'Any dog, of any age, with any handler can get involved in Dog Dancing at a certain level. It's great for bonding and training, but most of all it is hugely enjoyable,' Richard Curtis said in 2006 in an interview published by Southampton Solent University.
I think that's what appeals to me so much about this sport. I'm stiff and no longer young, but I still get great enjoyment from dancing around with Penny. I'll never be much good at it but she's very attentive and seems to love it. Probably she could do very well, but my limitations will restrict us. And basically that doesn't matter, because she's having fun every time we do it, and so am I.
One of the first things Richard said on Saturday, in his seminar here in Melbourne, was that he wanted to see 'helicopter tails'. It's something I've noticed on all the videos of doggy dancing that I've seen on the internet - wagging tails.
The mix of activities with and without the dogs was great. I've never before practised dancing without the dog, and I learned that my own movements should complement the dog's actions. Routines are aimed at drawing the audience's attention down to the dog, but the human can't be just standing around like a statue.
In this photo we were practising using canes
and making sure the free arm was adding to the routine.
Here are some photos of us using the cane in different ways:
It was interesting to listen to music clips and meet in groups to discuss what type of moves would suit that music. Because it was theoretical, we weren't constrained by whether our dogs can actually do the moves. For me that's a new way of thinking about the sport - find suitable music, come up with an overall concept and then train moves that my particular dog can do.
Here's one group's concept for a 'floaty' piece of music:
Another point is to focus on those moves that are really solid and make them the central core of the routine.
Richard emphasised the need to look at the transitions between moves. We all had a turn to link three moves, using a large space, and he drew our attention to the 'hitches' in the dogs' movements as they moved from one position to another. For instance, moving from heeling at our left to weaving between our legs. It was really obvious that I hadn't managed this well, because Penny actually had to do a skipping movement to catch up to me.