A double-bill of Indian dance was performed by Pagrav (literally ‘sound of feet’) Dance at the Brewhouse in Taunton.

Anant-Endless by Urja Desai Thakore explored the endless journey of a dancer. Can’t say I realised that until I read the flyer. I didn’t understand the story being portrayed, nor can I comment on the quality or authenticity. However Urja Desai Thakore delivered exciting yet controlled spins, a fluidity of movement with ankle bell-adorned footwork using intricate ball, heel and toe positions, and her eyes were an integral part of the fabric of the dance, expressing pure joy in a way rarely seen in western dance.

I, within saw her joined by Archana Ballal in a dark and compelling piece. The storytelling Kathak style was imbued with emotion, silence used as powerfully as the soundtrack – a fusion of traditional Indian music and plaintive contemporary discord. Sharp geometric shapes, strong facial expressions and swift changes of pace portrayed perturbation at the multiple calls on women in society, from field worker and home maker to soother and supporter.

The intensity of performance and confident eye contact with the audience in both sets meant I felt they were dancing for me, and me alone. Sadly they were – almost. It would have been better performed in the studio. And a great shame that dance schools did not bring pupils to experience such a multi-faceted performance and expand their knowledge of dance forms rarely seen here.

Review of Rotary conference

Q. How many Rotarians does it take to change a light-bulb?
A. None. Rotarians don’t like change.

So said a speaker at the District 1200 conference at Plymouth last weekend – an indication that the presentations at conference can be interesting, challenging – even humorous.

This conference was not particularly well-attended compared to some others, and my personal opinion is that the choice of entertainment on the Friday evening would not have readily attracted any newer (did I hear younger?) Rotarians. Saturday’s entertainment covered a broader spectrum of tastes. Taunton Vale partied, possibly fuelled by a secret stash of fizz and Ferrero Rochers, and Jan King’s conga and Di Besley’s interesting placement of whisks on a Masterchef fancy dress costume were of note. Actually, ours was the noisiest table.

I make no apologies for starting off with the social side of the conference, as fellowship encompasses conviviality as well as fraternity or sorority. However the reflective content of the conference was in evidence, with speakers challenging the status quo (hence the light-bulb quip), and the District Governor reminding Rotarians of the service element of their involvement – acting as a fulcrum to lever support and action from others and using their professional skills and experience to help others.

There was a balance between serious Rotary business, input from Inner Wheel, and speakers outside Rotary. I no longer feel so traumatised by “Jaws” thanks to a most informative presentation by the Director of the Shark Trust. A former Peace Scholar spoke eloquently. An update on the SNAP appeal for a sensory pool in Chippenham’s St Nicholas School presented the learning points from the planning and implementation of the fundraising appeal, whilst the CEO of charity Hope and Homes for Children spoke of how he tackled the need to change strategic focus from building orphanages for children to preventing the need for such institutions in the first place.

TV reporter Martin Bell (the one always in a white[ish] suit) delivered a blatant promotion of his new poetry book but was none-the-less entertaining, and hirsute TV presenter Dick Strawbridge with moustache handlebars which wouldn’t look amiss on a Harley Davidson also provided a romp through his varied career but with the serious message to grasp every change as an opportunity.

Lipson Vale primary school sang and Sunday saw an act of worship. Then came the finale of Ann Widdecombe, who with sagacity and self-deprecating wit plainly relished answering the questions from the floor on everything from the House of Lords to “Strictly”, explaining her rationale that exposure on reality TV shows allows her to campaign more publicly and effectively on serious issues afterwards. Superb speakers, great company: spirits were uplifted throughout the conference. (And that’s not just at the bar).