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

A Pruning Story

Autumn, 2018

“i believe in mystery, curiosity, and kindness” ― Dr Linda Caldwell (August 8th, 1950-April 22nd, 2018)

A close friend gave me a Mr Lincoln Rose bush as a parting gift some time ago. I love roses, but I am not a great gardener. With some trepidation, I planted Mr Lincoln and watched how it began to grow against our back fence. The first bloom was a triumph: feisty dark pinks unfurling in elegant perfection. Then, the plant began to struggle. Leaves became mottled and dropped off the Mr Lincoln stem. I persisted in nurturing the thorny stalk, because the gift was precious to me. Eventually two spindly branches sprang from the base of the stem. They began to flourish and green leaves again favoured the back fence. However, there were never any flowers ever again. I had a plant with three sticks: two lined with green leaves, one with thorns. Something needed to be done.

I took a soil sample from the patch of dirt, and a photograph of the location, and went to visit my local garden nursery. I was told the soil was alkaline and there was too much shade for a rose bush to really thrive. In a panic, I bought potting mix, drove home and uprooted Mr Lincoln, transferring the startled plant into a bright red plastic pot. Mr Lincoln and I then drove back to the nursery so the experts could inspect the state of the rose and advise on the health of my rose sticks.

“That’s not the Mr Lincoln”, stated the expert as she pointed to the only two branches with leaves along the stem.

“What do you mean?” I asked, tremulously.

“Well, this solid stem with the thorns is the Mr Lincoln. These other two have sprung from the root stock, and I don’t know what they are. If it was me, I’d toss the whole thing out and start again”, she dismissed.

“But Mr Lincoln was a gift!” I exclaimed.

“Oh”, the expert paused, considering my dishevelled state as I clutched the dirty red plastic pot. “Oh, okay, so it was a special gift?” She softened, shifting her weight to settle in her right hip and tilting her head to one side as she reconsidered her response.

“Okay, so in that case, I’d suggest you get some clean secateurs–be sure they’re clean so you don’t transfer any diseases–and cut off these two leafy ones at the base, and see if the Mr Lincoln will recover. All the plant’s energy has been diverted into this other thing growing, so if you cut it off, that may give it a chance to recover. You never know: it may be okay”. Her smile was less than hopeful.

Disheartened, Mr Lincoln and I drove home. I cleaned some secateurs and sat in the driveway with my red plastic pot, fingering the green leaves and wondering why pruning was so difficult. I took a deep breath and cut off the two stems. All that was left was a brown, brittle, thorny stick with a little dead leaf clinging to the top: an insipid beige flag. It looked dead. 

“I killed Mr Lincoln”, I whispered to no one in particular. 

My husband and children were aghast. 

“Did you get all the roots when you dug it out of the ground?” queried my husband.

“It won’t grow if you didn’t get all the roots”.

“It’s a metaphor, Mum”, grinned my son.

“Why on earth did you do that? There are no leaves left!” exclaimed my eldest daughter.

“Oh, Mum, do you need a hug?” asked my youngest, patting my arm like she pats our dog.

“I don’t know”, seemed to be all I could say. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens”.

The waiting place is not easy. It’s also surprising how busy waiting places can be. I found myself constantly monitoring how often I watered my dead stick, moving my red plastic pot around the front courtyard to ensure exposure to at least six hours of sunshine every day. The insipid beige flag dropped off and I dreaded telling my friend I had killed Mr Lincoln. 

Last week, I noticed something miraculous. Mr Lincoln began looking less and less like a dead stick in a plastic red pot, and more and more like a living, growing plant. The brown stick began turning to pale green. Tiny leaves began to emerge boldly along the stem, sprouting in unexpected places between the thorns. My entire family was entranced and we have now begun to share the daily task of caring for Mr Lincoln. Hope kindled; we wait with budding belief that there will be roses in the spring.


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Image credits:

Photographs of Mr Lincoln’s first rose (L image), 2016, & Mr Lincoln in plastic red pot (R image), 2018, by Lucinda Coleman, reprinted with permission.


This story is dedicated to Linda, who loved many things; flowering things in particular.


Fallow Ground

Summer, 2017-18

Once, long ago, when time was an egg, before there was above and below, or before and behind, or deep or through or wide, there was a Song. Croggon, 2004, p. 90

Hello 2018. I find myself smiling shyly as I write here again. Ironically, these scribbling beginnings are far from lucid; the taste of words scratchy and unfamiliar. I feel acutely self-conscious in the act of writing reflectively. Out of practice, silence is shadowed safety. Like turning clods in soil dry and hard, I jab at syllables: turning, testing, mulching. The sentences don’t come easily. They are tough. The surface is dry: sparse, empty, dark. I persist, because the time for writing to Song has come. I hear the strains of a poignant melody whistle like a wind across the flat patch of dirt.

The soil is fertile as a result of time left as fallow ground. The minerals leached from the dirt have had time to be restored. Since Remnant Dance artists embarked on our agreement to grow good, arty crops in our patch of the world, we have generated some wonderful kinds of produce: some things flowering with unexpected fragrances, others producing juicy fruits of unusual textures and colours. We have worked with other creative makers who have left their unique stamp on dirt; their seeded crops lush and beautiful at harvest. Some of the smallest leafy greens have been torn off, leaving stalks that subsequently withered and died. The leaves however, were added to other things, and like the burst of coriander in a dreamy egg hollandaise, made for different, unexpected outcomes, with each enhancing the other.

In the past year, remnant artists have turned to attend to other plots of land, growing a variety of crops in a variety of soils. As a collective, we returned again and again to care for our shared patch of dirt, lying fallow. At times we have been on hands and knees in mud, digging out weeds that have sprung up. At other times, we have tested the soil, lavishing with water, checking for signs of mineral rejuvenation. Mostly we have waited and watched. The land is now caked hard, though fertile deep beneath. It’s daunting to consider turning the soil. I persist, because the time for dancing to Song has come. I feel the breeze on my face: a sweet melody.

As we look to 2018, we don’t really know what new things will grow–or how they will be used once fully flourishing. We know it’s not time to abandon the field just because it has been exhausted through hard work and lays simply, at rest. We are seasonal makers. Our work is responsive to climate changes, the ground on which we dance, and what must be grown now to ensure the continued productivity of this patch of dirt we own together.

We persist because the time for Making to Song has come. We look to this New Year and see three seasons: creating new work, sharing existing work, and connecting through an annual (international) residency, as it springs up! We are subject to funding and all the usual constraints faced by performing arts’ collectives. We have invitations to tour dance work and are quietly excited to continue working with others also eager to get dirt under the nails as we seed new ideas. There is no rush. It’s merely time to break up the unplowed land, to get ready for planting a new crop: dancing to new music. We listen to wind, respond to season and trust in the Song that echoes within each one of us, from Once, long ago.

Katie lotus

Image of Katie Chown by Michael Founoulakis, Hanoi, Vietnam, 2012. Used with permission.


Croggon, A. (2004). The Riddle. Australia: Penguin Books.


My Place in the Sun

Summer, 2016-17

Mine, thine.—"This dog is mine," said those poor children; "that is my place in the sun." Here is the beginning and the image of the usurpation of all the earth.  

- Blaise Pascal’s Pensées, 295

Who gets to speak? Who sets the agenda? We’re told, “you’re free to decide, on condition you make the right choice . . . the implicit paradox beneath the Kantian reasoning: not only does freedom of thought not undermine actual social servitude, it positively sustains it” (Zizek, 2002, p. 3). The structures of economic and social oppression loom like large buildings on the terrain of all things abandoned, orphaned and victimised. I continually find the dichotomous Same/Self and Other remains alienating and divisive, fostering dualistic thinking: socially constructed binaries stemming from the language of division. Philosopher Slavoj Zizek has observed, the “notion of the ‘clash of civilisations’, however, must be rejected out of hand: what we are witnessing today are, rather, clashes within each civilisation” (2002, p. 41). Law, governance, society reinscribe difference until nuanced diversities are unseen or unrecognised if seen.

Creative practices offer a generative space to actively engage in opening dialogue that in its very act breaks down the division of Self and Other and asks us all to recognise that which makes us different from each other, and that which unites us. In particular, artistic practices which celebrate difference and  invite a point of meeting within ‘difference’ offers a model for post-colonial interventions in global economies where the divisive rhetoric of ‘them and us’ has become increasingly prevalent. The act of supporting those making art work is like nurturing the growth of tiny plants as they push up from beneath the foundation of structures that overwhelm. In seeking and struggling, the cracks widen, and eventually undermine the foundations of systemic systems of injustice. What seems impossible today can become reality tomorrow, as artivist, John Jordan, reflects in an interview with Lars Kwakkenbos: 

If in 1987 I would have said to you ‘Okay, you watch, this is the seed, little groups like these are opening up the public space for discourse again, in three years time [sic] the Berlin wall will come down and the Soviet empire will collapse’, you would have probably gone like, yeah yeah… But it did happen. Often such little small cultural experiments open up space and possibility for the bigger changes to happen. The real seeds for revolutionary changes can grow in artistic practices. (20 January 2011, p. 1)

Power relations continue to thwart the subaltern desire to develop culture, not just to effect change. The conversations about ‘change’ need to embrace some profound and arguably, revolutionary concepts. In the words of Myanmar’s revered political leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, “some have questioned the appropriateness of talking about such matters as metta (loving-kindness) and thissa (truth) in the political context. But politics is about people and . . . love and trust can move people more strongly than any form of coercion” (Aung San, 2010, p. 17). Love and trust in action puts others first, opening space for dialogue and ultimately, this “communicative action can serve as a form of resistance to influence the ways in which public discourse is structured, which is a necessary component of social change and hence conflict transformation” (Knight, 2014, p. 82).

The moment I revel in my own prominence, claiming my place in the sun, is the moment of occupancy which, in the words of mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal, leads to “the usurpation of all the earth” (Pascal, 1958, p. 76). I suggest we all can begin with something as simple as a gesture: moving towards the Other. These are subversive bodily acts. In the context of the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, the approach of the Other is to see face-to-face which is the situation of discourse. To see the human face of the wholly Other is to be unable to harm because “the face signifies itself” (Levinas, 1996, p. 10). The aesthetic of a work that invites conversation allows a space for emancipatory dialogic exchanges, across fractured cultural landscapes. We each have power to shift entrenched attitudinal perspectives on the Other, through gesture, discourse and service committed to love and trust.

My place in the sun

Photography of Monica, Ellen & Grace Avery, by Mary Avery, Brighton Beach, South Australia. Used with permission, 2017.


Aung San, S. K. (2010). Letters from Burma. London, England: Penguin Books.

Knight, H. (2014). Articulating injustice: an exploration of young people’s experiences of participation in a conflict transformation programme that utilises the arts as a form of dialogue. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 44(1), 77-96. doi:10.1080/03057925.2013.859881

Kwakkenbos, L. (20 January 2011). Art, Activism, and Permaculture. Foeign Policy In Focus. Retrieved from

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

Pascal, B. (1958). Pascal's Pensees. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.

Zizek, S. (2002). Welcome to the Desert of the Real! London UK: Verso.


Aussie Spring, 2016

Listen as if to hear from behind the wall the songs of birds who populate the secret garden – Auguste Rodin

I write in the dark without glasses, blindly moving pen across page. I should get up: get going, be productive. Put on glasses. Turn on a light. But I don’t. There is something moving beneath the surface of my skin. I feel it. I scribble a channel; a way for ideas to burst through to the surface. The movement is still hidden and elusive – waiting is not enough. The writing and scribbling – it is not enough. The dance under the surface - it is not enough.

Free the dance of the skin from what holds it beneath. There is no reason to be afraid, or worried, or desperate to impress so someone provides a grant for a project within the body, buried deep. No, no! The dance of the skin erupts through cells hydrated with life, bursting to connect soul-to-soul.

We are seasonal makers. Jumping walls, we chase birds through the summer. In autumn we share secrets. In the winter we listen. Now is the season of skin freed to dance with the wind. I like this new season: wild, unpredictable. Perhaps I won’t dance . . . but perhaps I’ll make new dance? I dismantle the walls holding me in.

This precious time is abundant with remnant ideas and dreams. Remnant artists are precious, abundant with timely ideas and dreams. They are not left-overs, discarded. No, no! They are not broken fragments or abandoned performers. They are not too old, too fat, too young, too much, or not quite enough. They are the dancers moving in seams beneath the earth’s surface.

Burst into terrain unfettered and free, scattering dirt. Turn in the light and sparkle with colours unique and unusual. Together we dance angles and shapes that refract light into colour and cut into character. We are the shinier for bursting through to move together. We dance with the wind. Now is our season.

Lucid image

 Photograph of Esther Scott and Charity Ng by Amanda Humphries ©2014, reprinted with permission.


Listening to Body

August, 2016

When I was younger, my mum always said the best thing I could do for my friends was to listen to them: really listen. I realised there was a difference between listening for what I expected or wanted someone to say, and listening to what was really being said. I also noticed friends spoke as much with their bodies as with their words. The glint in the eye, the tension in skin, the dance of arms and tilt of head spoke in truthful layers. Paired with spoken text, honest details were communicated in fragmented sentences, finely nuanced by the body.

As I grew up in the dance, I discovered my own body was not only listening and speaking to others, but also to me. There were corporeal messages and impulses that I could choose to listen and respond to, or ignore. My muscles let me know when I had over-stretched at the end of a ballet class and needed rest. The twinge in my knee indicated I had been using a hinge joint as though it were a ball and socket joint. I also knew the exhilaration of optimum performance: fully alive as the most fully me I could be. Mostly as a dancer I felt I had to push through: work harder, stretch farther, ignore the pain. Yet the body is intuitive, wise and alert. Patiently, I was being taught the difference between pushing through to effect healthy changes, and stopping when I had gone too far.

Now I am much older, I see the effects of this internal dialogue in the shape of my body and how I move. Australian dance academic, Antonia Pont has observed that “the knee, when not listened to, is changed and enters a casual trajectory that can only be later integrated rather than reversed” (Pont, 2015, p. 6). Many of my choices as a young dancer have been assimilated in to how I move today. Listening to my body, like listening to my friends has required the acceptance of a holistic approach to listening.

I don’t think this means to over-indulge the whims of a body bored, but at the same time to ignore, or dismiss what the body is saying will see changes integrated in to the human form for good or for worse: body and soul. Embodied knowledge, born of experience and of conversation is so very often quietly courteous. Our bodies are speaking, in constant dialogue with ourselves and each other, but the question remains: will we really listen?

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Photography of Katie Chown for winery psalms by Amanda Humphries ©2016, reprinted with permission.



Pont, A. (2015). Encountering Causalities. Dancehouse Diary, What the body can do Dance & Ethics, 4-6.