Sunday, 25 September 2011

Art Journaling For Dancers

Around six months or so ago I tentatively took my first baby steps into the magical world of Art Journaling. Sarah, the other half of Sakura Tribal, was bitten by the bug over a year ago after our America trip - inspired by two amazing ladies, Paulette Rees-Denis and Tracy Carlton. It took a little longer for me to be drawn in; maybe I just wasn't in the right place emotionally, or maybe I had too many bad memories of splodgy messes and disapproving looks in Art lessons at school. But having seen some of the beautiful stuff Sarah was producing and after a buying trip to Art From The Heart in Harrogate I was hooked too!

Now, if you're wondering where on earth to start, and are going to Pauline Qu's Tribal Sleepover in Yorkshire in November then you're in luck. Sarah is going to be doing a whole workshop on Art Journaling for Dancers - and she's MUCH better than me! She'll be able to get you started and can answer any questions, show you how to use different materials and so on. Fabulous!

But of course not all of you will be joining us at the Sleepover - so this is for you!

What is Art Journaling anyway? Dyan (Art From The Heart) says :

'Simply put, an art journal is a journal in which you combine art and words to express yourself. That’s it. It’s not complex, and there really aren’t any rules for art journaling. It’s all about self-expression.'

You really don't have to be good at art to join in - hey, I do it! You can use all sorts of media and techniques - paints, ink sprays. stamping, stickers, pens, pencils, collage - whatever floats your boat and speaks to you at any time. You can use no words or one or two words or lots of words. It's all about the creative process. And it's fun!!!

OK, but what has all that to do with dance, you may all be asking. Well, it isn't necessarily anything to do with dance. It's all about you, your life, your emotions, working things out for yourself. But because for me dance is a hugely important part of my life, and of who I am, it naturally comes into all of my art journals - but in very different ways. And I'm thinking that may well be the case for quite a few of you too!

Now, a lot of what you journal could be very personal. Maybe things you really don't want to share --- and that's ok. That's what it's all about - thoughts, hopes, dreams. fears, disappointments, sorrow, anger. Sarah's journals are a lot prettier and  more artistic than mine (yes, I know I said it's all about the process, but it's true!!), but because it IS such a personal (and sometimes private) thing I've chosen to include pages from my own journals here, simply because it was easier to weed out what I'm prepared to share! I'll tell you a bit about the media I used and about the inspiration for what I wrote or created for each photo. Sometimes the inspiration strikes first, and I start splashing paint or whatever around in response ... but sometimes I start to just design and mess around and then the thoughts come.

Anyway, here goes --- I've tried to pick a selection of pages from different journals so you can see different ways you can use the process in your dance, from abstract to more concrete practical stuff ....

I've picked this journal first because it really is my very favourite (you can see a photo of the cover further up this blog)! I had a little card book I bought from an art shop and held onto for a few months - I loved it but nothing I planned to do felt right somehow. And then one day I started to think about how much I have gained from tribal dance , and 'The Gift Of Tribal' was born! Each page in the book represents something different that this dance gives to me. Not too many words or even images ... this book is more about the colour and light that tribal has brought into my life, reflected by the colour and light of the pages. I painted each page first (acrylic paint applied with a baby wipe!) then used spray inks and stencils with metallic pens and a vast array of collagey bits and 'found' sparklies to liven it all up. I love it. It cheers me up whenever I'm in need of a good old tribal hug!

This is a page from one of my current journals (I do tend to have a couple on the go at once!). I've used a lot of paints in this one, and I just love the colours on this page. I was feeling a bit grumpy when I created this - I felt people were trying to tell me what I ought to be doing in a couple of areas in my life, including dance! That might be where the angry orange came from .. but then again I do love orange! I used acrylic paints for the background then used a henna stamp with paint and glitter. I made the big luggage tag at an Art From The Heart workshop - paints, inks, stencils and stamps all went into it! There's another page from this journal - 'Dance Away The Fear' - further up the blog.

Now, just to show you that your art journals don't just have to be about your feelings, here's a more practical use! This is a page from 'The Sakura Chronicles' - our group's record of moves, music, dances, costumes and so on! It acts as an aide-memoire so we know what we've danced and where, and waht we wore. it also is an invaluable record of the moves in our repertoire. A lot of what we do is Gypsy Caravan but we also incorporate some moves and combos from our teacher, Chris Ogden, as well as stuff from workshops with people like Deirdre McDonald and Steffi Colbert. The chronicles keep all those together for us, and it's a work in progress that is added to as we go along. I 'artified' the pages over a couple of days with spray inks, stamps and found items.

Here's another use - as a travel journal! This was one of the first journals I created and in some ways is more of a scrapbook - a collection of memories and souvenirs - than an art journal. There's not a lot of painting/inking going on (apart from this last page where there's a painted 'tag') but lots and lots of writing, doodling, quotes. pictures/leaflets/tickets and so on. All stuff from our America trip, so it's wonderful to read and remember! The beautiful book actually came from Paulette's shop in Clatskanie. Oregon, so was particularly suited for this journal!

Now, just to show you that you DON'T need to use paint and stuff if it scares you! This page is made purely from pretty paper, stickers and pictures - simples! It isn't from an art journal as such, but is from a book of quotations that I put together as an art journal. I think the paper I used to cover the page is actually wrapping paper; there are some gorgeous art papers out there but you don't necessarily have to fork out for them. Save all your bits and bobs and wrappings and lettering from magazines and so on. Inspiration will strike!

Another page from a non-dance journal .... here I was doing an on-line creativity course and thiswas my response to one of the stimuli. I've included it here because I know I had dance on my mind when I did it ... it was one of those pages that just sort of flowed. There's a spray ink background with stamps, stickers and pictures too ... and a few phrases in response to the theme of the page. Again I love the colours in this one! I did this on loose leaf paper then tied the book together with ribbon .... that way you can add stuff or swap it around as you wish. It's also easier not to splodge inks and stuff onto other pages, which can happen with a bound book (although I have found ways around that now!)

Finally, here's a page from one of my current journals. I bought a fabulous little book from a new agey - meditationy sort of shop in Oxford over the summer. It's gorgeous; the cover is made from dried, varnished leaves and it looks really old and Hogwarty! The pages are made from recycled paper and are very porous, so not suitanle for inks or paints .. plus they're a fabulous antique colour which speaks for itself! I'm doing more writing in this than in other journals because of this. I have decorated all the pages with stamps and pens and am writing dance thoughts in as the fancy takes me! I just love the quote on this page ... it really does 'speak to me' (I added the soul singing at the bottom). It's a very simple page that actually does express a strong feeling - maybe some of you will feel it too!

It may well be that you find all this self expression stuff a little 'Woo Woo' (Paulette, do you remember our Woo Woo conversation last August .. when Sarah claimed to be not at all Woo Woo?!).If so, never fear. You can do the arty bit then use your journals for more practical stuff such as recording your progress and things to work on after dance classes. It's really up to you ... do it once a month, week, day, hour ... whatever works! Above all, have fun with it!

Well, that was a long blog --- I got quite carried away there! I can recommend Art From The Heart as a good starting point for books, materials, links and workshops - check it out at But be warned - it's addictive!

Until next time, happy dancing!

I'm giving 'Video of the Week' a rest for a couple of weeks - lots to do at work and not much time to watch dance videos. Sad but true ..... but I'll catch up in a few weeks!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Improv Rocks!

First off, so sorry you didn't get a video of the week this time around --- my non-dance life has been taking its toll! Still, if you're VERY well behaved I may just include one or two videos here for your delectation ...

'Happiness is dancing improv to a live band!' 

Thus spake our lovely friend Jan, after dancing the night away to the fabulous Arcomnia on Saturday! We were back across the Pennines in Shipley (minus Sarah, who couldn't come out to play this time) for a day of fun and frolics with Chris Ogden and 400 Roses, starting with an afternoon workshop. Three hours of great improv later and it was time to don our gladrags in preparation for the evening's tribal hafla. We managed to bag ourselves ringside seats and after a couple of hours of eyeshadowing, hair-falling, skirt tucking and bindi-ing (not to mention safety-pinning and squealing when Jan jabbed me!) we were all ready to go!

Arcomnia had arrived and were busy setting up by this time, so there was a chance to browse the rather impressive souk .... Luloah. Peacock and Rose, Tribal Temptress, Deadly Desires, Feral Strumpet ... sigh.. Tribal heaven!!! There's a great set up at the Kirkgate Centre with a big room for the hafla and separate adjoining rooms for stalls, food and changing. Something for everyone! Eventually, clutching a newly acquired kuchi necklace and Hand of Fatima bindi tightly it was time for the fun to begin!

And what fun it was! Tanzhexen started us off with a deeply dark number (literally - the lights were out!) and were followed by a good variety of performances. I can't remember the order (old age is creeping up on me!) but there were several dances from the Roses in a variety of combinations and permutationsm including Chris and Debbie ... fabulous to watch! In the video below you can see the Roses at the very recent Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing. They're dancing to An Dro ... which we all performed together as a join-in dance on saturday (thank you Lesley for hissing the choreo to me so I didn't go hurtling in the wrong direction!).

We enjoyed tribal style performances from several of Chris' Yorkshire classes as well as a flirty Egyptian number from two Leeds ladies (so sorry girls; I didn't catch your names!). The wonderful Tantrum had also braved the Pennines all the way from Liverpool to entertain us with ATS to Aicha - one of my all-time favourite tracks! I loved Maura's 'Naughty Jacobite' costume and she reappeared later with SpiralDancer to be transported away by that Spirit In The Sky!

However, of course the highlight for us was when we got to hit the dancefloor with the other workshop girls for a bit of improv to Arcomnia live! Such fun! We performed to 'Macrina's Dance, which you can hear on the video below :

Fantastic --- but the fun didn't stop there! Arcomnia played several sets - and the dance floor was never empty. When I browsed through my photos later I couldn't understand why I had only one photo of the boys actually performing, until I realised that pretty much every time they played I was strutting my stuff on the dance floor --- strutting my improv stuff of course!

And that really made the night for me - a spot-on balance between great performances and lots of dancing time that really gave the hafla that dance party feeling! It was made even more perfect by the live musicfrom Arcomnia of course - amazing (not forgetting the Thorns too!). Chris and the Roses really put on a great event with a laid back family feel where everyone had fun! There were lots of sore feet by the end of the evening, a sure sign of a great hafla.Thank you all - and roll on the next one!

Until next time, happy dancing!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Video of the Week - PURE Portland

Something a little different this week!

PURE - or  Pure Urban Ritual Experiment, was founded in 2004  in New York City by Kaeshi Chai , but has now spread to incorporate chapters across the US and internationally! On its home site it is described as being :

  'an international community of artists
who bring change, beauty and awareness, to the world through the power of dance and music.'

This weekend is a particularly appropriate one upon which to visit PURE; as you will see from their site, various simultaneous international performances for peace are planned in the light of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

However, we are not travelling to New York today, but are heading much further west ... to the home of the PURE chapter in Portland, Oregon!

The group take dance movements from a wide variety of world traditions  including Middle Eastern, Far Eastern, Indian, Flamenco and Romani, together with drumming, to create their own unique style. They are all experienced dancers and musicians (including our friend Brandy - woo hoo Brandy!) and this really shines through in their commitment to both community and professional standards :

'As the community participates, no one is a stranger any longer. Dancers and musicians travel down the sidewalks, parks and other public spaces to share their love of dance and music with the public and to pay homage to specific sites.
PURE creates “guerilla happenings” and participates in general blessings & celebrations, charity-organized events, theatre or commercial projects to raise awareness and/or fundraising for causes that promote peace & healing, while striving to uphold professional ethics and performance standards that create community.'

Our first video is an introduction to PURE PDX --- with a mix of interviews, drumming and dancing :

This video really shows what PURE means to these dancers and drummers --- from the coming together as a healing dance community within a larger community to their sheer love of the dance itself. The dancers speak with such a sense of inner peace and the drumming and dancing verge on the hypnotic. Beautiful people, beautiful spirits, beautiful dancing! Oh, and beautiful tops!!!! I so want a top that says 'PURE Portland' on it! Want want want!!!

Sadly I haven't been able to get my hands on any recent You Tubes of PURE Portland .... but here's one from 2009:

From the very first drum beat that heralds the entrance of the dancers that hypnotic quality kicks in again. When you are watching and allow yourself to be truly drawn into this you really get a feeling of the dance reaching far beyond the physical --- and echoing far beyond 2011! It was also fabulous to see some of our Gypsy Caravan and Gypsy Heart sisters among both the dancers and the audience! Hello ladies!!!
You can find out more about PURE Portland and the whole PURE experience at the PURE Portland website and via their Facebook page. Enjoy!

Until next time, happy dancing!

Just a quick apology to the PURE Portland ladies ..... I did e mail to get permission to use some of your photos, but haven't heard back. If you want me to change or take any down please just shout out!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Video of the Week - Tamikrest!

A desert hosts us, a language unites us, a culture binds us.
This week we're going for a music video feature, rather than dance. But it IS music you can dance to so hey,  that's ok!! Many of you will already be familiar with Tinariwen, the band of Tuareg musicians from Mali. Unfortunately I can't link to their website at the moment for techy reasons beyond my ken, but if you haven't just look 'em up on You Tube - they're fab!!! More recently on the scene, and of the same mould are Tamikrest. Founded in 2008 their website says:

'These young men and women are from Kidal in Mali. Their childhood and youth was shaped by the Tuareg riots that evolved into a civil war between 1990 and 1995. Many of their friends and family were killed during that time.
Tamikrest decided to play with guitars instead of Kalashnikows. Their goal was to improve their lives by letting the world know about their desperate situation through their music.
The lyrics deal with the situation of the Tuaregs, about a youth without future, the loss of their culture — but also about love: the love of life and the love for the vast expanse of their home the Sahara.'
Tamikrest website

I first discovered them over a year ago via a link from a Tinariwen video, as I recall, and was totally hooked by ..... well, just listen to this and you'll see!!!

Oh that voice!!! It could melt ... oh, I don't know! Glass or something! It's just amazing. And this track is what I always think of as 'hot' music ... as in it makes me feel warm and relaxed and mellow. However you can sense the sorrow in his voice as he speaks of the despair of conflict :

'Adagh, what has become of your people who used to believe in the same values?'

It was the first track of theirs that I ever heard and I couldn't stop listening to it. I just love it.

Another bit of 'hot' music is this track ---

This is quite simply a love song ---

'If  Aicha was in a valley she would be the flower growing by the water.
If I could have two hearts I would live with one and offer the other to Aicha so that she stays forever happy'

Just beautiful!

Finally, here is a clip of the group from the Guardian's 'Desert Sessions' :

Oh, I so want to be there!!!

Now, I know I said 'finally' but in true form I've been distracted and can't leave you without one final snippet .... it's Dirtmusic (who were right there at the group's formation and have recorded with them) and Tamikrest performing the Velvet Underground's 'All Tomorrow's Parties':

THAT voice may not be there but it's good to see them working together!

Tamikrest now have two albums out - Adagh (2009) and Toumastin (2011) and there is plenty more You Tube footage for your perusal,  including some slightly faster stuff. They were in England this Summer and are doing a European tour this Autumn, though sadly don't appear to be coming to the UK this time. It's also worth checking out their website here which has lots of information on them and their philosophy and music.

You can also follow them on Facebook so get on over there!

Well, I hope this week's musical videos have left you feeling all warm and wuthering! Until next time, happy dancing!