisitiveness and brokenness.  Our testimony of a shared world holds common ground. 

“When are you leaving?” asks my new friend.  “In four more days, I return home” I answer.  I think about home and the faces of my husband, children, family and friends filter through my thoughts.  I think of hard conversations yet to be had; of laughter yet to be shared: of the bountiful gift of friendship, fraught with complexity and yet in the end, so simple as a moving towards; a gesture. 


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What is excellence?

June 2015

I am particularly supportive of the emergence of new performance approaches since I believe that a discipline is nourished by its diversity and willingness to venture into unfamiliar territory - Dr Maggi Phillips, Remnant Dance Support Letter 26 Nov 2012

There had been a lot of chatter in the Australian arts scene recently about federal funding cuts to the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body, the Australia Council for the Arts (AC).  The AC website identifies its role in part, as supporting “the unimagined along with the reimagined, the unknown and experimental along with the keenly anticipated. . . We invest in artistic excellence through support for all facets of the creative process. . .”  The 2015-16 Australian budget measures sees the redirection of $110M over four years, from the AC to establish a new National Programme for Excellence in the Arts, run by the Ministry for the Arts.  The language surrounding this policy shift focuses on ‘mainstream’ arts, aiming for ‘large audiences’ with this word ‘excellence’ appearing more than once in political rhetoric.

It’s unsurprising that the backlash from practising artists of all disciplines has been swift; outraged, hurt and frustrated.  Artistic innovation more often than not is fostered in the fringes, not the mainstream.  Brave, experimental and talented visual and performance artists explore new ways of creating work; shaping culture by questions asked through creative practices. The AC has sought to implement grants in the past to foster “the unknown and experimental” but with recent funding cuts, it is the small-medium and independent sectors where such experimentation frequently occurs that will be most directly affected.  How will the National Programme for Excellence in the Arts support innovative artistic practices? What is excellence in the arts anyway? 

My eldest daughter is studying ballet at a performing arts secondary school, as well as at a local ballet studio and her understanding of excellence as a dancer is one of perfecting technical expertise in the ballet genre.  Technique is important but does it make for excellence in the dance?  Or more importantly, in the dancer? 

Recently, my daughter and I were invited to dance together as part of a Memorial Service for people who had suffered the death of a loved one, due to cancer.  We flew five hours interstate to dance for 3mins, as part of an opening sequence that began with poetry, music and finished with lighting a candle.  We choreographed the work to honour my own mum, who we still miss terribly 13 years after her own fierce yet fatal battle with cancer, and to honour those brave enough to attend the Memorial.  My daughter and I talked about how our dance might create a space to hold grief; to speak of unspoken loss and celebrate the beauty of the relationship between two people who love each other.  We talked about the intimacy of dance; its potency and fragility . . .  and the capacity of the dancer to respect boundaries whilst moving through them to caress and nourish; lightly dusting kisses in the spirit. We spoke of dance as an agent for hope.

What is excellence in the arts?  I think there is more to it than mastery of technical skill, although this is important for clarity of communication.  There is also more to it than polished performance dynamics and wide-ranging audience appeal, though that too is important.  Entwined in the concept of excellence I see innovation, risk-taking and courage.  There is also something about excellent arts practice which I’ve observed has at its heart, service. This kind of culture-making service through artistic practice has the capacity to enrich our everyday lives so that we might celebrate the beauty of our differences and allow our art to make a difference.  Perhaps more significantly, the kinds of artists seeking to make such innovative work also need to be nurtured and supported (yes, funding has a large part to do with that) and truly valued - because this is what ultimately fosters excellence in the arts.

Sam jump


 Photography of Samantha Coleman by Alix Hamilton, reprinted with permission.




On Being [Uncomfortable]

May 2015

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.         Hannah Arendt

In the meandering quest for the meaning of Being, our bodies are undeniably responsive to other human beings: to the Other. French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas has observed the body is the “delegate” of being and that “Culture and artistic creation are part of the ontological order itself… they make the understanding of being possible” (Levinas 1996, p.41). We think and feel and worry about ourselves in the world without always realising our expression and gesture define our world. We may not be more or less significant than another being, but our gestures, both thought and un-thought, are shaping culture and leaving traces which inherently demand a response.  As Levinas (1996, p.4) has written:

In doing that which I wanted to do, I have done so many things I did not want. The act has not been pure, for I have left some traces.  In wiping out these traces, I have left others… We are thus responsible beyond our intentions.

Implicit in the gentle reality of our existence lays an ethical obligation for the Other and “In order for things to work and in order for things to develop an equilibrium, it is absolutely necessary to affirm the infinite responsibility of each, for each, before each.” (ibid, p. 23)  There is humbling freedom in acknowledging my own responsibility in the world; moving beyond being to encounter the person of the other. Such ethical responsibility “does not wait for the freedom of commitment to the other” (ibid, p. 89), but is responsive: face-to-face.  I see myself reflected in another person and at that moment am beholden; caught in non-verbal discourse which leaves me forever imprinted and the world altered through this encounter.

edited Katie Charity Meeting Places- Tallulah SO 565 copy

 Photography: Tallulah Southby-Osbourne © Remnant Dance 2015

Reference: Emmanuel Levinas Basic Philosophical Writings. (1996).  (A. T. Peperzak, S. Critchley, & R. Bernasconi Eds.). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.