Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Robin Grove

I learned yesterday afternoon of the death of Robin Grove, a much loved teacher and scholar. He was also a dancer, in his day, and something of a composer. Years before I met the man and his equally generous and warm family, I followed his reviews of dance -- mostly ballet -- in the Australian. At a time (in the mid 1980s) when dance reviews were either apologetic and sycophantic (ballet) or just plain vicious (anything vaguely experimental), Robin’s reviews were a revelation. He looked at ballet with cool, analytical appreciation. He saw this established art form through structuralist eyes. He never actually came out and said “pointe work is footbinding” but the idea hovered.

Robin Marshall Grove (2/2/1941-25/12/2012)

Whether he knew it or not, Robin’s writing prompted me to give reviewing a crack. (I looked at the dance reviews in my local paper and thought: I can do better! The editor, apparently, agreed.)

I believe it was 1991 when I met Robin and Lee Christofis, another great voice in dance criticism. ‘Criticism’ in its most creative and positive sense. But I didn’t really get to know the depths of Robin’s CV until I had to introduce him at a Green Mill forum at the Melbourne Town Hall in January 1994. (The other panelists were the equally eminent Michelle Potter, Jill Sykes and Graeme Murphy.)

In later years, I came to know Robin and his wife Elisabeth socially, and spent many evenings in their Williamstown home when the Melbourne Dance Critics Circle (as we half-jokingly styled ourselves) gathered for regular debriefs. Shirley McKechnie, Vicki Fairfax and Blazenka Brysha were also regulars.

Many know Robin as an academic (a “lovely man” writes Cameron Woodhead; Cam “clung to his Shakespeare courses like a limpet” to get him “through Dark Times at the Melbourne University English department in the 90s”) and supervisor (Jordan Beth Vincent’s PhD, for one).

Robin was the most gentle, tactful and thoughtful man I have encountered in my adult life. No doubt his family -- Lis and the children -- are feeling his loss keenly. Robin died on Christmas day. He was 71.

His funeral is at 2pm Thursday January 3 at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Nelson Place Williamstown.