CHRISTINE M. KNIGHT

An Australian author who provides insight into the human condition.

Author Christine M Knight's Blog

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Blog 6.2 - Reflections on Dance, Connections and Change

In the 1990s when involved in background research for In and Out of Step, I was struck by the way traditional gender roles were reinforced during the process of learning ballroom dance even though in non-dance environments there had been significant gains in gender equality. Students came to the dance floor as ‘equals in ignorance’ and the ritual of role was imposed on them. As dance novices, girls and women were drilled with, “Whatever you do, don’t lead! Be alert to your partner’s cues and submit to his intent”. This advice contrasted with the reality of the dance floor. Male partners, irrespective of their age, seemed quite happy to let their female counterparts lead if that meant the male avoided the embarrassment of being visibly out of step on the dance floor.

The traditional gender perspective embedded in dance lessons seemed to be contrary to my own dance experience where both male and female dancers responded to music’s rhythm and relied on one another to know the options for steps and patterns. As skills developed among the ballroom dancers whom I knew, dance seemed to be more a conversation and dialogue about partnership than an act of female submission to a male lead. Yet, the traditional gender biased perspective about roles went unchallenged in lessons in the 1990s despite changed societal views, a great example of the unthinking transmission of values from one generation to the next.

My research revealed that, in life and on the dance floor, attuned gender interaction was lost, especially as the complexity of the dance increased, when one person appropriated control and power of the dance and required blind following. In such instances, the dance visibly broke down. Such controlling partners also suffered a decline in the number of willing partners. As an aside, it is interesting that during the second wave of the women's movement that dance styles broke away from male dominated lead to just individuals on the dance floor moving in response to rhythm rather than the codes of a dance.

Consider the YouTube link, this scene represents, at a metaphoric level, the way a controlling figure loses the number of 'willing partners' when he requires 'blind following'. The dance sequence also illustrates that dance is a partnership.

Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom (1992), Jean Auel's The Land of Painted Caves, and my In and Out of Step explore the pressure within a group on participants to comply with the conventions that govern a group's behaviour and to follow the leader. Challenges to conventions by a minority faction within the group can cause conflict and disharmony.

In The Land of Painted Caves, Jean Auel shows that these splits and rifts result in the formation of new tribes. When you think about it, in its broadest sense, it is most probably the reason we have different nations, religions, ethnicity, culture, and war. Strictly Ballroom shows that unthinking adherence to rules and conventions can stifle creativity and innovation. Members of the group become so wedded to the routine that they resent and resist change. When a catalyst arises for change this then can lead to division and alienation. The school subplot in In and Out of Step explores how differences within a group can function as a catalyst for change. For example, when the three women teachers join the previously all male English faculty, the resultant challenges to and change in the culture created a domino effect in conflict.

HSC students should consider tracing the story lines of Coachman, Talbut, Selton, and Van der Huffen to find examples of the escalating conflict and how change occurs. I can't discuss the plot any further as it gives away the story which relies on the tension stemming from interest in what happens next.

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 fromAmazon


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      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

      Notes:

      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.



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      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. 

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      Sunday, June 25, 2017

      The Story Behind Pop Rock Song 'Masque'

      Sunday, June 25, 2017

      'Masque' is a duet between charismatic rock star, Rick Brody, and singing sensation Nikki Mills (the Girl from Oz). They are fictional characters in my novel, ‘Song Bird’, which is on sale through Amazon, Book Depository, and other online booksellers as are my other novels' 'Life Song' and 'In and Out of Step' - in paperback and eBook formats.

      'Masque' features the vocal talents of Australians, Skye Elisabeth and Nic James. I am the composer and executive producer for all of my music. Although I am a musician, I no longer perform publicly but use talented session musicians.

      I use music as part of my writing process when developing a novel as it allows me to explore character perspectives, challenges, and personal journeys.

      My song ‘Masque’ evolved out of my exploration of Rick and Nikki’s relationship when developing 'Song Bird', the novel . The song helped me better understand rock legend Rick Brody, the impact of being a rock star on Rick's relationship with Nikki, and the core obstacles they faced. Rick Brody is one of four pivotal men in Nikki Mills' life.

      Wider Relevance
      The song has relevance for anyone who feels compelled to be what others expect the person to be rather than being true to self, something that is much easier said than done.

      'Masque' also has relevance for a diverse number of people. For instance, I play many roles: wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, author, musician and so on. I understand how the expectations and demands of others put me under pressure not to let others down. In trying not to short-change others, it was so easy to forget about who I was separate from those roles and what my being real meant.

      The context behind the song 'Masque'
      In ‘Song Bird’, Rick Brody is charismatic rock star who has been living the cliché - sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Like the Tinman from Oz, Rick is injured by his trade. For the Tinman, it was his axe. For Rick Brody, it was his status as a rock star and image of 'bad boy’. He became defined by those roles. Life became a masquerade.

      In both cases, the Timan and Rick become manufactured men in want of heart.  Rick’s preoccupation with living the cliché meant that his music lost its heart and the appeal that had drawn audiences to him as he rose to the pinnacle of the music industry.

      By contrast, Nikki refused to sell out in order to achieve success. She was determined to get to the top on her own terms and to not be treated as a commodity in the industry.

      At the Australian Recording Industry Awards, Rick asked his manager to connect him with Nikki after seeing her perform. Rick claimed his primary interest in Nikki was musical collaboration, but his libido and history of conquests shaped his reason for collaborating with her and definitely shaped the way he interacted with her.

      Although Nikki pretended not to be attracted to Rick, she was flattered that he was ‘interested in her of all people. Unlike his fans, Nikki did not have an urge to flash her breasts, hand over her panties, or suggest a threesome.’  She maintained a mask of cool indifference and stayed work-focused throughout the early stages of their musical relationship. Consequently, Rick viewed Nikki as a challenge. Committed to the long game in winning her, he courted.

      A survivor of domestic violence, Nikki was cautious about the men with whom she mixed.  ‘Song Bird’ explores the ripple effect of her decision to work with Rick. Can she help Rick find the heart that his music once had? Can he become real with her? Will Nikki’s relationship with him injure her?

      You can read more about 'Song Bird' here and on other pages at my website.

      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. The online music streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer promote my music, but I only earn approximately one cent per one hundred streams. 

      Note: As the novels are set in Australia, I use the British spelling system and language conventions. There are minor differences to the American system.

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