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Dancing the New Vogue dance: Barclay Blues
partnered by Don Herbison-Evans
passed away peacefully in her sleep|
25th August 2010
after battling leukemia and lymphoma.
Anna loved dancing even as a child, but could not take lessons as her mother was a supply teacher and had to keep moving around the area where they lived, near Bandung in Java.
Anna's parents were Dutch. The Dutch colonist in Java were a closed conservative society. Anna's father's family disapproved of his marriage, and when Anna's mother fell pregnant, totally disowned her, leaving her as a single parent to raise Anna in a very disapproving society.
As a result, Anna's mother lived off temporary jobs, and Anna had 17 changes of address before the war came. Anna never had any childhood friends except the servants at her grandfather's plantation, where her mother occasionally dumped her when life got too tough. The plantation grew herbs for essential oils in the perfume industry, including Patchouli, and later in life, curiously, Anna found that she could not stand the smell of perfumes that contained Patchouli.
The area was surrounded with jungle. At one time, her grandfather's pet dog escaped from the home compound, and was later found and brought home by some itinerant merchants, still alive but badly mauled, probably by a tiger. Anna's mother loved orchids, and would venture into the nearby jungle collecting plants. Sometimes she and Anna would just walk into the jungle, and sit quietly in a clearing, and just watch the birds.
In the second world war: Anna and her mother were interned by the Japanese for 3 years, but Anna started taking modern ballet lessons from another camp inmate who was a professional dancer. Anna's mother kept Anna, who was then in her late teens, dressed as a schoolgirl to diminish the chance of the guards taking advantage of her. Food was very short in the camp, and Anna was allowed out to buy milk from adjacent villages. She often returned with her bloomers stuffed with unripe mangoes, which were cooked and heavily spiced by the inmates to supplement their meagre rice diet.
They were moved from their initial camp at Bandung to another in Jakarta, and later again to an old Lunatic Asylum on the outskirts of Jakarta. Throughout all this time, after the war, Anna found that her mother had managed to smuggle through some valuable jewellery sewn to the underside of a false bottom of a basket.
Near the end of the war, the family of the camp commander were killed by the atom bomb in Hiroshima. The commander then had all the inmates start digging a mass grave in which he intended to bury them after massacring them. Luckily the British troops arrived before the commander could complete his mission.
After the war, Anna discovered that her mother had often left the camp at night and was a member of the Resistance, participating in raids on the Japanese. Her mother had kept this secret from Anna so that Anna would not be implicated if her mother was caught.
After the war Anna and her mother were offered the option of moving from Java. Initially they went to New Zealand, but after a few months changed their minds are moved to Australia. Anna was thrilled to be able to start teaching ballroom dancing. She worked at a number of studios in Sydney, typically in the evenings, and had a variety of waitress and barmaid jobs in the daytime. Meanwhile her mother returned to Java to finish her last teaching contract and so obtain a pension. Later she returned to live in Sydney, buying a house in Hurstville. Meanwhile Anna moved around Sydney, renting rooms variously in Summer Hill, Belmore, and Marrickville.
After going out with a number of boyfriends, she fell in love with, and married Donald Frederick Drummond. He was a returned soldier, having served in New Guinea in the war. So he was able to buy a block of land and build a house using his low interest war-service loan from the government. They bought a block of land at 19 Deakin Street Concord, and got quotations from a number of builders. They accepted the cheapest with trepidation, but it turned out that the builder did an excellent job with a high grade of workmanship. His tender was so low because he used end-of-line specials for all his building supplies, much to the disgust of the other tenderers when they found out.
Don Drummond's parents disapproved of Anna's dancing, saying she would be out dancing all the time, and would not attend to her homemaker duties. So Anna gave her dancing away.
While their house was being built, they lived with Don's parents. Don's mother was very overbearing, and Anna was very pleased when she and Don finally could move into their Concord home. After 17 changes of address before the war in Java, Anna said she had had another 17 changes of address after the war, and having settled into Deakin Street, said she was determined that she would never move again
Don got a job driving trucks at the local Mortlake Gasworks, and enjoyed entertaining his coworkers at home. One of their friends was on the run from an abusive husband and was secretly pregnant. This they discovered when she suddenly gave birth in their bathroom. This made for headlines in the local paper of "Baby born in toilet".
With the birth of Anna's three children Jenny, then Megan, and later Ian, she found it increasingly difficult to balance the budget on Don's wages. To get food at the lowest prices: she would walk, pushing her pram with her latest infant, to Burwood and back several times a week, sometimes twice in one day.
Anna was often stressed by disagreements between her mother in law and her own mother, who had differing views on housekeeping and raising children. At one stage, Don's mother went through Anna's things, throwing out and burning what she thought was rubbish. Sadly this included some beautiful unframed Indonesian paintings which Anna kept in a folder between loose papers for protection. Anna never forgave her mother in law for this.
The marriage was fine until by chance one day Don met his schooldays sweetheart, who was ill and had no job. Don offered her the job of nanny for the children so Anna got a job at Containers. But Don's affections turned away from Anna, and in due course they were divorced. In lieu of alimony, Anna asked for and was granted Don's half of the ownership of their Concord home, so that Anna could maintain a stable household for her children.
About this time, Anna heard that her father had died. Anna had never been allowed to see her father during her time in Java, and was surprised to hear that he had survived the war, and even more surprised to hear that he had left her some money. It turned out to be just the sum needed to pay off the rest of the war-service loan, so that the house became totally Anna's.
Later she met and married Keith Piper. He came with four children of his own from a previous marriage, so they bought a caravan and parked it up the garden. The boys were relegated in the caravan, and the girls lived in the house. Keith was keen on dancing, and they went to social dances at local Scottish clubs around Sydney.
Sadly Anna discovered that Keith was having affairs, so Anna divorced him, again retaining title to her Concord home.
She started dancing again, and met Dennis Handley. He was very keen on dancing, and they started having private lessons, and in 1981 started entering dance competitions. They competed together for three years, reaching 'C' Grade (now level 3) in Standard Ballroom and New Vogue, and 'D' Grade (level 2) in Latin American. This was a considerable feat, as they were both over 35, and were considered to be 'Senior' dancers, but had to compete for grades against 'Adult' dancers with ages ranging from 17 upward.
After that partnershhip broke up: Anna continued social dancing, and attending classes and lessons at every dance studio in Sydney, searching for another partner. She also started dancing for medals. These are awards of attainment, with levels of bronze, silver and gold, and various sublevels of bars and stars in between. Whilst medals can be taken in a studio, a number of dance societies encouraged dance students to take their medals publicly at the regular festivals where competitions were held. Typically they are danced with one's teacher, and are an excellent way of demonstrating one's prowess when seeking a partner.
After two years without a partner, Anna met Don Herbison-Evans when she replied to Don's advertisement for a partner in the Australian Dance Review in 1987. They started competing in 1988, and over a period of nearly 20 years in competitions reached Masters II Level 4 (Senior B) grade in Standard Modern Ballroom, in Latin & American, and in New Vogue, and D grade in English Old Time/
Anna refused many times to be elevated to Level 5, as then she would only be entitled to enter Open events at the competions. By staying at Level 4 she got a chance to dance both in her graded event and the open. Towards the end of her career, she and Don were often the only couple in their combination of age group and grade in the competitions, so they would dance in their events on their own before the audience. By her skill and her age, she became a great favourite of the dancing community. Her favourit dance was the Paso Doble, in which she had some spectacular moves. Although the rules allowed the curtailing of the music to just 30 seconds when only one couple was competing, the promoters often extended it to 2 minutes to let Anna dance her full Paso Doble to entertain the audience.
Anna loved animals. While working at Containers, a worhmate brought in a Bearded Dragon for her. She took it home under her jumper, having a lift from another workmate. When he discovered what she had done, he said he would have made her walk home if he had known of the extra passenger. 'Frilly' as the lizard was named became a popular household pet. He loved music, and every Wednesday morning he would come into the living room to listen to a weekly popular music programme on the wireless.
Another time, they found a baby hare in a nearby paddock. Anna fed it bottled milk, and it grew up to be a much loved pet of the family. Don Drummond once also brought home a lamb from work. Again, Anna reared it on a bottle, and it grew up to be a large ram. Sadly they came home after a few days holiday to find that it had been shot by local kids.
Ian also had a pet tortoise. Sadly that wandered across the road and was killed by a lawn mower when their neighbour accidentally ran over it when he mowed his lawn.
One time on a trip to Bundaberg with Don Herbison-Evans, they stopped for an Echidna that was starting to cross the road. Anna picked it up and put it back on the verge from which it had come. It promptly restarted crossing the road, so Anna held up the traffic until it had crossed.
Anna had a cat called 'Mittens', and later Anna kept one of Mitten's daughters called 'Tabby'. Tabby was very clever, and discovered how to slide open the insect screen om the bathroom window. Each night, Anna would put Tabby out, and each morning Tabby would come in through the bathroom window, jump onto Anna's bed, and wake her up by licking Anna's face.
Anna was given a series of dogs at various time by friends who had moved homes. One Collie dog that she was given permanently was called 'Anitra', so to keep Anitra company Anna went to the pound at Yagoona and got a companion dog she called 'Lady'.
When the Anitra died, Anna found that there was a stray dog, a small black Staffordshire bitzer, in Archer street, where Anna used to go to Pat Bainbridge to have her hair done once a week. Pat and her neighbours did not know where that dog slept but it was always wandering around the street. Anna picked him up one time, and he seemed very tame, so she carried him home and introduced him to Lady. Lady was delighted to have a new friend, so he became 'Scamp'.
Later when Lady died, Anna again went to the pound and got a companion for Scamp, this one a Foxie called 'Granada'.
Anna's garden was quite large, nearly 1/2 acre, so the dogs had plenty of room to dash about, but of course they were curious about the outside world. They would love to be taken for walks. They would also escape whenever the gate was accidentally left ajar, which led to long walks and drives around the neighbourhood to find them.
Anna also loved birds. She kept her garden rather overgrown, her 'Jungle' she called it. Finches and Blue Wrens loved it. One time, one of her friends Billy had parked and was working on his boat up the driveway in the garden, when a family of Blue Wrens came and started hopping around him.
Dennis built an aviary in the garden in which he kept quarions and other birds. When he left, Anna started putting out seed for the wild birds in a feeder hung on the clothes line. The washing was moved to lines in the garage, which had the advantage that the birds could no longer use the washing for target practice. The car was relegated to an outdoor life on the driveway.
The birdseed also attracted a number of the local pigeons, including one in particular that was pure white except for a black band around its neck. That one became very tame and would eat seed from her hand. Then she noticed it appearing more often, and finally discovered that there were two of them. They built a nest in the rafters of the garage, and in due course much to Anna;s delight, successfully raised a chick.
One Galah started coming to the birdseed, and also became very tame. Anna called him "Pretty Boy". Then he brought another Galah with him, so Anna called that one "Mrs Pretty Boy". After a few months they brought their family over, and thereafter the garden was often beseiged by Galahs.
But lots of other parrots came too, and at various times she had Rainbow Lorakeets, Corellas, Cockatoos, King Parrots, Eastern Rosellas, Grass Parrots, and even a Indian Ringneck that had apparently escaped from captivity.
Anna with Don Herbison-Evans|
Underarm turn in the Rumba
Anna with Don Herbison-Evans|
Throwaway Oversway in the Waltz
Anna, with Don Herbison-Evans, travelled widely for their dancing. They at one stage went to Perth, and another time to Cairns for competitions. When Don's sons got married in USA, the went to their weddings then stayed an extra week to compete in dance competitions there, one time in Austin, Texas, and another time in Washingto DC. A highlight was winning the Open American Smooth Waltz event in the competition in Washington by performing the Australian "Vanity Waltz".
Their biggest adventure was a trip to Russia. With glasnost, Russia decided to open the city of Vladivostok to the world of tourism, whereas previously for over a hundred years it had been a military city closed to foreigners. Russia decided to have an international festival there, including an international ballroom competition. They invited distinguished dance professionals from all over the world to bring their leading students, expenses paid. Anna's coach Neville Boyd was one of those invited, and he asked several of his student couples, including Anna and Don, to accompany him. Each couple, besides dancing in the competition, was also expected to dance a demonstration piece. Neville's other couples dropped out for various reasons, so Anna and Don picked up their party pieces, and ended up doing demonstrations of the Square Rumba to the "Peanut Vender", an Argentine Tango to "Dark Eyes", and a New Vogue Medley. The logistics of getting to Vladivostok from Sydney were complicated, involving a flight to Tokyo, Bullet train to Nigata, flight to Khabarovsk, and finally a flight to Vladivostok. This was an adventure in its own right.
The Vladivostok dance venue turned out to be a large theatre. The adjudicators were seated across the back of the stage, waiting competitors along each side of the stage, and an audience of 2,000 were seated in the auditorium. The keen competitors, vying for the attention of the judges, danced at the back of the stage. Anna and Don guessed that they were unlikely to win against the fierce international competition, so decided to dance to the audience across the front of the stage. As expected, they only won minor placings in the competition, but were surprised to win a prize for the "Most Popular Couple". One of their prizes was a large heavy crystal fruit bowl with a metal stand. When they got to Vladivostok airport to return home, this put their baggage over the weight limit. With great difficulty, Anna tried to explain that they were dancers and had won the heavy fruit bowl in competition. Finally the officials understood, and said "Ah, artistes" and waved them through.
Anna got the Exhibition Dancing bug when she started studying with Ann Butt in 1990, performing the "Haunted Ballroom" in the studio end of year recital "Petite Performance".
"The Haunted Ballroom"
She continued studying Exhibition Dancing with George Czender, performing for several medals with George at FATD festivals. Later: Anna with Don Herbison-Evans won the Showdance events at two successive Masters Games in New Zealand.
She continued gaining Exhibition medals with Don at FATD festivals, culminating in her "Barcarolle Medley" in 2003. She retired from dancing thereafter, suffering from leaking and calcified heart valves.
Anna's dancing trophies and medals
MAJOR DANCE PRIZES:
She designed her dance gowns herself, and would go on forays around Syney to distant material shops and warehouses. She would return sometimes with up to 50 metres of a prized material, as she liked her ballroom gowns to have full circle skirts with several similar underskirts. She would take or send the material and her design to one of her favourite dressmakers, such as Margaret McMahon, Nola Lowe, or Margaret Kosovich, to have the basic dress made.
Anna first knew of Mararet Kosovitch through her son Nick in Sydney, who for a while was Anna's Latin coach. Margaret lived in Perth but fitting was not a problem as Margaret and Anna discovered over the phone that they were the same size. At the next South Pacific Championship, a lady came up to Anna and said "You must be Anna Piper: that's the dress I made for her" and so they met face to face for the first time.
Having the basic dress made, Anna would then decorate it. Often she would buy a metre or two of lace with a pattern of flowers, and cut out the individual flowers. She would put these with lttle bottles of sequins and diamontes, and beads for securing them, and thread etc in a plastic sandwich box. She would take this box with her whenever she went shopping or travelling, and sew the sequins and diamontes to the lace flowers while waiting for or riding on buses or trains. When enough flowers had been decorated, she would then sew these onto the dress.
Anna liked to wear a differnt combination of her ballroom and latin gowns at every dance competion. She had two basic nail varnish colours: scarlet and magenta. She would choose a ballroom and latin gown combination for each competition such that they would both tone in with her choice of nail varnish, so that she would not have to revarnish her nails between the balltoom and latin events at that competition.
Anna had two wardrobes in her bedroom: one for everyday clothes, and one for her ballroom and latin gowns. Here are some of her favourites:
She is sadly missed by her many friends and dancing colleagues, and her children Jenny, Ian, and Megan, and by her partner Don Herbison-Evans.
dancing photos: Neville Lowe
updated 31 January 2011