I joined The Australian Heritage Dancers (AHD) in 1985 a few months after they formed under the directorship of Dance Historian Nell Challingsworth. A dance junkie, I went to Beecroft bush dance and met and was invited by Colin Fong to come along to the new group.
From small beginnings AHD developed into what Nell called a “Recreational Dance Group”, depicting life in Colonial times when dance was society’s social glue. We acted out dance scenarios and a favourite of mine was what Nell created called “Crossing the Line”. On rural properties in Colonial times, just as in “Upstairs Downstairs”, the gentry did not mix with the workers, except at a special dance when the two groups converged. I acted as the housekeeper who tried to attract the attention of the young master jangling my keys, and sometimes getting to dance Soldier’s Joy or the Polka with him! In fact on one of our tours to Canada (AHD was invited to many countries including USA, China, Italy) we performed in an ice rink holding over 3,000 people. I remember being cast as the wallflower because of my errant ways, and the audience said “Aaaaah”, feeling sorry for me as I stood there while the others danced away! We received a standing ovation which was probably one of the biggest thrills of my life.
We performed at the Sydney Opera House “Folkloric” which was another big thrill, at Darling Harbour, Martin Plaza, at charity functions and festivals and events all over New South Wales. It was a good ten years for me and the group kept going until last week, December 2015.
Marriages took place, divorces, people joined, people left, some passed on including the wonderful Nell Challingsworth. Last week a smattering of the original dancers joined the newbees for an evening of dancing and remembering and farewelling AHD.
We’ve known each other for over 30 years now and we’ll meet again at reunions and other dance events. Thanks for the good times and memories – the Australian Heritage Dancers.