An Australian author who provides insight into the human condition.

Author Christine M Knight's Blog

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Blog 5 - Belonging: Dance as a ritual form of connection

Belonging may involve a personal context that links to identity and a sense of completeness. For Cassie Sleight, dance allowed her to feel intense passion safely without fear of being overpowered and the related consequences - a loss of self. Belonging in the two excerpts below deals with her reconnecting to emotions long denied and the beginning of a return to a complete sense of personal identity.

'As the waltz changed into whirling, emotions denied for so long found release. She felt like a trapeze artist working the high wire with a safety net.' p18

'Waiting for the kettle to boil, Cassie improvised a dance motif. It felt good to express herself in that way again. She realised that dance had been an anchor in her life. Its loss had definitely added to her suffering over the break-up with Jake.' p124

Cassie's return to a sense of completeness and recovery from emotional shutdown is traced, in part, through the metaphoric use of dance as a ritual form of connection in 'In and Out of Step'.

Likewise, John Proctor's personal metaphoric journey in Miller's 'The Crucible' also involved a reclaiming of aspects of self lost because of his adulterous affair with Abigail Williams.

Belonging is very much a shared experience. The text below explicitly draws attention to the bond between characters as well as the isolation and lack of direction a person feels when not part of the shared experience.

'Music, a Tom Jones’ oldie, drew Cassie to the lounge room. Minna stretched her back after pushing the armchairs closer to the walls. George rolled up the rug. That done, they dragged it to the windows. With a courtly air, George extended his hand to Minna. They stepped onto their homemade dance floor. Watching them, Cassie realised she really missed the ballroom dancing scene. Again, she saw the drift of her life since she had cut dance out.' p131

In the excerpt below, dance as a representation of shared experience, depicting a state of harmony and union, is achieved through the language of music and the codes of interaction embedded in choreography. Cassie recognises that, in dance, the union of two people can also involve a primal response, a sensuous pleasure that brings them closer when the codes of the dance are known.

'To Cassie, any choreography that allowed two people to become one, through the fluid movement of the dance, was beauty in motion. She was struck by the primitive element in the beat, and the sensual heat between Michael and his partner. He was the stronger of the two dancers but lacked Jake’s flair. Michael was good but not great. As for Kate, she was definitely an exhibitionist.' p140

Dance as a representation of the bonds between people is also depicted in the dance scenes throughout 'In and Out of Step'. At times, those bonds have a discordant quality as in the Apaché dance scene (page 343). At other times, dance is used to metaphorically represent the positive nature of those bonds.

'Marvin Gaye’s, I Heard It Through the Grapevine signalled The Merrilyn. Although Cassie loved this New Vogue slow foxtrot, she chose to sit it out and watch. It was always hard to dance with other partners after Michael. She liked the limited dance prescription to footwork, alignments and holds because it left scope for dancers to add their own expression through shaping and styling.

For Cassie, the dance was a love story between equals. She liked the intimacy and romance in the synchronised turns, the breakaway, and return. As a couple, they had beautiful body flight. Cassie envied their freedom and longed for the familiarity they had with other dancers in the studio who ceased to treat them as a floorshow. Overall, she thought theirs was an elegant hypnotic performance.' page 226

Natural harmony, equality and fraternity, joy, balance, and acceptance are aspects of the bonds depicted through dance in the above scene.

In the next example, Cassie is an outsider at Keimera dance studio and again in the role of observer. In order to belong to the group and join in the dance, she had to decode the language governing the dance and identify the 'codes' that controlled interaction.

'The studio floor was alive with dancers. They were involved in a progressive, changing partner at some unseen signal that only those initiated into the studio’s secrets recognised. Cassie had never seen it done with a Latin American dance before. She concentrated on the dancers trying to understand how it worked. This was not a simple case of the man leading. A group mentality seemed to be operating, and it was linked to the rhythm.' p215

Belonging is expressed through 'the floor was alive with dancers'; the reference to the dancers being initiated into the codes of dance; the sense of pleasure, reciprocation, and playful harmony between the dancers. The idea of belonging is also evoked in the next excerpt through the ritual of dance as a form of connection and nonverbal communication in an inarticulate community.

'The set was wild and lusty yet even graceless dancers observed the boundaries of its code. As Cassie was swung off her feet by one man and then another, she realised that the energy and emotion was a means of expression usually denied everyday people; in an inarticulate population, music and dance said what words could not.' p316

The above text empathizes there is communication through physical contact and a sense of belonging through following dance codes of interaction and being attuned to the mood of the dance/interaction. In this dance scene, the notion of belonging is represented metaphorically as a lusty/sensuous pleasure stemming from participants being in step with and attuned to one another and in time and attuned to the music. The last sentence also comments on the isolation people feel when they lack the ability to connect through the language of everyday life.

Cassie's quest to find her place in the sexually liberated world of the late 1980s brings her into conflict with 'proposals' by male characters that challenge her values. The following quote illustrates

the subjective nature of belonging

and the conflict that can arise from her acceptance of values transmitted by her parents - a generational clash.

'Cassie did not want to be a servile person with pre-sixties values. She did not think she was a prude though Coachman said she was. How could anyone confuse flattering attention with being groped? This was a dance she had to work out before she could manage the steps.' p145

Ritual as a form of connection is also explored from a different perspective and represented in a different form in the scenes dealing with Selton and Van der Huffen when they assume their HG and Roy persona in order to parody school life and the power play within in.

You will find the complete discussion in Belonging: A Related Text Companion: In and out of Step. You can buy the companion from this website or from Amazon.



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The Month's Posts


    Wednesday, October 10, 2018

    Reflection on 'In and Out of Step'

    Wednesday, October 10, 2018

    Set between 1988-1990, In and Out of Step’s thesis picks-up on a period of significant change in Australian social and cultural history which mirror the wider western world. The novel reflects the popular perceptions of the era and explores reaction to changing roles and values, the relationship between generations, gender dynamics, and power in society through contrasting character perspectives.  

    The novel charts Cassie Sleight's (rhymes with slate) and her generation’s journeys in new and uncharted territory in their relationships: personal, social, and work after the second wave of the women’s movement.

    Life forces the women in my novels to reassess what they are doing, how they are doing it, and to evaluate who they are and want to be.

    Through Cassie’s experiences, the reader is entertained and provoked to consider the perceptions held and dualities of women’s roles in western society. That may suggest that this is a non-fiction work masquerading as fiction. However, this aspect is firmly set in the external world of the story and Cassie’s experiences.

    In and Out of Step explores:

    • how identity and relationships are shaped by the way gender operates and gender differences
    • how place—geography, attitudes, values, and culture—shape people’s lives and actions
    • the culture that supports and promotes sexual harassment in the workforce and social spheres
    • changing perceptions of gender roles
    • adapting to change in oneself and the wider world
    • the personal, social, and workplace influences that contribute to change.

    My novelsIn and Out of Step, Life Song, Song Bird portray the diverse and changing realities of women in the time the novels are set: 1980-1990, 1996-1998, 2000-2002.  The stories are anchored in the social and historical context of each period.

    Read more

    Saturday, August 12, 2017

    Life Song - a story of metamorphosis

    Saturday, August 12, 2017

    Twenty-two-year-old Mavis Mills first appears in my novel In and Out of Step. Outgoing, gregarious, and confident, Mavis is a significant secondary character in that novel.  Mavis' story - a subplot - is used to provide contrast to and insight into Cassie Sleight's (the central character) journey. 

    At one point in the novel, effervescent Mavis is severely injured – physically, emotionally, and psychologically - by domestic violence and the fire of her partner’s rage. He also destroys her guitar and the copies of her original songs. Part of  the subplot from In and Out of Step explores the context of the domestic violence and provides insight into the psychology of it. Excuses are not made.

    At the start of Life Song, Mavis is twenty-eight-years-old and very different from the young woman who shone throughout most of In and Out of Step. She is the central character in Life Song. She has become subdued, distrustful of her own judgement, and an echo of her former self. Unexpectedly, she discovers she has a choice: continue to live a life tainted by domestic violence or seize the opportunity before her and try to rise above her circumstance and, like the phoenix bird, leave the ashes of her past life behind.

    'Could she live the rest of her life as she'd been living. She couldn't, not now she'd glimpsed another world, fleeting though that vision had been.'

    Life Song is not a cliche 'chic musician on the road' story and is definitely not a romance. It is about the woman Mavis becomes and the people who stand by her as she undergoes transformation – physical, psychological, and to an extent spiritual. She does not solve her problems in the arms of a man but makes the hard choices herself.

    The drama comes from the tugs-of-war that Mavis has to work though. It is made all the harder because Mavis' heart is in conflict with itself. One person, no matter how strong, cannot win a tug-of-war alone. The same applies to Mavis.

    Readers learn about the things that give Mavis strength and that enable her to boldly embrace the inevitable changes coming into her life as she becomes Nikki Mills, the Song Bird from Oz.

    I recommend you listen to two songs from that novel: Sunshine Days and Life Song (A Vision Splendid) to get a feel for this story.

    There are many kinds of wins in life, most of them personal rather than widely acclaimed. It's those personal 'brave heart' moments that define Mavis. Reader feedback through my publisher and website is that Life Song is a gratifying read.

    As part of your journey in reading this blog,  I suggest you listen to Move On.  In my imagination, it is first sung by Mavis' support network, but ultimately the song becomes her personal mantra.

    Australia is a diverse landscape and has diverse communities. Life Song gives readers an opportunity to spend time in some of those communities. The title alludes to the fact that each character's life has its own melody and when sung in concert become the symphony that is Life Song


    Life Song is one of four novels in The Keimera Series. Each novel is a standalone narrative and has the backstory woven into it.  The Keimera Series is an opus.

    Keimera does not in any way allude to chimeraa monstrous fire-breathing hybrid creature from Greek mythology.

    If you would like to lend me your support so that I can produce more music from my novels, you can buy any of my songs from CD Baby.  Each of my songs can be purchased for the very small price of $1.69. My music is also on iTunes and other major online music sellers as well.

    Read more

    Sunday, June 25, 2017

    The story behind my song 'The Flame'

    Sunday, June 25, 2017

    'The Flame' features in my novel ‘Song Bird’. In the novel, it is sung by rock legend Rick Brody who serenades Nikki Mills (the central character in the novel). In real life, it was sung by Funnie Williams and Thanapat Yarchartoen (aka Film). I produced the song through Karma Sound Studios in Thailand.

    BACKSTORY TO 'THE FLAME' - The Singer or the Song?

    In ‘Song Bird’ and its prequel 'Life Song', Nikki Mills - the Girl from Oz - is a survivor of domestic violence. Once an innocent, she believed the very convincing serenade of her first significant love, Terry Kikby. Long before Nikki met Rick, his song 'The Flame' resonated with her.  She believed that Rick's songs really expressed his own ideas and values.

    Having been at the top of the music industry for sixteen years, Rick finds his music is dropping in the charts. Defined by his 'bad boy' image, he has lost sight of his real self. Consequently,  his music has lost its connection with his fan base. Interested in Nikki as a woman as much as in her skill as a lyricist, Rick collaborates with Nikki on a new album. 

    Flattered by Rick's interest in her and impressed by 'The Flame', Nikki embarks on a relationship with him.  A subplot in the novel explores the ramifications of that decision.  Can she help Rick find the heart that his music once had?  Will Nikki be hurt or healed by the relationship with him?  The answers are found in my novel 'Song Bird'. 

    Readers of this blog may also find the pop rock song 'Masque' and interesting insight into Rick and Nikki's relationship issues.

    I currently have 8 songs on CD Baby and iTunes. You can help me raise the money to produce the rest of my songs by buying one or more of my songs at the very small price of $1.69 per song. They are on sale at CD Baby and  iTunes. Online music streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer promote my music, but I only earn approximately one cent per one hundred streams. 

    Read more

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  • Christine's music update


    Christine’s admin team are pleased to report ‘Life Song’ has continued to receive an increasingly strong response in its latest month of rotation on numerous radio stations targe..
  • Christine's music on Unearthed Triple J


    Help Christine cross over to commercial radio by following this link (, playing her songs, and giving them a star review. Yo..
  • 4 out of 4 stars review for 'Song Bird'


    Another 4 out of 4 stars for 'Song Bird'. Click here ( the review...

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