My life is a myriad of experiences, as I am sure that you are all aware. Last weekend was my daughter Rhiannon’s dance concert. Rhiannon learns at the Miss Patricia Yvonne Studio, part of the EDTA Association. So this post is a bit of a recount for anyone interested in the various aspects of my life (yawn) and also a bit about life in New South Wales, Australia.
Our story starts at Leumeah in Sydney’s west. Nestled here in sedate Australian suburbia is Wests Leagues Club. The existence of this club is related to one of the two main sports in New South Wales during the Twentieth Century, namely Rugby League. For my English readers, well, you guys are familiar with this code of football that originated in northern England. For my American readers, think a variation of your football but without the padding and with fairly different rules etc. Actually, the only similarity between Rugby League and American Football is the shape of the ball and the shape of the field. League is still very popular in New South Wales but being encroached upon by Australian Rules Football, a code from the southern state of Victoria. This said, I grew up supporting the mighty Cronulla Sharks, the local team where I grew up. Why? Well, because we always support the local team.
Anyway, Wests Leagues Club was chosen as the venue for Miss Patricia’s…
Okay, I have to stop there. What is this with dance teachers always being called “Miss” someone-or-other? Even if they are married they still expect to be called Miss. And always the first name, which is totally against normal convention which is”MIss” and last name. Is this an Australian thing only? As a side comment, for the day we are talking about I was Mr Greg (instead of Mr Long). Back to the story…
So we rock up to the club in our crowded car. The boot is full of costumes and props. We have one of Rhiannon’s school friends with us too. We are early because we had to travel a fair way and wanted to allow time for any unexpected problems (i.e. flat tyres, traffic jams, etc). In fact, we are really early, about 3 hours early.
Now how can I describe these typically-Australian things that are Leagues clubs? Most were built in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and are large multi-story buildings. Typically they house a bistro and/or restaurant, multiple bars, have a large pokie machine lounge, a number of function rooms, and have an auditorium-like space with a stage. My father-in-law reckons that these clubs were intended to be the social and entertainment Meccas of their era. I certainly remember being a young bloke in the 1980s and going to the regular Friday and Saturday night discos at some of these clubs. My memories are of dimly lit, smoke filled caverns where the sound levels killed conversation and the alcohol dulled sensibilities. Good times!
But Wests Leagues Club is, like its fellow clubs, an entity of the Twenty-first century and is a clean family oriented place. We wander in, are professionally greeted, and then directed up to the auditorium. Here is a picture from before it was set-up.
The stage was not as large as some of us had hoped, but the place was clean and well laid out.
So I spent a lot of the time practicing while my wife Nicole and the kids had lunch. Here is me doing a sound-check. It’s the only video we were permitted and I won’t blame you if you cover your ears.
The song in question is one intended to accompany a bunch of younger children performing. Yes, that is my role, the entertainer who sings while the dancers perform. I only have four songs, as we did have two other singers. I must admit, I was not overly impressed by the sound and now feel that I should have said something. Oh well, twenty twenty hind-sight. By the way, a big thank you and shout-out to my sister-in-law Kylie Ison who took the video and also took photos.
When the concert started, it did so with a bang. The opening was a big show-piece, my daughter Rhiannon being right at centre stage in a glittering costume. Unfortunately I cannot share those photos because other children appear in them and we in Australia tend not to share photos of other people’s children without express written opinion (how very different from when I was growing up).
Ah! Now another bit of Australiana. I don’t know about other Anglo-Celtic countries, but for a long time Australia had a tradition of girls learning ballet, tap and jazz dancing. That was principally up to the 1980s. Boys would be out on the soccer and cricket fields while girls danced. My own wife studied dance from the age of 4 to 21. Do any of you from the UK or US know whether you guys have/had a similar tradition?
Anyway, Rhiannon just shone all the way through the concert. Here are a few photos with only her in them.
By the way, the header photo is my favourite one that Kylie took. I used Adobe Lightoom to crop it, remove the colour and add a little shadow. It is Rhiannon as an artist, using a portrait that I painted of her many years ago. The dance revolves around an artist falling in love with the artist’s model. It was a lovely piece.
And, in places, I sung. This is where I mention my dissatisfaction with the sound. Song one: the mic levels were slightly down and while I could be heard, I could have been louder. Song two: now that was a disaster. Just as I was about to go on stage, someone ripped my mic out of my hand and gave me a new one, apparently on orders of the sound guy. So I march on stage, the music begins and when I start… nothing. The new mic does not work. Kylie waves frantically at me from the audience to let me know. I cannot run off stage (that’s unprofessional) so I sing my romantic little ballad at the top of my lungs until someone fetches the working mic (with two lines of the song to go). Arrggghhhh! Third song. This is the song with a high note in it, a high note that I have only managed to reach about 50% of the times that I sing it. I soooooo want a mic failure in just the right place in this song. but no – this time I get a perfectly working, highly sensitive mic. I spent the entire song dreading that note, just waiting and waiting as it slowly approached like some prehistoric behemoth waiting to strike me down. When the moment came I felt that I was so flat that I just laughed and belted it out. Interestingly I have been told that I wasn’t flat. I figure those people were just polite.
All this said, it was a good day.
I should also like to give a great deal of credit to the efforts of my wife Nicole. Nicole drove us (my keratoconus making driving an issue). She braided Rhiannon’s hair and also that of another performer. She was there for every one of Rhiannon’s costume changes to help out. She also bought me coffee when I most needed it. What a wonderful wife.
Well, that’s enough singing this year, I need to get back to my other hobbies.
best wishes to you all and thanks for reading.