Arts and Letters Report October 2016

By Jennifer Ann Davies

NCWQ Arts and Letters Adviser


Hauntingly beautiful music and elegant movement enchanted large, varied audiences in Regional Queensland, when the Queensland Ballet travelled ‘Tutus on Tour’

..from late September through early October!

Particularly potent was ‘Ershter Vals’ choreographed by Ma CONG, a gifted young man who will inevitably transcend boundaries with his inspiring and unique work!

This wonderful opportunity came in the wake of variegated performances of ‘Snow White’ and other beloved Faerie Tales, in the metropolis; and the regional performance was a stunning wave of folk dance influences, integrated with classical technique – carrying a penetrating message of redemption!

Cleverly using music from ‘Klezeroym’, Ma Cong’s work portrayed the LIGHT people find in relationships and communities and celebrated the moments of brightness that can still shine in the midst of dark times.‘Ershter Vals’ was inspired by early films about World War 11 and by the music originating in the Jewish ghettos of the time.

The ‘Three Preludes’, exquisitely danced to Sergei RACHMANINOFF’S Opus 32, No. 10; Opus 23, No. 1 and Opus 32, No. 9, has also been performed by the American Ballet Theatre, the Paris Opera Ballet and the La Scala Ballet in Milan……Movements develop in both speed and intensity as the gentle, loving pas de faux focuses on the two dancers who fall in love…..

Verdi Variations concluded this wonderful, regional ‘treat’, paying homage to the elegance and grace of Russian Classical Ballet, infused with gentle humour and thrilling technique.


SCIENCE & FICTION – From the 19th Century…to now!

“I feel an echo of the lightning each time I find a fossil, a little jolt that says, ‘Yes, Mary Anning, you are different from all the rocks on the beach.’ That is why I am a hunter; to feel that bolt of lightning, and that difference, every day.” Mary Anning.

‘Like a fossil hunter herself, Chevalier has again combed the beaches of history for subject matter and created an engaging story for the modern reader.’ Monique Roffey, Financial Times.

Mary Anning’s name was first published in France in 1825, when ‘scientific’ writer, Georges Cuvier, added it to a caption for an illustration of a plesiosaur specimen, in the THIRD edition of his book: ‘Discours sur les revolutions de la surface du globe’.(Discourse on the revolutionary upheavals on the surface of the earth)!

I first came upon Elizabeth Philpot’s fossil fish collection, decades ago, at the Oxford University Museum. There, also, did I learn of the relatively ‘odd’ William Buckland, who truly ATE his way through the animal kingdom, trying to reconcile geology and earth sciences with his religious beliefs!!

Mary Anning’s stunningly wondrous and informative finds were not so familiar to me until rather recently, when I had more time to visit the Natural History Museum of London, promising myself I would, one day, bring my grandson, Oliver there… well as visiting the ‘headless plesiosaur’ purchased by Cuvier, now hung in the Palaeontology Gallery of the Musee National d’Histoire Naturelle, in Paris!

To retrace the engaging footsteps of this fossil hunter, you will enjoy reading: ‘Remarkable Creatures’ – Tracey Chevalier, Harper Collins Publishers, London W6 8JB, 2010.

This novel weaves historical facts with fiction and is a celebration of that time on a windswept English beach, in the early 19th century, when two women made discoveries that changed the world – science and museology!!! It is also the story of how much has changed, for women and men and what has stayed the same! – wonderfully interesting……..



Yet another unusual commentary on both visual Art and Literature presented itself in a beautifully bound copy of ‘SECRETS’, containing works from Modjeska, Lohrey and Dessaix.





Pan Macmillan, Sydney, Australia. 1997

In tandem with recently released ‘breaking news’ about artefacts being returned to their assumed or claimed ‘point of origin’, in our own country, ‘Ripe to Tell’ – the SECRET introduced by aged words of W.H. Auden and elaborated on by the brave, observant and local Drusilla Modjeska, has myriad implications, inferences, elements and outcomes along this precise ‘theme’!

The geography, stretches from varied Sydney suburbs, to the succulence of North-west New Guinea, and the allegedly exotic and remote Lake Sentani; and the social contours include Australian artist Russell Drysdale and contemporaries, as well as many from Europe! –

Retrieving remnants of a patchwork of socio-cultural histories and some of the ‘hauls’ of Oceanic Art from 1929 onwards, this unusual linguistic mosaic of rugged mountains, treacherous rivers, figures with crested heads, powerful birds in flight; spirit figures that blend human and animal as if one was as sacred as the other – and glorious mythic mothers, form the treasures of Oceania and are claimed to have “…inspired our covetousness as nothing else…” p.5 Andre Breton

Breton was an associate of Jacques Viot and Pierre Loeb, and brief comments are included from the time, a couple of years after the Surrealists saw an exhibition from the Dutch East Indies at the Musee des Art Decoratifs, where Breton had already observed and defined “…an irresistible need to possess…” the holy artefacts of a culture we sought to subdue and save; with their intriguing skeletal spirit men who danced across a landscape that made no distinction between the actual and the mythological…..

Beautifully and realistically, the author writes of ochred reptiles that spiralled between strange plants and ghostly bug-eyed spirits; little fish that swallowed huge fish; a swordfish speared by a man; a turtle which gave birth to a bird…In these ‘collections’ she has written, you can see the echoes of the mythic world in the works of artists like Joan Miro, Man Ray and Pablo Picasso!

Secrets! – a question of revelation? A challenging read to enjoy, think, imagine, question….. Is there more hidden behind the stolen masks? What?


As post-modernists retrieve the stories of yesterday –

from Science – from the world of visual Art, Artefacts and memory…

– from the spoken Word and the written Word……….

As new movement is accorded

Old folk music and old folk tales, we are presented with

Beauty, Truth, Mysteries and Secrets that seem to be ageless and timeless








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