Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More music for kids to dance to

Sharing some great dance ideas I’ve seen - because it’s all very well to say kids shouldn’t be dancing to this or that because the lyrical content is too adult, and that just dancing to Disney songs - the songs from the animated movies and the songs from current tween stars - is lazy, but then what? I love a good concept dance. I want children to know that music and dance (and art and literature) can be about anything. Any concept or idea or situation. I am the apeman. I am the walrus.

Anzac dance to I was Only 19, Oxygene
Japanese dance in kimonos
Flight attendant dance to Come Fly with Me
circus dance
spooky dance to Horror Movie, Ghostbuster, The Addams Family
garden dance to U2’s It‘s a Beautiful Day

Wizard of Oz Dance to Ease on Down the Road
School bullying dance to Caught in the Crowd - Kati Miller -Heidke
Istanbul/Constantipole - They Might be Giants
Aboriginal dance to Treaty
Theme to Six Feet under
Me and My Shadow
Theme from Friends

My six year old loves dancing to her Cyndi Lauper cd.

I like watching So You Think You Can Dance and seeing the creativity of the choreographers. Surely dancer teachers can find some inspiration there.

It so happens that I know someone who works for The Arts Unit for our state Department of Education. I asked her about music for kids to dance to. What are the structures in place to assist schools make these decisions? She said that some schools run the lyrics by the school principal. Mostly it is common sense. However, if a school dance group is to perform at a state dance performance, they need to submit the lyrics of the song for approval. If they don't change the song, they can dance to an instrumental version.

Patti Smith and living the creative life.

I’ve just finished reading Just Kids, by Patti Smith, about her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe. I saw Patti Smith in concert, supporting Bob Dylan.

She was part of the New York scene in the70s, where the most famous artists, poets, rock n rollers and theatre practitioners hung out together. Patti lived with Robert at the Chelsea hotel, went out with Sam Shepherd (they wrote Cowboy Mouth together), and Allen Lanier (of Blue Oyster Cult), knew Janis Joplin, William Burroughs and members of Andy Warhol's Factory. She hung out at Max’s and CBGBs. She supported herself by working in bookshops, writing album reviews and finding second hand treasures to sell. (The most surprising thing was that people seemed to be in the habit of visiting each other with a fish to fry. Literally.) She married Fred Sonic Smith (of MC5), had two children with him, and continued working. She doesn’t mention who looks after the children while she is working. The memoir ends with Robert’s death.

What struck me, as a feminist mother (because I’m on the lookout for these things) is the fact that she had a child as a teenager who she gave away. Like Joni Mitchell, she knew she couldn’t raise a child (unsupported by a partner) and live a creative life. On giving away her child and moving to New York, where she was homeless in the beginning (and met Robert) Patti vowed (as had Robert) to dedicate her life to art. Joni has always fascinated me. When bedridden with polio she vowed to dedicate her life to art (Joni paints as well as makes music) and she did. Yet when she was reunited with her daughter she said that creating art/music was just something she did to spend the time until she found her daughter. Well, it didn’t look that way to me, Joni. Interestingly, Patti never mentions that child after giving him away.

Joni is also quoted as saying about her music career that it is doing what you love in an industry you hate, which is kind of a good analogy for motherhood itself sometimes.

Yesterday I read this interview in The Guardian with actress Kim Catrell.

This peripatetic childhood contributed to making her feel like "a constant outsider", but that also came from her "knowing that I wasn't really normal. I didn't want to get married and I didn't want kids – I knew I wanted to act." And does acting preclude marriage and children? "Oh yeah," she says with a dry laugh.

Motherhood and the creative life. Compatible? Possible?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How to Choose a Dance School

I've done so much research and spent so much time and thought on dance schools, (and one of my daughters spends five hours a week in dance classes) I feel qualified to give some advice here.

We were kicked out of our dance school when I made a complaint about a performance where a boy come onstage for the dance to Barbie Girl. For the lyrics 'kiss me here' he kissed his fingers. For the lyrics 'kiss me there' he put his fingers to his groin and thrusted. I've since scouted lots of dance schools until we found the rare one which is right for us - respects kids, ie, the girls keep their leotards on and the costume goes over the top, the music and moves are suitable for children - no burlesque! - and we are an in ongoing conversation (even this school has slipped up on occasion). I have my three girls there, and recommend it to everyone in our district. They aren't strict about uniforms for the little ones. You can pay as you go - no paying by the term. The parents are invited to watch the last class of the term. The concert is local. The costumes are not expensive, and are made a mum at the school. The fees are very reasonable (I get discounts after the first child). The teachers and director know all the families involved.

There are some dance schools where the music is ear-bleedingly loud and they have the preschoolers dancing to The Pussycat Dolls. Some have concerts where you book through Ticketek. Some train the mothers in applying stage make-up to their small children (I kid you not.) Most have unflattering and inappropriate costumes. I don't know what they think they are teaching children about performing gender.

If you are looking for a dance school I can recommend asking at the local dancewear shop - they'll know everything about all the local dance schools. Then compare them to what is probably the best dance school in the state, McDonald College. Their teachers have a much broader experience from which to draw ideas and they work internationally (most dance schools stick to Disney and music videos), and they offer classes in musical theatre. My daughter did their Summer School program and it was an aha moment for me to see their end of week concert. The range of music and styles was impressive. When the music didn't play for a classical ballet, the teacher just sang it into the microphone and the children danced. It was beautiful.

Most dance schools will offer a first lesson free. Maybe go to a few dance school concerts. Scout around and see. It matters.

I believe the dance schools should comply with Department of Education policies. So if it would be OK in school, it should be allowed for dance schools. If it wouldn't be appropriate for Schools Spectacular, then it shouldn't be in dances schools. The dance schools have their own association for teachers. I contacted them when we were kicked out of our dance school. They told me that all their schools were age appropriate and doing the right thing. So not true.

I think the dance teacher should be able to explain what the song is about. So, the Glee version of Salt N Peppa's Push It? No. A cleaned up version of an Eminem song? No.

When you find a dance school you don't want to join, tell them why. We visited one where the music was so loud we couldn't make our enquiries. I shouted 'Is the music always this loud?" and the teacher said, like it was fantastic, 'Yes, it is.' I said "we can't be here' and we left.

If you are looking for a dance school, it is a very strange world you are entering. People will judge you by what school you belong to, just like they do other schools. It pays to do your research, (you don't want to join a school to find the concert is an hour away, you have a dress rehearsal that morning, and you have a baby to also care for) and to speak up.

A little sweetener

My friend who blogs at Through the Wardrobe sent me a sweet virtual gift, even though, she says, my blog wouldn't be described as sweet. So, I thought I would do a sweet post.

So here is my sweet post, about my kids. With a pic. Then I'll accept my gift.

This is what happens when I sit down at the kitchen table.

This makes me smile or laugh.

Stopping at the traffic lights in our suburb and Banjo saying, 'It's like New York City.'

(It so isn't.)

In Banjo's class a child was miming something and the children had to guess what he was. Banjo suggested he was a hormone.

(With thanks to Clarice Bean.)

Clancy making up songs and singing them like they are proper songs when she is busy doing things, then not remembering that she's sung a song she just made up.

Matilda and Cyberguy calling through the house 'Where is the Hobbit?' because they are both reading the same book at the same time.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Motherhood conference UWS

The University of Western Sydney is hosting a one day conference on motherhood on July 22 at their Parramatta campus. It is hosted by the Family and Community Health Research Group and Child Health: Researching Universal Services, and called Mothering: Challenges, Change & Hope.

Keynote Speakers are: Dr Debra Loxton (Uni Newcastle), Dr Sue Goodwin (Uni Sydney), Dr Kate Huppatx (UWS) and Dr Roslyn Weaver (UWS)

Thankyou, I'll be registering to go. See you there.

Adult friends - staying in the loop

How to see friends?

I've realised I live out my social life on the school playground. I get to see the school mums I like at school, but we rarely catch up beyond the school walls, kids' parties and playdate drop-offs. My other friends? If their kids aren't doing the same weekly activities as mine, then I just don't see them. The older I get, the faster the time goes, and I'm quite horrified when I realise it has been a year since I've seen some friends.

I've been trying to organise outings with my friends - adult outings, like in the night-time - like we did before we had kids - going to gigs and plays - and it is proving very difficult. People, ie, mothers, are either busy (ie, running around after their kids), too tired, or don't have any money to spend on themselves. What to do? (Other than just go on my own.)

So, my solution, which I'm trying to implement, is to do kid activities together. Not just a one off activity, but an ongoing activity. If that's how I see my friends, then I'll plan it that way. The other option, when my gym membership runs out, is to join the soccer team. Or a choir, or swimming group, and the walking group, and go to activities together that are part of the weekly routine. Everyone who can't be part of that kind of thing will be invited over more regularly. I can't let so much time pass by without seeing my friends.

School holidays and uni break - I have some dates to make.

Feminism in the 21st Century - in books

Feminism in the 21t Century by Zoe Williams

This contains a review of Caitlin Moran's book, How to be a Woman, Sylvia Walby's The Future of Feminism, and Granta's latest edition The F Word, which includes Rachel Cusks' memoir of her divorce. RachelCusk wrote a memoir of motherhood entitled A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother, as well as the novel, Arlington Park, about a day in the life a group of mothers. Seems her husband, a lawyer, who stopped working to look after the children while she wrote, has divorced her. She questions her feminism.

A nice update


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rock n Roll Feminism

This should get the juices flowing.

I was energised by reading this interview with Caitlin Moran in the Guardian. She has written a book called How to be a Woman. Here is part of the interview.


Do you think feminism was hijacked by intellectuals and became slightly po-faced?

Not hijacked – they just became the only ones who were interested in it. I don't come from an anti-intellectual viewpoint: people from Oxbridge turn me on. But I have none of those chops at all. I have no qualifications, I know none of those words, and I haven't read those books. I come from pop culture, and I wanted it to be like rock'n'roll. I wanted someone to shout "I'm a feminist! It's really fun! Let's all go and be feminists in the pub!"

Germaine Greer has read and reviewed the book. It must have been a bit of culture shock for her.

I was quite amused because she was horrified by the fact that I'd documented the first time that I'd had a wank. I have shocked Germaine Greer! No one's made nearly half enough fun of the ridiculousness of being a woman though, so the idea of having your first wank as a girl thinking about Chevy Chase in the Three Amigos or Fletch, I find really, really funny.

Rather humanely, you suggest that the patriarchy must be knackered by now, and we'd be doing it a favour to give it a rest. For you, humour seems to be the best way forward…

It's the most human way. But also if women just turned around and were honest and said I don't give a shit, I'm not playing – I don't care what Angelina Jolie was wearing this week, I haven't got time to pamper myself, I don't care if I've got blackheads, I don't care if my arse is a bit spongy, I have not got time for you, you ridiculous capitalist construct, then the whole game would be fucked overnight.

The Guardian also offer a panel review of the book. Sounds fun, and a refreshing approach to feminism.

Last week I saw a play written by a woman, Sara Ruhl, directed by a woman, Pamela Rabe, designed by a woman, and produced by a company with a female artistic director, Cate Blanchett (who was there when I saw it) about being a woman: The Next Room or The Vibrator Play. Here's the blurb from STC. Consider my faith in theatre restored.

For the wife of the eminent scientist and inventor Dr Givings, the vagaries of the medical field have never held much allure. Until now.

Now, as the age of electricity dawns, her husband’s profession has finally piqued her interest. But Dr Givings fails to understand his wife’s sudden fascination with his practice. The remedial treatment that he administers to females suffering from hysterical disorders is an important medical invention and nothing more. The Chattanooga Vibrator is absolutely nothing for his apparently healthy, happy wife to get her bloomers in a twist about!

Unable to breastfeed her baby and desperately lonely, Mrs Givings craves attention and affection. When she seeks companionship in two of the Doctor’s patients, this curious young woman begins to discover the truth of what goes on behind the closed door…

Nominated for both the Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize, In The Next Room, or the vibrator play was a resounding hit when it opened on Broadway in 2009 and consolidated playwright Sarah Ruhl’s reputation as one of America’s most exciting contemporary writers. A sensitive study of the relationship between physical connection – be it sexual, platonic or maternal – and emotional intimacy, In The Next Room, or the vibrator play is an utterly beguiling play about love, longing, science and invention.

And orgasms.

Clicking on a link from Blue Milk's blog, I found this.
I wish I'd done that. In fact, I might just go around writing that on sexist advertisements.
WANG is Women Against non-Essential Grooming. The Beauty Myth for an online age.

And I can't say RnR feminism without mentioning Joy Rose, who started and runs Mamapalooza in New York. Mamapalooza Rocks! Let me count the ways. Joy Rose is in a band called Housewives on Prozac, who sing such songs as I Broke My Arm Christmas Shopping at the Mall, and Eat your Damn Spaghetti. Mamapalooza connects women, mothers, and families through music, art, activism and education for cultural, economic and social awareness.
They put out compilation cds of mother singer/songwriters, and have a dvd called Momz Hot Rocks, a documentary following six mum rock bands.

Go, Rock and Roll maternal feminism!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Feminist edition of Granta magazine

The latest edition of Granta 115 - The F Word, has all female contributors. You can read some of the pieces online here. (A poem by Sharon Olds included.)


The Guardian has a podcast of interviews with Tea Obreht, who won The Orange Prize with her novel TheTiger's Wife, and the other finalists, as well as the editor of Granta. About literature and feminism. It goes for about 30 minutes.


Also, this piece about VS Naipaul having a go at female writers. Cheer as you read the comments. Avoid if you have had enough of men being dicks.


Thursday, June 09, 2011

Action in the UK to protect children

News this week on the result of a UK commissioned report on the commodification of childhood. The investigation was prompted by action from Mumsnet, The Mothers Union, and other campaigns such as Pink Stinks. It seems David Cameron has read Sue Palmer's Toxic Childhood. The story of the Bailey Report is here:


These are the recommendations:

Key measures

• Retailers to ensure magazines with sexualised images have modesty sleeves.

• The Advertising Standards Authority to discourage placement of billboards near schools and nurseries.

• Music videos to be sold with age ratings.

• Procedures to make it easier for parents to block adult and age restricted material on internet.

• Code of practice to be issued on child retailing.

• Define a child as 16 in all types of advertising regulation.

• Advertising Standards Authority to do more to gauge parent's views on advertising.

• Create a single website for parents to complain to regulators.

• Change rules on nine o'clock television watershed to give priority to views of parents.

• Government to regulate after 18 months if progress insufficient.

For a feminist reaction see here:


Without a feminist perspective you have no hope of an honest discussion about the sexualisation of young girls. They are being groomed – not by pervy old men hanging over computer keyboards, but by today's ideology-free, value-free consumer culture, which tells them they're sexually hot or they're nothing.

Somewhere along the line, the old feminist hope that women, like men, would be valued for their skills, brains, hard work, entrepreneurial chutzpah, experience and humour – well, it just got dropped. Feminists hoped if girls were given options that went beyond wife and motherhood, they would find a wider range of ways of living opening out before them. Of course, many have done. The gains are real. But today the main option opening out seems to be to look hot and thin – which is all very well in its place, but hardly a career. With "gentlemen's clubs" (hah) fashionable again, and the word "feminism" barely mentioned in polite society without the qualifier "sour-faced", the clock has been turned back with a vengeance.

Feminists can make cause with traditionalists in wanting to limit some of the more extreme effects of an exploitative culture. In the absence of religious or ideological checks, the default mechanism of western consumerism seems worryingly and depressingly narrow. But let's be clear. We can only help Annie and her friends if we have a good alternative to offer: the role models, the interesting jobs and the alternative ways of enjoying life that make a padded bra and a bit of rude dancing on the telly not shocking – just rather dull.

And a piece by Tanith Carey (who wrote 'Where Has My Little Girl Gone? How to Protect Your Daughter from Growing up Too Fast') asking parents to stay vigilant, to not buy the products if they don't feel comfortable about their children having them, and to tell businesses when they have crossed the line.


I wonder when this issue will be taken seriously in Australia?This action in the UK should provide some traction.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Do we trust scientists or not?

'Seven experts responsible for evaluating the threat of natural disasters in Italy have been charged with manslaughter for failing to give sufficient warning about the L'Aquila earthquake in 2009.'

Meanwhile, front page of this week's Guardian Weekly, 'World Climate now 'on the brink: Emissions hit record high despite recession. Dangerous warming now can't be avoided'.

There is now no way temperatures will not rise less than 2 degrees Celsius, which was the goal to avoid dangerous climate change. There is now 'around a 50% chance of a rise of global average temperature of more than 4 degrees C by 2100. Such warming would disrupt the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the planet, leading to widespread mass migration and conflict. That is a risk any sane person would seek to drastically reduce.' So says Professor Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics who wrote the influential 2006 report into the economics of climate change.

We don't have the sense to save ourselves. Who will we blame?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Sickness gives you a rest

This is what I read in a Reader's Digest while waiting at the Dentist's. Having a cold can be good because it means you have to slow down. Clear the calender. It doesn't matter if you don't do all those things you'd planned.

Yeah, right.

The bugs have been getting their germy money's worth at Motherhugger Manor.

Let's see. Clancy had a temp and puked. Banjo had a temp and puked in my lap. Matilda had a cold. All had time off school. I had a cold for week - on my own - but no time to lie on the lounge. Clancy has had a temp for the last five days, which has turned into a cough. She went to school this arvo to participate in a band competition, and is now back on the lounge. Banjo now also has a temp and a cough.

I have a creative assignment due (every time I go online to read comments by my classmates I get more stressed about how lame mine is compared to theirs - I don't even know when I can get out of the house to post it), and an online test to do, and an exam in two weeks. I'm freaking out.

Still have had to run around after the well kids. Matilda has had debating and public speaking things to attend. I still had to pay the rent and buy bread.

Thanks to the mums who have driven my kids home.

So, two things. Well three. I don't know how many things - my brain is full.

No, Reader's Digest. You're wrong.

Oh, new rules. The sicker kid has the remote control.

Never give Banjo a bell.

And now the news that you aren't supposed to leave kids under the age of twelve alone at home or let them out and about, like walking to and from school. What are you supposed to do??