A time to dance, a time to mourn ...

Shona MacTavish gave her final performance yesterday.

Naturally, the woman who brought dance to thousands of people as a performer, choreographer and teacher was centre stage and an individual to the end, her coffin being a bespoke, flower-bedecked piece of wickerwork.

Mrs MacTavish (99) died last Tuesday after a colourful and eventful life.

As her son, Dugald, told a packed Knox Church service, it was remarkable that she had lived and worked in Austria, Australia, China and South Africa, married and had three children, become a widow and returned to New Zealand, all by the age of 35.

People express their love of movement at Shona MacTavish’s funeral at Knox Church yesterday. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
People express their love of movement at Shona MacTavish’s funeral at Knox Church yesterday. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Back in Dunedin, the training Mrs MacTavish received as a dancer with the Bodenwieser Ballet was imparted to generations of New Zealand dancers, as many of the country's leading performers and choreographers took their first steps with her encouragement.

Many returned the favour yesterday, dance featuring at the beginning, middle and end of the service.

The casket was escorted throughout its journey by dancers, Mrs MacTavish's daughters Trina and Terry danced Let Justice Roll Down, and as the service closed, members of the congregation were invited to improvise a dance of their own, accompanied by The Byrds' Turn! Turn! Turn!.

It was unrehearsed, unchoreographed and an exuberant cacophony Mrs MacTavish would have enjoyed immensely.

Shona MacTavish
Shona MacTavish
While she was best known as a performer, having founded New Zealand's first modern dance studio, her three children all highlighted Mrs MacTavish's concern for social and human rights issues, her passion for the underdog, and how she would always give something of herself to other people.

''She could make people feel secure in an insecure world,'' Trina Laurence said.

Terry MacTavish, who wore a ring given to her by her mother to mark her first Shakespearean performance, saluted the fruitful partnership Mrs MacTavish had with Louise Petherbridge for many years, and her mother's irresistible smile.

''It's not possible to put Mum in a little box, or in a 10-minute talk.''

-A full obituary will follow.


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