Teaching HTM in Sydney
16th to 17th of February 2008

I have had a connection in Australia for as long as I remember and the prospect of actually travelling there for the first time ever was thrilling. I only had one worry – I was going to be away from home without any contact to the dog-world for a months!!!!!

My life revolves around dogs. I work as a consultant for the Danish Kennel Club, I teach Dog Dancing, known in the UK as Heelwork to Music and I train and perform with my own dogs. More or less, all my friends are “dog people”. The thought of going away for a totally dog free month was terrifying! So you can imagine my excitement when I received an e-mail from Joan Steward from the New South Wales Kennel Club's Dog Dancing department asking if I would be interested to teach a Dog Dancing Workshop in Sydney . Of course I would! I love to teach and dog dancing is my passion. What better way to spend a weekend of my holiday?!

Joan Steward and her dog Muffin

Preparing for the workshop proved difficult. I had never seen any Australian teams perform and had no idea of what to expect. Finally, I decided that Australia probably had just as many good dog trainers as any other country, so my focus should be on what makes Dog Dancing different from other dog sports. I prepared a workshop on choreography and musical interpretation.

At about noon on the 15 th of February, Loretta – also from the New South Wales Kennel Club's Dog Dancing department - picked me up from the hotel in the centre of Sydney , where my friends and I had spent the last week. We drove to her home and met her 3 wonderful poodles. It was great to cuddle a dog again! I love the way dog people can meet for the first time and chat as if they have always known each other. We spent the afternoon watching English, Danish and Australian Dog Dancing on DVD.

Loretta and Chloe

It was interesting to see the Australian routines. Most dogs were very well trained and willing to work, but the routines lacked imagination and inventiveness. Almost all routines were the same basic moves performed in different order to different music and they all had a great deal of heelwork in their choreography.

I was a bit nervous Saturday morning, when we were in the car on our way to The Bill Spilstead Complex, but I was met by a group of open-minded, talented handlers who had very good dogs, were keen to learn and they were very interested in my outlook on Dog Dancing. I soon forgot that I was on the other side of the planet from where I normally teach and time flew.

The NSW KC owns The Bill Spilstead Complex for Canina Affairs situated not far from Sydney. They have indoor training halls, permanent outdoor showrings, agilityrings and obediencerings. They even have their own sheep for herding trials!!!! Any European Kennel Club would be jealous!

I wanted to make the handlers think differently. I wanted them to take time to find the right music and then let the music inspire their choreography. All the handlers had chosen modern pop music for their routines, which is fine, but it is not always easy to interpret. To interpret your music well, you have to make sure that you punctuate all obvious changes – not easy if the music has no obvious changes!!!

Saturday was about inventing new moves inspired by the music. The handlers got 3 challenges and the ‘winner' of each challenge was rewarded with a nice bag of chocolates.

The first chocolate-challenge was to think of an interesting move using a newspaper as a prop, second challenge was to create an interesting move that interpreted both the music and the lyrics to ‘In These Shoes' and the third challenge was to find a good move to interpret a bit of an instrumental piece of music from Lord Of The Rings.

We had a lot of fun and the chocolate rewards really triggered the handlers' competitive spirits.

When finished, we had tea at ‘The Blue Cattledog'!!! What a great name for a pub!

Sunday was choreography day.

We choreographed a routine to Sinatra 's ‘Fly Me To The Moon' using a cane as prop. We also talked about how to teach the dogs the moves we wanted to use – it is not enough to be able to choreograph – you need to know how to train and motivate your dog too.

At first the handlers found it difficult to think of moves their dogs could not already perform, but as the day progressed their imagination was sparked and they had some great ideas.

It's a small world!!!! One of the Border Collies at the workshop 'Nahroh Classic Finish' was a granddaughter to my friend Johanna's Danish owned / Finnish bred bitch CH Pikkupaimenen Chocolate Shake!
'Nahroh Classic Finish is sired by CH Pikkupaimenen Purple Rain, who's mother is Pikkupaimenen Chocolate Shake. Isn't that amazing?! I travelled around the world and found a granddaughter to a Danish Border Collie!

Nahroh Classic Finish

After a busy weekend with lots of interesting discussions, I flew to Brisbane to meet up with my friends and continue my dog-free Australian adventure. Needless to say, I felt a lot better and ready to face the last week of doggie-free time after a weekend of dancing with dogs.

-And by then end of the week… I couldn't wait to see my own dogs again!

The handlers and dogs from the Sidney Workshop