The passing of Leslie Newman is a loss to the Australian dance sector, in particular the Commonwealth Society of Teaching Dancing (CSTD) writes Diane Gepp, President of the CSTD.
Mr Newman was an icon in the dance industry. Since his passing, this has been illustrated by the condolence messages the CSTD has received. These messages express the admiration people had for him. Whilst he was held in such high regard by the general dance industry, it is the members of the CSTD who are most appreciative of all he did for the organisation. Mr. Newman held the reigns of the CSTD in a voluntary position from 1976 to his retirement in 2010, a contribution that earned him great admiration and appreciation.
Mr Newman became a professional dancer in 1950s Melbourne. It was here that he met his wife Maureen, also a successful dancer. He spent many years active in dance administration, both at a national and international level. He co-created the ABC television show That’s Dancin’, a precursor to many of today's dance programs. He also served as chairman of the Australian Dancing Board, vice-president of the Asian Pacific Dance Council and was Australia’s delegate to the World Dance Council based in London. He was awarded an OAM, of which he was extremely proud in 1996, for his services to the arts. During his 34 years at the helm of the CSTD, with the support of many of his colleagues, he was able to help grow a vision to expand the Society and take us into the 21st Century. He was often ahead of his time in being able to recognise future trends and opportunities. Most significantly, he had the confidence to try them! By his retirement from the presidency, CSTD had become one of the leading organisations in dance teaching and examinations, not just in Australia but throughout South East Asia.
One of the messages received by the CSTD came from the Hong Kong Dance Federation. The Federation president described Mr Newman as ”one of the best seniors I know, he was so calm and helpful,” and how true that statement is. In a world that thrives on drama and theatrics he was never flustered and, while he never shied away from dealing with difficult confrontations, he did so with composure and authority.
Two words clearly identify Les Newman; “integrity” and “passion”…. his passion for dance, in particular the CSTD, and his integrity in administering it. He also established some wonderful friendships in the dance world. The dance industry, in particular the CSTD, owes a great deal to Mr Newman. We are eternally grateful for his contribution to dance.