Dance, Dance!

My childhood loves that competed with becoming an Egyptologist and being Audrey Hepburn going shopping in Paris (I dreamed big), was to be a ballerina but I have *terrible feet* and no natural turnout which are essential to avoid injury in later life as a career, the longevity of a professional dancer prone to injury is quite short. Dance and I have history, it is a bit of a family obsession on the maternal side – I once even got to dance in a bright turquoise tutu (that sadly no pictures exist of). When I was growing up, dance was a rather expensive and inaccessible art form unless you took regular dance lessons or studied classical music (I’ve been fortunate to do both). My favourite ballet by far is Swan Lake, closely followed by Coppaelia, a comedy, and the tragedy, Giselle. So when I heard So when the Australian Ballet Company were coming to Adelaide, my mother kindly purchased me a ticket to their Adelaide performance by my mum (

I’ve written about a lot of social events people going to be seen and I go to watch in that creepy way archaeologists do when they observe you, and the audience of a ballet provides fertile ground for the watcher’s imagination. Classical ballet as a dance form is one where it has the whole aura of prestige, with the expected: well to do elder patrons in pearls, coiffed hair and glamorous silks (taffeta perhaps). Yet the performance I went to had an entire cross section of society who were there to see Swan Lake and the Adelaide Festival Theatre created a more anonymous atmosphere simply because in a darkened theatre, it is hard to people watch for their appearance alone. You could tell some of the teeming crowds had never been to the ballet and looked more at home at the footy match next door with the shouting of a footy match and rowdy cheering of a rockstar during the normally polite applause I was used to. I’m personally okay with this crazy unexpected response happening because it means that beyond the Fringe and other arts festivals, the creative industries like dance are becoming more accessible to the average South Australian. I’m going to leave the reviews to experts in ballet though I posted a brief status on the Lonely Archaeologist Facebook:  (

Later I was asked by a friend about Swan Lake and I rudely replied it wasn’t Disney and the plot would beyond him. It’s actually more deeply tragic Brothers Grimm material and a sad tale that had me crying like I was at a chick flick during the Dying Swan sequence with snotty nose -I don’t cry pretty even at the ballet. However I took the entirely wrong attitude when asked about the ballet and  lost an opportunity to encourage ordinary people to see Swan Lake or other dance shows. I was guilty of making it inaccessible through traditional snobbery as much as the Big C, high culture experts in their ivory towers and went against my very own ethos of arts for the common people. 

That being said, googling Swan Lake isn’t too hard and as an aspiring science and tourism communicator, I could have explained the Swan Lake story easily enough but one thing you do have to consider is what your audience will be receptive to. Part of my expertise should be to create interest in a subject but individual taste needs to be accounted for and this one felt like it was going to be a waste of my time. This is the full Australian Ballet Company webpage on Swan Lake’s cast from the ABC if you want more information on the ballet (

Films like Centre Stage, Step-Up, High Strung, Make It Happen and various sequels next to the critically acclaimed, Black Swan, create dance in an easily consumable form for at home audiences. Film breaks down walls between the audience and fantasy of the dance world while keeping some of the magic with a decent soundtrack  but retaining of the hard reality elite dancers face. The ABC teen series, Dance Academy, was popular with all ages of audience and was granted money to film a sequel this year. So dance as an art form is becoming very much an artform people are aware of among many Australian demographic targets and there is now special interest tourism in it. 

Which is why I now move on to ‘Mortal Condition’, a two part contemporary dance performance I saw at the Space Theatre a few weekends ago on a hunch. It was chereographed by Larissa McGowan as a take on popular culture video games and was described as “an angry Lara Croft versus Tetris”.

I’m extremely fluent in popular culture references after studying it at a tertiary level, from seeing the Lara Croft films, tonplaying Tetris and watching my brother and his friends playing games like Grand Theft Auto. The dancing was a mix of the contemporary dance I grew up studying mixed with martial arts from Mortal Kombat  and the conceits of objectifying female computer game characters, I’m familiar with in each of the genres. I found the second act more compelling as the first was artistically brilliant but the relationship between the dancers were ambiguous where as the in the second act with the two female dancers, I understood as female characters are often supposed to be part of a girl squad like Taylor Swift in ‘Bad Blood’ and yet competition for each other. This is why I liked ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘ in that woman on woman action with the exceptional Glorificus.

I’ll also leave a review by a professional media reviewer (

Mortal Condition was accessible in a way that Swan Lake traditionally isn’t and I was glad to know that classical ballet  isn’t destinied to become a lost art form as the rowdy crowd cat called the principal dancers. I think the breakdown between art and audience is broken down we can create a thriving creative industry all year around. And it pleases me to announce Lonely Archaeologist will be cutting its creative review teeth on the Cabaret and Burlesque season through June and July 2016. Watch this space for Sapphire Snow and Anya Anastacia among our Burlesque and Cabaret. Winter is coming!

Clara Rosetta Santilli 


National Archaeology Week: Meet the Students

“No I’m not wearing spandex!”
It’s National Archaeology Week, also coincidentally International Museum Day. I get told that archaeology is boring regularly yet when I tell people what I study, there’s a bit of a mystique thanks to Indy, Lara, Daniel and my great love, River Song. We are seen as capable adventures and sometimes we delude ourselves into the invincibility trap, which is why today I’m writing from bed rather than on North Terrace at the museums along there. I’ll be posting some museum specific posts before Sunday.

This brings me to archaeology, what is it we actually do? Archaeologies probably should be the proper plural but at the very base definition of what archaeologists do, we observe and record the way humans behave when they interact with each other, artefacts they use and the environments they occupy. Technically we study material culture or things!

We have several archaeology programs at my university, Flinders University of South Australia; the three biggest programmes being the maritime, indigenous and cultural heritage management. We have a small forensic program, some anthropology and an award winning innovative archaeologist nicknamed, Dr Space Junk  (Alice Gorman).

I’m currently doing an odd mix of archaeology and culture heritage tourism since when I started my archaeology degree,  I was healthy and young twenty something. I’ve had to adapt when I found myself differently dis/Abled later in my mid 20s and thirties figuring out what to do next. I took a literature degree at UNE (later with English 2.1 honours in literary vampires) and a double major BA with Palaeoanthropology & archaeology and English. This wasn’t as mad as it sounds as an English literature degree was an asset in a course that involves as much writing, recording and investigating as specific technical skills learned when practicing in the field as archaeology does.

In 2013, I came back to Flinders University and choose the Master of Archaeology program because one of the key traits of an archaeologist is adaptability and inventiveness on top of genuine curiosity. There is also the willingness to do some strange things like figuring out how to buy the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney a Dalek for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who last year or work how much a voodoo doll replica is worth by looking for them on Etsy of all places because genuine voodoo dolls aren’t easy to come by let alone the replicas .

In my journey as an archaeology student, if you can’t fit into the structure, you can give up or you can try it all and find out what you are good at, what your passion is and what leverage you have. Then you find those mentors and teachers that will help you and let you fill out an accession form a model of Dalek. My defining moment was in Biodiversity Week in 2014 when I discovered “science communication” through the art of the award winning, Professor Flint (Michael Mills of Heaps Good Productions).  I was also taking a tourism course at the time on the art of interpretation (the act of creating accessible information that appeals to and communicates with tourists at places like museums, parks and historical/heritage locations) like West Terrace Cemetery or the SA Museum. I connected the two subject areas and decided I wanted to do tourism units, so I talked to my lecturers who are very supportive of me about arranging my tourism electives to be in the archaeology  curriculum and where I was headed career wise.

After the Professor Flint interview for the  journal of our student archaeology club, I decided I belonged with the science communication network rather than practicing and consulting archaeologists because I felt people needed to understand why we do science, tourism and history in plain language and how it was important to their daily lives. This was something I can achieve with my capabilities and limitations of my dis/Ability. 

This then blog which was going to be primarily cultural heritage tourism  extended into a pet project about the culture industries in Adelaide where I’m supporting local and Australian acts at the Adelaide Fringe, arts festivals and in the creative industries because SA has the potential to be a cultural capital of Oz all year around. According to some people, the Fringe either got too big or small and this came from me going out to blog an event, randomly make a serendipitous friend on social media and now my range of subjects expanded into the arts (I grew up in an artistic environment). I get to do all the things I love and it’s all still cultural anthropology and modern material culture archaeology!

Monday night, I joined the Meet the Archaeology Students in presenting for Archaeology Week. Below is my interpretive display about life as archaeology student and other horror stories. I honestly thought people would be more excited by the access to tools like trowels and use social media to promote the event, but my reception seemed cold so I guess that is a failed exercise in interpretation and I’ve learned it would have been better aimed at kids who love props. The thing is, it was a hard audience to read and my lecture presentation style is mostly more relaxed and informal rather than the very technical and fascinating talks given by the other students on actual research they’d conducted. But there was no reason given why we are relevant and what problems our research solves which is what I failed to do. At least my display looked nifty! 

Interpretive Display of Archaeology Field Kit
After I interviewed the science communicator, Michael Mills (aka Professor Flint of Dinosaurs Down Under fame), I then tried my hand at editing the archaeology society journal as a short contributions editor after writing a book review on Hillforts (because I’m actually a palaeoanthropology student technically). And as a short piece writer, I found I’d much prefer to be writing local history events but my ideas weren’t suitable for the archaeology society blog, so I started Lonely Archaeologist on Facebook and then WordPress, branching out from places like the SA Museum or Harry Potter marathon at the State Library into the 2015-16 Fringe season.

 I was hardly on home territory but it expanded my understanding of tourism as I learned on job as “media”. Right now I’m writing about burlesque and cabaret to go with my history of dance appreciation for June and July with the Burlesque and Cabaret festivals coming in the winter. It’s good to know where your strengths and weaknesses are as a writer and presenter, I seem to appeal to a much younger demographic as I found out a few weeks ago at SAM’s Night Lab event with my stint as the Flour Girl for a grindstone demo. That story is coming I promise! There will be bread and mayhem!

 What now? At present I’m struggling with some cultural heritage legislation in an archaeology assignment because of ill health but doing a great job about my tourism assignment on Montenegro presentation because I’m better at tourism and can do presentations  delirious (true story involving pirates and cannons) because I do a lot of local stuff and have public speaking longer than I remember. 

However, I still love archaeology and an opportunity came along to write a paper on popular culture archaeologists beyond Indy and Lara, well within the realm of my English Honours comparative literature skillsbase, I’d put in an abstract with low hopes of being accepted. Surprisingly, I was actually contacted by the editors for further information and yesterday with the help of my mentor, I’ve submitted to a second journal. I might be published. I might not but I tried and that’s where you get the experience to produce better proposals by trying and trying again.

 That’s an incredible feeling when your passions converge and there’s just that possibility of success as well as learning from failures like at ‘Meet the Archaeology Students’. So I’m taking some advice from ‘The Martian’ that Matt Damon says to his students at the end of the film, you just keep on solving each problem as it comes up and hope you survive and you’ll hopefully find your way home.
Clara Rose Santilli

National Archaeology Week: A review of the Shields Exhibition at the SAM

imageHi Clara Rose here! So busy with National Archaeology Week but its International Museum’s Day on Wednesday. So for me this is a very short review on Lonely Archaeologist, because I went to see the Shields: Power and Protection in Aboriginal Australia at the SAM earlier this week. I was amazed at the exhibit because I was taught at my NSW country schools that very few indigenous people had used shields at all apart from primative guerrilla style warfare and it was a sign of inferiority to the early white settlers (yeah teachers, you got that wrong!).  The thing is, the exhibit taught me there were many many shields and they had a multitude of known and probably more unknown uses. A very wise archaeologist said to me in my second year of university, Dr Claire Smith, how does one define a culture that builds a larger intangible culture than a material culture that archaeology and anthropology hasn’t quiet figured out how to measure yet? 

For me that changed my perspective on how I saw belief and ownership of ideas as archaeologists and how it is different as a person. As a specialist working for a tribe, we are entrusted custodians of those stories, the lives of the old people, the songlines, the old ways. But we don’t own the image or have the right to use it, it’s privelged information held with confidentiality like a doctor or lawyer or counsellor. A guy had a problem with that when I pointed out a sacred image being passed around the internet was cultural appropriation and benefitted the owners in no way and I could not tell him more than it shouldn’t be spread as an internet meme no matter how well intentioned. I tried to explain that while I held this information, I was caring for it but I never owned it and it wasn’t my decision on how it should be properly used. 

I’m not an elder, but Shields did teach me that no matter who we are or what land we come from, if we call this land home and respect it, we can all build and own our own stories in the end. Stories – they are how we connect people to people, people to places and us to country. My country strangely seems to be SA though I’m not a local, it’s become so much a part of my own story. 

The very last chance to see into Shields exhibition was before the 22nd May 2016. It was brilliantly designed, aesthetically engaging with the clever spear and shadows scene, the playful Phantom shield and movingly curated 360 degree showcase of shields with the glass casing allowing you to see all aspects of the work. 

Our guide was telling some school kids (whose tour I happened upon) explained that the inside of a particular shield was decorated so the shield bearer’s beliefs were protecting him from inside the shield as well as an external defence.  The SA museum gratefully acknowledged the generous support of the Shields Leadership Council and curator Philip Jones. Dr Jones will be gave a curatorial lecture on 6pm on Wednesday 18th May 2016 at the SA Museum. 

I grew up around the NSW/QLD border, New England and the Northern Tablelands and later Coffs Harbour. In all that time and geography, I honestly had not known about Indigenous Australians using shields (as wooden artefacts do not always survive all that well in the harsh Australia environments). 

I was surprised to learn that shields were not just for obvious cases like protection in warfare or powerful status symbols by tribal leader but also demonstrated the the immense relationship that a shield can convey between individual and country. I have a few personal symbols I identify with, not shields;  but journals for me, that tell the tales of my life, of the inner life I own, of my connections to life. It’s empowering to own your create your own history and own your stories, it’s like the power of a name or a flag. It’s your identity. And it’s bigger than that, you tap into this powerful beautiful mighty land who sings out for those listeners. The Kaurna teach their children to listen and observe their elders and I don’t feel that’s a coincidence. 

There’s actually shields in the exhibit that illustrate first settlement phase of Australia that were painted to please the invaders that I found sad but stories do change and I think we need to learn this one on Museum’s Day every year. Please  see how the art of shield making is being revived as Indigenous Australians reclaim their traditions in modern times and rediscover old and new stories of the land. 

My favourite part of the exhibit was actually a recording of Jack Buckskin of the Kaurna and Narrunga nations explaining shield making with young people as a form of cultural continuity and that they owned the story that comes crafted with the shield, that their shield becomes a physical, tangible manifestation of their story and connection. 

A second recording of Darren Wanganeen explained that shield identity and places showed how old some of the scarred trees used to make shields are, outdating Adelaide as we know by hundreds of years. I really hope the SAM make those videos both available as a learning resource on their social media accounts and webpage because even if you don’t see the shield collection curated first hand, I do believe that they are important in understanding culture and country in Aboriginal Australia. ~ Clara Rose Santilli.

Accio Books!


Hello every body! Clara Rose back, just gearing up for National Archaeology Week (next week) and International Museums Day on the 18th May for 2016. I will be blogging more on this over the weekend but among the mayhem and flour, I have neglected to introduce you all to the Southern Seekers, the local chapter of the worldwide charity organisation, The Harry Potter Alliance (

The Harry Potter Alliance embraces fandoms other than just Harry Potter and there are currently just four chapters of the HPA in Australia. We are a group that believes that fans can be heroes and have an authentic love of our particular fandoms and use genuine passion to promote activism that is also fun.

We hold our local meetings on the third Monday of every month at Dymocks bookstore in Rundle Mall and tickets for dates can be found through Eventbrite (website or app). We have a Facebook page for the Southern Seekers and are supported by Thebarton High School.

As part of our charitable efforts, we are currently running a campaign called Accio Books! that aims to send a library of books for students of all ages to a school in Uganda this year. Please see the image above about what sort of books we are seeking and the drop off point is Dymocks in Rundle Mall. You are welcome to dress in your house colours and we will be having a few exciting events through out the year. I asked the Sorting Hat to be Slytherin, naturally.

Clara Rose

Guest Post: Cronut Cones

Hullo! Jana here again!

Cronut is a strange word… it’s the amalgamation of the word croissant and doughnut. Taking it to the next level and making cones out of them is some bizarre thinking. But fortunately for Lonely and myself the Bakery on O’Connell has provided the public with this crazy food experience.

The day got off to a strange start. Since it was the day that a local sports team was playing their fans were flocking and swarming towards the sports arena. This meant that they were on all the buses and trains and gathered in groups around bus and train stops. I was wearing grey and blue and very distinctly did not look like a sports fan. On top of the mass migration of sports fans the directions that Google had given me were inaccurate and tried to make me get off a few stops after the Bakery.

As far as I can tell the Bakery on O’Connell is very popular, especially at lunch time on a Saturday afternoon. There were people lined up everywhere! Lonely sent me out on a menu recon mission. Eventually I managed to locate a list of how the cronut cones were served. They came in a few flavours as seen below and were served with a choice of soft serve or whipping cream… I took a photo of the menu and brought it back to the table Lonely was fiercely guarding.


For whatever reason we both chose to have salted caramel cones topped with soft serve. So I went back and ordered two salted caramel cronut cones. Tada! I handed Lonely’s to her and we started attempting to eat them (with the obvious exception of quickly trying to take photos while my cone was melting).


It was the tallest cone ever. Maybe even about 30 centimetres tall. The salted caramel sauce dribbled from within the cone and coated my serviette. The soft serve started melting as soft serve does for no apparent reason. I wondered who invented this and why?

We ate fairly quickly because to be honest these cronut cones wanted to be with us forever… In way of dripping ice cream or caramel onto our clothes or hiding cinnamon and sugar in the strangest locations. The process of eating them was far from elegant. Lonely described the process as eating like a viking toddler. It was messy and essentially just a race again the cone. But it was a delicious, sugary race. One that I’d gladly try again better prepared.


We finished our cones and inspected the damage. Lonely had sugar on her eyebrow. I had a mix of salted caramel and sugar and cinnamon on my nose. I smelt like I had been pushed into a vat of liquid caramel.

After grabbing a mountain of serviettes and a cup of water to clean ourselves off. (Think blue whale in a birdbath… Not really enough water to feel sufficient but enough to move cinnamon and sugar.)

As we waited for the sugar rush to kick in, I saw a woman hand a young girl a cronut cone and thought ‘Man, that looks delicious but good luck, kid!’

If you want to see more of what I see you can follow me on Instagram or if you want to read my thoughts contained within 140 characters you can follow me on Twitter. Or if you are curious about my creative writing check out my new Blog. Thanks for having me again! 🙂 — Jana