Make tracks to the sweet little tropical town of Batchelor, about an hour south of Darwin, for Coomalie Cabaret – an exciting showcase of talent from Tracks Dance Company’s much-loved senior dance group, the Grey Panthers.
By Tierney Seccull
Presented in the lush location of Litchfield Outback Resort, these delightful dancers perform across a range of different eras and dance styles, with everything from gentle, heartfelt numbers to bold glitter and sequins, sure to put a smile on your dial.
Australia's longest-running senior dance troupe first kicked up their heels 35 years ago, and Tracks Dance Artistic Director David McMicken has done the math to come up with some pretty impressive stats.
“There’s been 35 years of classes and 178 Grey Panthers go through. The number of years – if they’ve been there for one year – collectively, is 955 years. That’s huge, isn’t it?” he says.
“By the end of this year, we’re hoping to crack a thousand years. A millennium of Grey Panthers, collectively! That’s a huge amount of wisdom, isn’t it? And the longest anyone has served is 22 years, which is amazing when you note 60 is the minimum starting age.”
There’s no denying the Grey Panthers are a much-loved stitch in the Territory’s creative fabric. After recognising very early on their importance and value in the community, they’ve been an integral part of the Tracks Dance family.
“The fabulous Grey Panthers were formed for a community dance performance in 1988 called Dance on Darwin, and they were formed because that part of the community wasn’t being represented very much, our seniors. And so after that performance, they decided they wanted to keep going, so we started running a weekly class for them,” McMicken says.
“They perform everywhere – community events and charity events, senior events – and they’ve also been in many of our major shows along the years, making sure they represent that intergenerational component of our community.
“They are incredibly loved, and I have to say, when we post things on our socials, if it’s about a Grey Panther, the numbers spike!”
With a gamut of shows under their belts over the decades, the wonderful ensemble continues to thrive with weekly dance classes in Darwin. About five years ago, they also started classes in Coomalie Creek led by long-serving member Darryl Butler, who resides in Batchelor.
Litchfield Outback Report has generously provided a free rehearsal space for 10-12 Grey Panthers each week, so it made sense for this to be the setting of their latest offering. Also in this little mini program of events is an artist talk and digital exhibition, plus some workshops.
The main event is emceed by the hilarious Kyle Walmsley, and features routines from the [huge] back catalogue of Grey Panthers works with choreography from Sarah Calver – who was on deck in 1988 when it all started – and Joanna Noonan of SLIDE Youth Dance Company.
So make a weekend of it and book a stay at the resort, where you can bathe under the waterfalls of Litchfield by day and delight in the legacy that is the Grey Panthers by night. This is one beaut weekend in Batchelor you don’t want to miss!
Thumbnail, header & inset: Photo: Duane Preston