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Author Christine M Knight's Blog

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Distinctly Visual - dance video analysis

The dance video at is a 90 second dance representation of the central plot of the novel In and Out of Step by Christine M Knight and its key ideas-belonging, alienation, finding a place.

To understand the dance video, you need an overview of the novel's plot.

1. In and Out of Step (the novel) - Plot Overview

In and Out of Step introduces readers to Cassie Sleight, a young woman who has shut down emotionally after being scarred by a sexual encounter in her mid-teens. Knowing only that she did not want a life in which men inevitably lead and women follow, Cassie leaves the familiar circle of friends and family in search of a seachange. Having discarded her dreams of international dance championships, she accepts a position on the English staff of the local high school in the seemingly idyllic coastal town of Keimera. She is prepared to risk going from the frying pan and into the fire to discover where she belongs.

In Keimera, Cassie meets Mark Talbut, a man Knight describes as struggling to be modern yet threatened by power shifts in the workplace and in society. Cassie’s interactions with Mark and the men in his world cause her to assess her reactions both as a woman and a teacher, and the inevitable questions arise.

In love, at work, and at play – where do you draw a line? Will Cassie find the courage to come to terms with her past, recover from sexual trauma, and have a healthy relationship? How does a society in which dysfunctional workplaces rife with gender, power, and sexual issues change?  

In and Out of Step, examines the world in which Cassie Sleight lives, how that world shapes a person for good and bad, and how absolutely every experience contributes to the journey.

The novel explores the very real difficulty a young woman in a new workplace faces when dealing with a man who is perceived as a ‘good guy’ by his male workmates in a time of changing culture. It looks at the very real difficulty in unmasking the wolf in sheep's clothing.  The story explores how women who use sex as coinage in the workplace can influence male perceptions of women and blur understanding of what is behaviourally appropriate. In and Out of Step explores the widening ripple effect on the women and the girls living in such a world.

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2. Analysis of the dance video in terms of its central theme: BELONGING and in terms of the way its distinctly visual features contribute to and convey meaning

Cassie Sleight viewed life as a series of dances. The opening still frame of the dance video represents Cassie Sleight’s view of the world.

The dance begins in the same way that the novel ‘In and Out of Step’ does. In the opening pages of the novel, Cassie observes her world through the frame of her car window. As in this dance video, she is unseen because she is an outsider. Her view of the world is filtered through the metaphor of dance.

When the dance begins, Cassie Sleight is off-stage and out of the shot. She does not belong to the group. 

The opening dance scene shows that Cassie sees her world as male dominated, a world where men lead and women follow. In the opening seconds of the dance, the men are positioned in the foreground symbolising their leadership role and dominance. Women are placed in the background behind the men, symbolising their follower status.

In the opening freeze frame, the female dancers are in off-balance positions and dependent on their male counterparts who hold power in the dance. The centre male dancer is unpartnered. He represents Jake Dominguez from the novel ‘In and Out of Step’. As the dance begins, the Jake dancer observes the ritual of the dance and the relationships between genders.  His observation is conveyed by a sharp head turn. This represents how values and attitudes about relationships are transmitted. That is, we learn about how gender relationships work and how to belong in society from the people around us.

In each dance couple, the male controls the dance. One man twirls his partner, keeping her in the background while the other male dancer overpowers his partner by placing her in a dip. Both women are passive in the dance.  The dance then progresses to the dancers moving in unison. During this part of the dance sequence, the women dance with their backs to the men but remain in mirrored unison. This represents how indoctrinated they are in the ritual of the dance. The men always remain in the lead.  This shows that within a community belonging involves understanding and acceptance of the community's ritual, language, and conformity to its codes of behaviour.  

As the dance progresses, the three men also dance in unison, representing that they have been programmed in the steps. Both male and female dancers are attuned to the rhythm of the dance. They are in step with one another even though the type of steps varies according to gender.

Most of the dancers are costumed in black. Costume reinforces the uniformity in this society and that they belong in that world.  One male dancer is dressed in a white T-shirt and black trousers. This represents that although he is accepting of the culture, he is also different in some way. This variation in costume signals that the society is undergoing subtle change.

At 0.16 seconds in the video, a young woman in red enters the dance scene. This dancer represents Cassie Sleight, the protagonist in the novel ‘In and Out of Step’. She is not dancing and does not move in time to the music. Her costume represents that she is the odd one out in this community and does not belong. Her movement also reinforces that she is not in step with the people in that world, that she does not belong.  She is in fact passing through that world to an unknown destination.

The Cassie dancer is intercepted by the unpartnered male dancer who attempts to control Cassie dancer’s movement and compel her to join him as his partner in the dance of life. She moves in step with him for a short time, and he controls the dance. Her joining with him in dance represents her knowledge of that style of dance and that she has learnt the passive role that women play in it. Jake dancer’s contact with her is passionate and powerful and shown through gesture and contact. At one stage in the dance, the Jake dancer overpowers the Cassie dancer; she ‘swoons’ in his arms in response to his actions. This sequence is a metaphoric depiction of their relationship in the novel and their sexual encounter when she was sixteen. When Cassie dancer regains her feet and balance, she rejects him. That rejection is represented through gesture and strong powerful movement. At this stage, she moves out of step with Jake dancer and stops dancing. The cessation of the dance represents Cassie dancer’s rejection of that female role in dance as well as her rejection of the code of behaviour needed to belong in that type of community.

At 0.33 seconds in the dance, the dance group return to the screen. They represent the world she knows and that she is leaving. The dance is choreographed so that Cassie dancer is seen to be going in a different direction and out of step with the mainstream of dancers. The metaphors ‘going against the stream’ and ‘odd one out’ are made literal in this scene through the creation of dramatic images that depict her alienation.

At 0.36 seconds, Cassie dancer is alone on the screen, dancing. This represents the transition period between the world she left and in which she grew up to a new world. In the novel, Cassie Sleight rejects the traditional role of women in the world that she grew up in and resolved to leave. She left the familiar circle of friends and family in search of a sea change and began a career as an English teacher on the faculty of high school in a coastal town south of Sydney.

At 40 seconds, the video returns to the dance of traditional society. This section of the dance represents the world to which Cassie dancer has moved. It is exactly the same as the world she left – male dominated and women following the lead of men and indoctrinated in the ritual of relationships. Like the world she has left, there is a male dancer in this world (white T-shirt) who belongs to that world but differs subtly from the group. This variation in costume signals that the society she has entered is also undergoing subtle change. 

At 48 seconds in the dance, Cassie dancer re-enters. The dancers are positioned in a line.  The same set of dancers are used to show that the same type of people exist everywhere. This section of the dance represents Cassie dancer's quest to find her place in life's dance. She engages with each dancer in this new world in search of a place in life’s dance but moves on whenever her partner tries to control the dance or exert power over her.

At 1.04 minutes in the dance, Cassie dancer comes face to face with Michael dancer, costumed in white T-shirt and black trousers. In the dance sequence with him, neither dancer leads. They appear as a mirror reflection, representing their like-mindedness and similarity in values.  They are equal in status. This shows that similarity in values and attitudes play an important part in a person's sense of connection to others and a developing sense of belonging.

At 1.09 minutes, Cassie dancer surrenders power to Michael dancer as he lifts her. The lift relationship reflects the trust between the dancers. It also represents a trigger moment that led to a change in the nature of that society's dance and the way the genders relate to one another. 

The lighting flashes at this point in the dance video signalling a new stage in dance and in gender relationships. Cassie dancer is joined by Michael dancer on the floor. This is a new style of dance although it has elements of the traditional dance in it. They are joined by other dancers from that society; this symbolizes the change that has occurred in this community. The dance shows that Cassie dancer was a catalyst for change. 

The dance ends in a freeze, a diamond shape with men and women in alternating positions in the line-up. The screen dissolves into fire and then to the book cover for ‘In and Out of Step’.  This signifies that Cassie went from the frying pan and into the fire to discover her place in life’s dance. It also shows that although she has found a place to belong, that doesn't mean life is without the heat of conflict. 

Buy 'Belonging: A Relate Text Companion to In and Out of Step' from The Book Depository



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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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