John Gardiner-Garden is a dance teacher, researcher, performer, leader, choreographer, organiser and musician (on hurdy-gurdy, border pipes and wooden flute) with 25 years of experience. He is well-respected for the rigour he brings to his historical research, the creativity he brings to his his productions and the enthusiasm he brings to his teaching. He is literate in every dance notation system from the 15th to the19th century and possesses a library of over 200 historic dance manuals. He is Earthly Delights' band leader, dance troupe artistic director, and main dance leader for public classes, workshops and balls. Here is a brief skim through his artistic life-and he regards himself as still all the time learning more about the wonderful world of social dance.
From 1980 to 1986 John danced with Renaissance, Irish, Scottish, Finnish, Australian Colonial and International dance groups in Canberra, learnt dances in many other traditions from visiting dance teachers, and sampled many styles of dancing during various study periods in the former Soviet Union, Europe and Asia.From mid-1986 to 1987 he learnt Baroque, Irish, English country, American contra, Cajun, Tex-Mex, Vintage and Scandinavian dancing in the US and was honoured to receive a scholarship to the Medicino Dance Camp in California.
Upon his return to Canberra in 1987 he started 'Dancing in the Park' and 'Country Dancing' and co-ordinated these series for 4 and 6 years respectively - during which time he helped form such bands as 'Fancy Footwork', called for 'Dancerye', 'Miller's Reel', 'The Porch Band', organised guest appearances by many talented local, interstate and international artists (including Americans, Finns, Swedes, Norwegians and Slovenes), and organised many specialist dance workshops. During this time John was a guest at folk festivals in Victoria (Yackandandah), the A.C.T. (the National Folk Festival), N.S.W. (Jamberoo, Sydney and Thredbo’s Shakespeare Festival) and Queensland (Maleny)- and danced at the Sydney Opera House with a leading Finnish dance troupe. In 1991 he wrote and published A Country Dance Companion- a book which included a substantial history of social dance in the western European tradition and notes on 180 dances and 120 tunes.
In 1991-92 John was President of the Monaro Folk Music Society and in 1992 he started 'Peasant Wedding', a band which specialised in western European dance music from the 16th to the 20th century and which played for Medieval and French theme Fetes, English country dance nights, multicultural functions, Bohemian balls, American Contradances, Scandinavian and Baltic dance workshops, National Art Gallery evenings, Botanic Garden concerts, spots at National Folk Festivals and Folk Clubs, outdoor fairs and wedding / work / school bush dances.
In 1995 John founded the band 'Earthly Delights'. In 1998-99 he also played at festivals and on radio with the Hungarian band 'Lotsi and Friend', led by fellow Earthly Delights' member Laszlo Lakk. In September 1998 he won a Canberra Critics Circle Music Award for the 32 dances and 90 tunes which he composed for A Book of Earthly Delights and the double CD set A Box of Earthly Delights. He also wrote all the tunes, dances and commentary to the big book and 4 CD set The Lost Dances of Earthly Delights, released in November 2000.
In addition to working with bands, John also works as a solo dance teacher- for example in 1999 in the A.N.U.'s Continuing Education program, the Victorian Folk Dance Weekend at Lorne, Ausdance Professional Development course, and the Illawarra Folk Festival; in 2000 running Brain Gym evening dance courses at the Canberra College Woden campus and various workshops sponsored by Healthpact ACT and in 2001 for the Early Music Weekend at Bundanoon, the A.N.U.'s Young Musician With Talent program and the A.N.U.'s Sports and Recreation 'Dancing through the Ages' courses. In November 2002 John published The Christmas Carol Dance Book, presenting dances he'd written to go with more than 60 carols. Since then he's written another 50 plus dances and 120 plus tunes which he and the band is now leading and performing.
In about 2002 he issued ‘Lost Dances of Earthly Delights: Pleasures for Four Seasons – a book of 64 original dances and over 200 tunes- all composed by himself. The arts magazine The Muse has headlined him as 'The Dancing Master' (February 2004) and the editor of Freefolk.com kindly wrote (Issue 12, March-April 2002) 'I have heard most of what we, in the British Isles and Ireland, have produced but in John Garden we have met our match. He is up there with the very best and the best and leaves most of the rest yapping at his feet'. Throughout the first half of that decade he continued to research, teach, play and compose both dances and tunes.
In 2005, after a decade of constant dance teaching, social dance leading, and dance and dance music composing, John released his two volume book set ‘Lost Dances of Earthly Delights: Volume 1- Pleasures for Four Seasons and Volume 2, Favourites for Four Settings, together with 8 CD he produced with the playing of his band Earthly Delights—the full set presenting 128 dances of his own composing and about 400 tunes of his own composing, together with a work of fiction to explore and satyrise the art of dance composition, reconstruction and transmittion.
No sooner was John finished with that (effectively 10 year) original music and dance project, than he started work on what 9 years later has become his 10 Volume work Historic Dance.
In 2006, 2007 and 2008 John continued with dance teaching about 3 nights a week (including once a week at the Australian National University), continued organising and preparing the repertoire for monthly balls (12 a year for 10 years-each with a different thoughly-researched historic theme), and continued calling, teaching and playing on demand (including at festivals such as the National Folk Festival, St.Vitis Renaissance Dance weekend) and continued to organise and teach dancing, sometimes alongside invited interstate and overseas specialists, at special weekends he and his wife have organised on Renaissance, Baroque, Regency and Victorian era themes. He also during this period directed dozens of costumed live-music dance displays of repertoire from Renaissance, Baroque, Regency and Victorian times at Festivals and open-days-including performances in all these eras at the Governor-General's and twice took a 24 strong Renaisssance dance and music troupe on tour to Queensland. All these performances were all being billed as by Earthly Delights and the Bordonian Heritage Dances, but his dance teaching was starting to be consolidated under the banner of the Earthly Delights Historic Dance Academy ('Australia’s only Academy specialising in dance, music and costume of 1450 to 1900').
In 2009 and 2010 John cut back on his private function playing and his festival appearances but still devoted 2 nights a week to dance teaching, presented 11 historically-themed public balls each year, still organised displays and dance participation for big events (from Parliament House in Canberra to Old Government House in Sydney), still led dancing for special days at schools, and still guested at some festivals (such as the Bundanoon Traditional Dance festival and the Jane Austen Festival Australia). During this period his band members and troupe were billed as 'musicians and dancers from the Earthly Delights Historic Dance Academy' as most had not been part of the earlier Earthly Delights and Bordonian Heritage Dancers line-up. His main musical collaborators had become pianist Sally Taylor. In this perid he also presented a series of public lectures hosted by the Australian Capital Territory Library Service on 'Dance, Dances and Dancing Masters'.
In 2011, in between all his regular dance teaching and displaying commitments, his now slightly-irregular 3rd-Saturday of the month public balls (Peacock Renaissance Ball, a Russian Arc ball, a Christmas Carol Ball etc), and dancing teaching all day every day for back to back Jane Austen Festival and '19th century dance week', John undertook an 8 week trip which will involve him teaching and leading dances in a dozen different styles, from a dozen different periods at a dozen different places across north America and Europe. He not only enjoy the musical and dance company of some of the northern hemispheres leading dance musicians, teachers, organisers and researchers, but also enjoyed dancing and playing in some wonderful venues with wonderful dance communities in the US, Canada, England and Denmark.In 2012, in between running regular classes, John directed a 16 person strong 2 hour long Journey through Italian Renaissance at the National Gallery of Australia, directed a Dickens era dance performance at the High Court, ran a 6 day festival of 'English dance from Shakespeare to Austen', led a music and dance troupe through a day of performances at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney, directed a special 3 days 18th century dance, and produced many differently themed balls (including ran a Peacock Rennaissance Ball, a Russian Arc ball and a Christmas Carol Ball). He also released the first edition of his magnum opus Historic Dance: 10 volumes of working notes on the Dance, Dances and Dancing Masters of the 1450-1900 ballroom, and undertook a 3 week tour of Italy and Germany enjoying workshops, balls and seminars with some of Europe's leading historic dancers at a Napoleonic weekend in Lucca and at the 3rd Rothenfels Dance History symposium.
In 2013, in between leading a full Canberra schedule of regular dance classes (including his 'Dancing through the Ages' class at the Australian National University) and balls on different themes (including Time traveller balls covering 500 years of dance), John directed the Baroque and Rococo dancing for the Centennial of Canberra's 'Night at Versailles Ball' at Canberra's grand Albert Hall, directed the regency era dancing for the 6th Jane Austen Festival Australia, directed the Victorian era dancing for the Yarrangobilly 19th century dance and costume retreat, presented period dancing for a literature conference and once again for the historic Hyde Park Barrack's open day in Sydney, and arranged a day of 1890s dance for the Centennial of Canberra's Vintage car rally on the lawns in front of Old Parliament House. John also played for and presented dances at 5 differently themed workshops/dances in different historic venues across southern England, including at a town hall in London, in the Guildhall in Winchester, at Barrington Court in Illminster, at Sir Walter Elliot House and at the Forum in Bath (the later as part of Bath's Jane Austen Festival).
John started 2014 running a special ‘Dancing with the Masters’ 8 week summer course featuring dances by named Renaissance and Baroque masters. He went on to enjoy a capacity enrolment of 50 in his ANU first semester ‘Dancing through the Ages’ and an inaugural (and still continuing) weekly ‘Historic Dance’ class at the Canberra Girls Grammar School. In April he enjoyed (survived!) 7 dances and nights of back-to-back dance teaching and leading at JAFA 2014, for the first time ever at University House, and the Yarrangobilly 19th century dance retreat, for the first time ever filling both wings of the heritage caves house and turning into the most memorable dance school-cum-Victorian house party. In June he inaugurated the Festival of Early Dance, with 3 full days of concerts, dance workshops and balls on themes from the 16th to 18th century. In late June and early July he spent 4 weeks researching, dancing and teaching in Italy and German—studying dance with experts, attending international balls at Napoleon’s residence on Elba and in a grand palace in Potsdam, visiting many other historic dance venues and teaching 16th century balli in Augsburg, 18th century minuets, contredanses and cotillions on different days in Potsdam, and allemandes from the 16th to 19th century in Hamburg. Throughout the year he continued his teaching 3 times a week, his academy’s 3rd Saturday of the month balls, his guest teaching for events organised by others, and the revision and expansion of his Historic Dance books.
In 2015 John started the year with restarting all his regular dance classes and ball series and releasing a new edition of his Historic Dance books. In April he presented 3 days and evenings of back-to-back Georgian/Regency era dancing at Canberra's Albert Hall, the new home for the Jane Austen Festival Australia, followed by 4 days of Victorian-era dancing at the Yarrangobilly 19th century dance retreat, and in mid-June he again presented a long weekend of early dance- though this time with a focus on Renaissance. From late June to early August he and his wife Aylwen Gardiner-Garden ndertook a research and teaching tour of Canada and the US, travelling in an arc from Boston Massachusetts, via Toronto and Brantford Ontario, to Pittsburg Pennsylvania, to Louisville (and other towns) in Kentucky, and on to San Antonio Texas, then across to Los Angeles. Along the way John taught/led dance from across a 500 year spectrum at a dozen different events, Aylwen taught and studied historical costume at a few special events, and they both enjoyed lots of inspiring dancing, costuming and company. Since returning they have been busy with a Bordonian and Cinderilla ball, a big display at a Dance Kaleidoscope event, and even bigger project running dance for a National Trust Ball in Yass, and preparing for a full spring and summer class, ball and display program.
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