Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Happy Christmas!

Sakura Tribal hope that you all have a day filled with light, love and joy. Merry Christmas everyone! Xxx

Monday, 17 December 2012

Practice Makes Perfect

I have to confess, not only has regular blogging slipped a bit lately - so has my regular dance practice routine. You know how it is - new job, Christmas coming up, a rediscovered addiction to reading approximately one book a night (blame the new job for that) .... it happens to most of us unless we're super-disciplined. And super-discipline is a work in progress as far as I'm concerned!

I'm not saying I don't dance at all. On the contrary. as well as Sakura practices (OK, I know girls!) I teach a weekly class now and so always make sure I'm practising moves, breaking them down and dancing them through for that. But what I'm talking about here is regular practice FOR ME, designed to focus on my own needs and dance goals. That's the bit that's become a bit hazy over recent weeks. And as we're nearly at the end of 2012 (eek!) and into a new year, it seems like an ideal time to reinvigorate myself. With that in mind, I've been reflecting, journaling and trawling the internet for practice tips to give myself a bit of a turbo-boost into 2013.

And I've found just the site to do it! It's been in my 'Favourites' for a while because I just knew that the time would come when it would be just what I needed. And that time is now! The site is Belly Dance Somerville and whilst it's not a tribal site it has some really, really useful articles on practising ......

Firstly, down to the nitty gritty. Is practice important? As Nadira, whose site it is says, 'It depends on what you want to accomplish'. If all you are doing is one hour of dance class a week, then your progress is going to be slow (remember learning to drive and how hard it was if you only had one lesson a week with nothing extra in between? I do!). How much you need to practise will depend on what your dance goals are - read Nadira's thoughts on that right here! I would just add one thing to this - if you are wanting to perform with your class or with a troupe then you do actually need to make that practice commitment that Nadira recommends - you are part of a team and you need to make sure that you put in the effort to reflect that!

I'm going to leave the next bit to Nadira! It really doesn't matter how much you practise if you don't have a relevant focus. That needs to be appropriate to WHY you are practising - maybe you dance choreo and are preparing for a specific event, maybe there are certain moves that are your current area for development and so on. take some time to reflect on your goals, and use your practice time to work towards them. And don't fall into the Cayte Trap. What's the Cayte Trap you may ask? Well, it's when you KNOW there are certain things you need to work on, but you find them hard. So what do you do? You start your practice with stuff you CAN do pretty well - you tell yourself it will get you in the mood for the more difficult stuff - and hey? Guess what? Before you know it you're nearly out of practice time and you've only a couple of minutes to practise that stuff you REALLY needed to work on. Don't do it folks. I've been there. I know!!! Anyway, you'll find Nadira's thoughts on how to practise here.

Now, at this point some of you may be squealing at the computer screen 'But I don't have tiiiiiime to practise'! There are still things you can do!!! Nadira has ideas here for how to structure quick five minute practices - for those days when you just don't have time for more! (I really like the way she emphasises a quick warm up even in those circumstances). But there are other ways of working practices in to your daily routine too - belly rolls whilst you brush your teeth. mayas whilst you wait for the kettle to boil, ghawazees round the supermarket (My favourite. And these have the added bonus of providing free entertainment for staff and other shoppers!!). Where there's a will there's always a way.

So, will a more focused, regular practice routine be one of the things you resolve to get going on once the Christmas festivities are over? If so, start to think about it now! Nadira even suggests drawing up a ready-made plan for those emergenct five minute practice sessions so that you're straight into it with no prevaricating! Similarly make sure you've got music, a structure and some goals worked out ready for longer practices. And above all, try to ENJOY it! Use music you love, reward all that drilling with some improv to a really funky track at the end, make it fun! It's all working towards making you the very best dancer that you can be!

Until next time - Happy Dancing!!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Dance Away!

Just a quick post to let you know that Sakura (Cayte and Jan) will be performing at  Lowton Hafla this coming Sunday!

There will then be fun and frolics - and possibly an impromptu performance or two - at the Tribal Sleepover - before we head back to sunny Lancashire for a performance at Kate's Merhaba Hafla on 8th December.
Hoping to see you somewhere before 2013!
Until then, happy dancing!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Power In Tribal

I have a confession to make! I have had this fabulous DVD for three weeks now, ever since JoY, and have been enjoying it so much! It's just that life has got in the way, so I've only just got around to telling you all about it. That means it's even more urgent that you whip on over to www.paulettereesdenis.com and bag yourself a copy before you get left behind. Do it!

Which DVD am I talking about? It's the brand new 'Tribal Technique No. 11' or 'The Power in Tribal; Connection with the Earth and Each Other' from Paulette Rees-Denis & Gypsy Caravan Dance Company Int (represented by Paulette, Cinzia and Amanda). Filmed in Milan, this follows on from Paulette's earlier technique DVDs and so quite rightly assumes familiarity with the Gypsy Caravan format of dance, together with an understanding of the nature of tribal. Don't pick up this DVD expecting to learn a choreography that you can perform at one hafla after another; as with all of Paulette's DVDs this is about broadening your tribal repertoire and understanding, with new steps, combos and formations to bring into group improvisation. This truly is The Power of Tribal - but more about that later!

The DVD starts with what I can best describe as a 'relaxed' warm up. That really isn't the right word for it as Paulette does work you (as always) but it really puts me in mind of the yoga classes I attend - which I find so uplifting. Yes, maybe uplifting is a better description! It's all done on the floor - seated, lying, on hands and knees - and it just really speaks to me! Lots of yoga type stuff in there (another of Paulette's many talents) which stretches you but at the same time is not widely unattainable for the average dancer!

I loved it - but did worry that, given the deliciously warm and euphoric feeling it all gave me, I might not be able to gear myself up for some funky GC moves. Well, I needn't have worried! Paulette was there before me and had already accounted for that with an additional more aerobic warm up - lots of pulsing and grooving and general upping of energy. Great stuff!

Thoroughly warmed up now, it's on to the technique section. Paulette teaches each move facing you, whilst Cinzia and Amanda stand on either side of her and carry out the moves with their backs to you, which is really helpful (particularly if you're directionally challenged!). Paulette gives really clear explanations of the steps but, as this is not a beginner DVD, doesn't break down the basic moves underpinning each (if this is what you need then check out her back-catalogue of technique DVDs).

There is a really funky feel to this DVD. The first two moves - Honoring the Earth and Honoring the Sky - have a real African flavour, taking us back to the roots of our dance. Arabic 5 follows, and then the sassy Shoulder Drop Combo (my favourite - sooo Gypsy Caravan!). The Double Hip Bump Combo is a new take on an old favourite (and I always love combos which build in their own switch from right to left!) and the Swivel is a great new travelling step. The power and grace of both the Huntress and the Arabic Rotation Combo really speak to me and the funky Tunisian Twist is another move full of sass and attitude (that will always remind me of Deirdre MacDonald!).

The final moves on the DVD - the High 5, Low 5 and Moroccan Box - actually made me really reflect on Tribal Connection (Aha - you didn't think it was going to be one of THOSE posts, did you?!). The 5s both start with a physical connection - hands touching - which is momentarily lost as the dancers turn, but is then regained smoothly and seamlessly, just embodying for me the way in which that connection between us as we dance runs far deeper than just the moves. It is indeed a connection of spirits and souls. The Moroccan Box, with its beautiful cascading arms establishing a connection of hands, which later gives way to the perfect synchronicity of a Shimmy Box done in a diagonal line formation (that particular combination always looks so magnificent - hips, arms, directions all attuned in absolute timing!) has a similar feeling. Together, body, mind and spirit. A collective soul!

Enough meanderings!! The DVD now moves on to drills - carried out by Cinzia and Amanda, with appropriate reminders on technique from Paulette. The first drill section is done with the dancers facing front, the second with their backs towards you which is fantastic for dancing along. As with the whole DVD the drills are shot against the crisp, clean background of a Milan dance studio. The dancers all wear black - clean lines which, whilst monochrome in effect, ensure that the moves can all be really clearly seen and followed (this is a technique DVD after all - teaching moves is its key intention, and the setting really helps to facilitate this).

The final part of the DVD is an informal chat between the three dancers about the Power of Tribal. I always enjoy this - a key feature of Paulette's recent DVDs. As a 'baby' tribal dancer one of the things that I really appreciated about the first regular workshops I attended (with Chris Ogden of 400 Roses and North Wind Tribal) was the opportunity to 'Talk Tribal' during break time. As a tribal newbie I just wanted to soak up everything there was to learn about this beautiful style of dance, and those talks really set me on the right path. Similarly the talks on Paulette's DVDS give me food for thought, reaffirm my own feelings about the dance, heighten that feeling of connection within the tribal community. Thank you so much ladies for sharing this with us!

So would I recommend this DVD? If you want to feel the power of tribal - oh yes! If you want to feel that tribal connection - oh yes! If you want to get your tribal groove on with some really funky moves - oh yes! Most definitely!

The DVD ends with some photos, one of which I just have to share with you here. It's of Paulette, Amanda and Cinzia sashaying through the streets of Milan. It is just so joyful, so full of spirit, so tribal! I adore it!

Until next time - happy dancing. And remember ....


Thursday, 18 October 2012

Wild Horses

Just as wild horses run unfettered, so we need our freedom in dance. Freedom to explore, to create, to find ourselves, to be ourselves. And yet just like the horses, our destiny in dance is not to run alone. We are part of the group; we share the same ground beneath our feet, the same sun on our backs, the same wind in our hair. We share the same hopes, fears, dreams. Together or apart we are as one- think as one, move as one, dance as one.
We may rest quietly by softly flowing rivers. We may race together across wide open plains. We may shake our hair free under the stars as we whirl and spin around the fires of night, beneath every star of heaven. But we do it all as one.
Our spirit is that of the tribes, of the wild horses. Free not bound. Gentle yet wild. Together. Trusting. Sharing. Feeling. Communicating. We each have our own lives, yet at one point, one nexus, they meet. And that point is power.
That point is TRIBAL ....

(the above is an entry from my dance journal from earlier this year. And yes, it captures how I still feel today about the incredible dance form that brings so much to my life)

Tribal Bellydance. Just do it.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

On The Level

I'm just back from a fabulous weekend of fun, frolics and friends at the wonderful Jewel of Yorkshire festival and am feeling all inspired and raring to go! As many of you will know by now our amazing tribal mamma, Paulette Rees-Denis, didn't make it into the UK to join us, but happily Cinzia of Les Soeurs Tribales stepped into the breach assisted by Deirdre and Sun Fyre, and they did an amazing job! Us Sakura girls overdosed on workshops, shopping, flashmobbing, shows and gossip and came away with lots of new ideas and skills to work on and to put into our own dance (I am LOVING the Hottie Drop!).

We had originally booked on all of Paulette's workshops including two 'open level' plus a zills and rhythms on the Saturday and two level two workshops - experience of the style required - on the Sunday. We later gave up our places on the first open level workshop so that beginners to the style could learn from Paulette and instead booked on an additional Friday evening workshop aimed at people already familiar with the Gypsy Caravan tribal format.

Now before I go on I need to say two things.

Firstly the JoY team - Chris and Mandy - are EXCEPTIONALLY good at clarifying ability and energy levels within their workshops. Although obviously there are no hard and fast universal rules governing what exactly IS beginner/intermediate/advanced,, they do everything they possibly can to make sure that the information they provide helps you to make informed decisions about which workshops are right for you. The rest of course is up to you - you have to READ the information and then be honest and realistic about your own abilities and experience. Ask advice if you need to - from your own teacher, from Chris or Mandy or from the teacher delivering the workshop if you're unsure - but that decision is up to YOU!
Secondly the workshops planned by Paulette and taught by Cinzia were exactly as described - just the right degree of challenge for the advertised level. Lots and lots to go at, new things to learn, explanation, drilling, improv. I can even include the beginners' Saturday morning one in there, as I accidentally picked up a handout and so know what was taught! They were precisely what we - and by that I mean Sakura and other UK dancers with GC experience - had expected. But then we read the descriptions, didn't we?
I bet you can tell what's coming next, especially if you're a regular workshop goer, can't you? This is a pretty common problem, I know! Yes, we read the descriptions. Sadly, others didn't! This resulted in both Sunday workshops (Level 2, with an additional proviso written in block capitals on the JoY list - EXPERIENCE OF GC FORMAT NEEDED) and the Friday evening workshop, again aimed at more experienced dancers, containing numbers (in one case substantial numbers) of dancers who didn't know basic GC steps and concepts. OK, so you misjudged your capability in this style - so what do you do? Well, if I was in that position (when I first started dancing it took me a LONG time to dare to enrol on a level 2 workshop, and even then I worried like mad until about half an hour in when I realised I was ok!) I would discreetly move to one side and do what I could without interfering with anyone else. I might sit out and take notes - I'm sure there would be things I could take away and work on. What WOULDN'T I do? Well, I wouldn't ask the teacher to break down basic steps in a beyond-beginners workshop. I wouldn't expect the advertised workshop to be 'dumbed down' to cater for my needs, just because I got it wrong! But did that happen? You betcha!!!
Cinzia handled it perfectly. She explained calmly and politely that this was not a beginners workshop and that it had said experience was needed. She accommodated those who were less sure by grouping them with one of her assistants. She gave extra support where it was needed during improv. She did exactly the right thing - people had paid for a more advanced workshop and that's what she taught (and as an ex-schoolteacher of over 20 years I know that there are times to adjust your content - but this was not one of them). I have heard of similar cases where teachers have not had Cinzia's quiet confidence and assurance and HAVE changed workshops - but unless you find the level is too high for the whole class, that just isn't acceptable. Those of us who had read the description got so much out of all her workshops and had exactly the experience we had expected - just as it should be!
So what is to be learned from this? Well, firstly be realistic about your level of experience and ability. You wouldn't enrol on a German A level course if you couldn't speak any German, would you? This is no different! Read the workshop description and ask if you're not sure. If you do that and it still doesn't work out, then accept that you have misjudged yourself! Don't interrupt the flow of the lesson for others. That's harder in an improv workshop of course - whilst you can drill what you can, once you break off into groups to improvise your lack of experience can actually affect what your fellow dancers can and can't do and practise, so be sensitive to that. It isn't the teacher's or your fellow dancers' fault that you got it wrong - so learn from the experience for next time!
Finally, a few thank yous! Thank you to Paulette, Cinzia, Deirdre and Sun Fyre for planning and teaching workshops that were just as described and gave us exactly what we wanted. We are inspired! Thank you to Chris and Mandy who take such care to make sure that everyone has enough information to decide properly which workshops are suited to them. Thank you to any dancers in those workshops who, even though they might have realised they had maybe been a little over-ambitious, recognised that and just got on with dancing and doing what they could without expecting adjustments just to suit them. And a huge thank you to everyone I danced with this weekend - you all rock!
As a matter of fact :
Until next time, happy dancing!
DISCLAIMER : Whilst this post focuses on one particular weekend, the issue is a widespread one. It's happened to me before and may well have happened to you. Please just read the info, folks!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary ...

...where does your dance money go?
   On flowers and rings
   And sparkly things
   And skirts and veils that flow!!!

Well, where DOES your dance money go? This is something that I've been thinking about a lot lately. Having recently given up a fairly well paid job on the grounds that money is no compensation for sanity and spiritual wellbeing, I am really having to prioritise more than ever before. No more blissful meanderings on eBay and the Preloved Tribal Facebook group with my paypal finger at the ready. No more trips to the cash machine to stuff my pockets with wads of tenners (well, small wads!) to trawl any souks that may be lurking temptingly at haflas and festivals. Do I really NEED those two swords that are lurking amongst my dance stuff? And how on earth have I managed to acquire seven 25 yard skirts (not to mention ten pairs of pantaloons!)?

Yes, it's 'tighten your banjara belt' time folks!

As a bit of a shopaholic I'd expected this enforced spending embargo to bring about levels of disgruntledness akin to something out of Fight Club (not that I've ever seen it but if there's fighting in it I'm presuming there's a measure of grumpiness in there). And yet it hasn't. Somehow I feel strangely liberated! 'All Good Things Are Wild And Free' has become my mantra - and I have the tattoo to prove it! For the first time in I-don't-know-how-long I am truly appreciating the simple things in life; the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, the company of friends and just dancing with my girls.
But of course, as we all know rather too well, not quite ALL good things are free, not least in the world of tribal bellydance. Costumes, classes, workshops, haflas, music, dvds, travel, all cost money - and understandably so. Let's face it, very, very few of us can afford to spend willy-nilly and I'm more aware of this now than I ever was. When I was working full time I didn't have a bottomless cash pit, but could generally, by hook or by crook, manage to summon up funds to do most of the things I fancied.
Not any more!
And THAT is what's liberating. I have always prioritised before, but now I'm REALLY having to draw up those lists of what's essential and what's not!!! Luckily I love lists. Tribal bellydance is a vital part of my life now, a core part of me, so one way or another it's staying. And all of this has really helped me to sort out what it is about the dance that is most important - and surprise, surprise, it isn't that alluring, delicious pile of skirts!
First and foremost, what matters to me most is - simply dancing. Dancing with my girls, any time, any place! Dancing with Sakura and Namaste (whether we're performing or not). Dancing in class with my lovely students. feeling that connection to other dancers in workshops. rocking it out on the dancefloor after haflas. Plain. simple, heart-lifting soul-singing dance. I love it, I want it I NEED it in my life, one way or another. End of.
Second on the list comes a new-found passion. Earlier this year I started to teach tribal bellydance - Gypsy Caravan style of course. What can I say? I passed my Collective Soul 1 with Paulette back in 2010. Over a year ago I passed an intensive Tribal Teaching course with Steffi Colbert. And still I hung back. I didn't think I was good enough, was conscious of how much more I have still to learn, was concerned that people wouldn't want to dance improv, worried that no-one would want to learn from me. Setting up Namaste Tribal with Jo earlier this year gave me the push I needed - and I think Jo would probably say the same thing. Since then I've taught several workshops and am nearing the end of my first half term of classes. And yes, people HAVE come. Lovely, beautiful, shiny people who are growing in this dance week by week, whose smiles and achievements feed my soul. Just watching them only this week - a class full of gorgeous structural rolls, all in time with one another and the music. Seeing that connection start to click as they dance together. Ladies, when I say you are looking fabulous I really, truly mean it! I am so privileged that you have let me into your lives for that hour every week. So yes, sharing my dance through teaching is WAY up there on my list of priorities!
The next thing on my list underpins everything that's gone before. If I was doing this post as a table (I like tables as well as lists!) it would run alongside my two previous priorities - it really is an ESSENTIAL. And that essential is tuition!!! Whilst DVDs are great (and yes, I have a fair old few myself!) they are absolutely NO substitute for a real, live teacher, no matter where on your dance journey you might be. Someone who can give you honest feedback, help you to identify and address your strengths and weaknesses, build up your confidence as a dancer and of course keep you dancing safely. Whether it's classes or workshops, tuition MATTERS. Of course it comes at a price .... teachers have costs to cover that many students don't even think about .... but it always has been, and always will be, up at the top of my list of priorities when I'm eking out those pennies! So in revisiting what I can and can't afford, this has really taken a prime spot. Weekly classes in your chosen style are great if you can get to them, but what do you do when the cost of fuel works out three times as much as the cost of the class? It just can't be sustained in the long term, even with car shares or link ups via the fabulous Travelling Moves group on Facebook. But there are a plethora of workshops out there if you look hard enough - in all sorts of styles to tickle everybody's fancy. Of course there is then the issue of wanting to do EVERYTHING! Pay as you go workshops whether individual or at festivals such as JoY are a real blessing as you can focus in on teachers and styles you really want to learn and that fit your dance priorities. All-in dance weekends have a great atmosphere and you can learn all sorts of things you might not have tried before, but not everyone can afford them - and I don't mean having to choose one a year or something. I do mean can't afford them at all.
As far and tuition and I go in this new stringent regime - it's a key priority! Before I finished full time work I invested in more intensive training with Paulette down in Bournemouth in a couple of weeks (Squeeeeee!!) and in workshops with her at JoY. I know that this will be an incredible experience that will add so much to my dance and so in my books it's well worth it! I'm also conscious that, barring a windfall, this could be my last ever splurge! I'm doing my homework as regards events coming up - workshops with Les Soeurs Tribales at JoY next year, Paulette at Majma the year after - and will squirrel money away for these and other things that will support my dance journey (including my weekly yoga class!). Online classes with Paulette are another priority - ok, she's not here to correct me when I go wrong but they're brilliantly done and are really supporting my dancing (and my own teaching). 
I know I've warbled on a bit in this section - but I really have been thinking about it a lot and it's all come pouring out!!!
Next on the list - hafla going and performing! Now I spoke a lot about performing in my last post so I'm not going to warble on here. Just let's say I really enjoy performing, connecting with my tribal sisters, smiling at the audience and seeing them smile back (unless of course they're one of those audiences who don't smile at anyone! Yes, you know what I'm talking about!). But it isn't the be-all and end-all. I perform to share this dance with others, in the hope that it may inspire just one person to dip their toe into the water, maybe not in my class, maybe not in a tribal class, but in some form of this wonderful dance. And that through that they might feel even a little of the joy that it brings to me!Going to haflas is so important too - even if you're not performing! Trust me, if you only ever rock up to these events when you've got a dance spot, people NOTICE!! (They also notice if you're always the performer and never the class/workshop attendee too, incidentally!)Watching other dancers inspires you, gives you pointers for your own dance and not only supports the performers and organiser but also helps to build your local dance community! OK, so you may not be able to go to everything, but put a bit of money to one side and plan wisely! (Hot Tip - if you only ever go to the same haflas year-in, year-out, then for the most part you'll only see the same dancers and crowd of people. Which is great of course - we all have our favourite must-go haflas - but when you're budgetting plan on spreading your wings a little from time to time by going to events you don't usually frequent. Your dance life will be so much the richer for it!)
And finally - last and yes, actually least ..... comes costume! We all love pretty things. Dressing up, whether it's for class or performance makes us feel good and that shouldn't be denigrated. HOWEVER - and this is all I'm going to say on the subject - if you spent more in the last six months on costuming (and I'm including ALL dance wear, bindis, hair fripperies, make up etc in this!) than on training, then in my opinion you got your priorities wrong. I could say more but I won't.
So there you have it. Belt-tightening bellydance. I guess really that for the most part my priorities have never really changed; training has always been my first investment choice. It's just that now I'm having to be a lot more focused - and focus never did any of us any harm!
Until next time, happy dancing!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Dance for Joy!

Well hello there everyone! It's Cayte here, doing a bit of pondering again!

Over the past couple of months I've been really busy dance wise - practising and performing with my Sakura and Namaste sisters, teaching workshops as Namaste, starting to teach tribal (Gypsy Caravan style) in Wigan and taking a few workshops and classes myself, including a bit of oriental dance and some rather fabulous saiidi. And as I've done all of that, something buried deep within me has started to emerge. Now you're probably thinking Loch Ness Monster here. Maybe chrysalis and butterfly. Well, it's neither of those ....

I think it had probably been growing and developing for a while, but I just hadn't been aware of it (sounding more ominous by the minute!). It first sprung onto a conscious level at a class with the lovely Katy Carmichael of Learn Bellydance here in the UK. We used veils as part of this class. Now, veils and I don't normally mix well. My tribal sisters suppress giggles and on occasion have been known to mock me (you know it's true!). I think that the fact that I'm usually eying up the fabric with a view to cutting, pinning and stitching probably doesn't contribute to a harmonious relationship between me and my veil but hey ho! This class however was totally different. Instead of learning veil tricks and specific ways to move the veil about we actually took time to explore the veil for ourselves. To respond to the music, to the fabric, to the way we were feeling. And something clicked; for the very first time I was truly dancing with a veil just for the joy of it .... No concerns about anyone watching, no consciousness of audience. Just me, the music and my veil.

That experience really got me thinking on a much deeper level about why I love to dance. My next 'Aha' moment came at the Barefoot Festival a couple of months ago, when I took a 5 Rhythms workshop. If you've heard of 5 Rhythms you'll know that once again it's about very free dance, just responding there and then, letting go. Whilst we weren't exactly in the ideal venue for that - being in an outdoor arena with passers-by watching! - I still found it really easy to let myself fall into the moment - and just move! Whilst 5 Rhythms can open up a gamut of emotions what I felt that day was once again joy - in being there in the fresh clean air just moving, reaching, turning.

So where is all this leading you may ask?

Well, it's caused lots and lots of deep thought. And I mean DEEP. Reflecting really hard on why I dance and what is so important to me about it. And how my priorities have changed as I have (hopefully) grown as a dancer. And yes, they most certainly HAVE changed.

Now don't get me wrong, I really, really enjoy performing. Choosing the music, costume, the getting ready ritual, that buzz you get out there on the floor and afterwards. But it isn't why I dance. To be honest, the further I have travelled on my dance journey, the less important it has become. And if I'm going to be totally honest at one point it was about showing people what I'd done, my costume, how I was progressing. However in my defence it was never JUST about the performing - if there were workshops available I'd take them. Yes, we (Sakura and Namaste) have performed in a variety of far flung places, but when we've travelled we've always taken any associated workshops too. There's always been a balance. But when I perform now it's for a very different reason. I perform now to share what I've done - the joy that I've found in this dance. To hopefully make just one person in the audience think 'Hey - I'd like to try that!' and then maybe to find the happiness that I have found in tribal.

So - if it's not to perform, then why DO I dance?

First and foremost - I dance to dance! I dance to feel that joy, that connection, that collective soul. Some of the buzziest (new word there!) experiences I have ever had whilst dancing have been out there on the open floor at the end of a hafla when we are just relaxed, dancing together, rocking it out! ( I always feel really deprived if I haven't had the chance to do that!). Dance for dance's sake, no worries about anything else.

And second is a newer discovery. I love to teach dance! I love to look in that mirror and see all those hips swinging in time, those smiles as moves suddenly click, those tentative early steps into improv (and yes, those smiles again there as confidence grows!). I love to lead a long drill and see that everyone is right there with me! I love to share the beauty and funkiness of Gypsy Caravan. Tribal truly does rock!!!

So performance has slipped down the ranking in my reasons for dancing. I still enjoy it - and making that connection not just with my fellow dancers but with the audience too. But now I really understand some stuff that Paulette said on my Collective Soul about not being in too much of a rush to perform. About taking the time to just truly feel the joy. Yes Paulette, it has taken a couple of years to totally sink in, but NOW I get it!!!

I remember reading something several years ago from Shay Moore (another of my tribal inspirations). I can't remember whether she actually wrote this or was quoting someone, but it went along these lines :

So you say you love dance. You don't love dance. You love who you become when you're dancing.

And yes, I can identify with that. It IS about what I feel, who I become - not in the eyes of people who might be watching, but deep inside my soul.

And THAT is why I dance!

Until next time - joyful dancing!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Fantastic Online Classes!

Ok folks - just a quick one (It's Cayte here)! Yesterday I subscribed to Paulette Rees-Denis' brand new online Gypsy Caravan classes. I've been having a look today and they are totally FABULOUS!

For $20 you get access to five classes, each between 15 and 20 minutes long. You can revisit these as much as you want or need to. There's a warm up video, three technique videos and a big drill to end with. Paulette is a fantastic teacher, who explains and breaks moves down really well but is also so warm and encouraging. There really is something for everyone in here, whatever their level of experience. I can wholeheartedly recommend them!

To subscribe to the August videos visit Paulette's site HERE.
If you find that the PayPal link on your computer doesn't work (it didn't for me) then try it from your phone if you can. Failing that, if you e mail Paulette at dance@gypsycaravan.us I'm sure she'll sort you out!
Once I've worked through all the videos I'll do a full review on here - and would also welcome your thoughts on them, whatever level of dancer you are.
Ok, before I bob off to do some more dancing, here's a sample of Paulette in action for you - running through a drill of moves covered at her recent 'Shimmy Queen' workshop in Arizona. Enjoy!
Until next time, happy dancing (with Paulette!)

Monday, 27 August 2012

All Kinds Of Everything ......

Wow! There's just so much going on at the moment - and so little time to blog! Still, let's have a quick catch up now, shall we?

Warning : Banjara Belts Can Seriously Damage Your Health!

The really big news of the summer has been Janice's Little Toe. Yes, you heard right! In her eagerness to buy a new Banjara belt at a workshop back at the start of July she stubbed it on a chair, and that was that. She was diagnosed with a spiral fracture, forbidden to dance until it was healed and has since spent several workshops and performances in a state of desperate agitation and frustration at having to remain on the sidelines! The good news is that she was able to - cautiously - join in with us at the Sakura practice last week and will hopefully be back in full swing with us at our upcoming Autumn performances. Yay!!!!

Tribal Fun And Games!

Going back to workshops, that's been big news for us this summer too. As you may know I (Cayte, that is) have been working closely with our ATS dancer friend Jo on a new project - Namaste Tribal (find out more at www.namastetribal.co.uk). A big part of this is spreading the old tribal love and working together has given me the push I needed to start spreading the Gypsy Caravan love here in North West England. So this summer there have been not one but TWO tribal workshops here in Wigan, focusing upon tribal foundations with Gypsy Caravan styling. The response has been fabulous - lots and lots of lovely ladies joined us, worked hard and smiled and smiled throughout! Next Monday - a week today! - I will be starting to teach weekly classes (http://www.namastetribal.co.uk/page8.htm) and am so looking forward to it! I think I shall have to do a separate blog about my teaching exploits - suffice it to say for the moment that I LOVE this style and I am LOVING teaching it!!!

Carry On Learning

Now I've also been dipping my toe into some different classes as a student this summer. Tribal is very much my first love, but I also do have a bit of a thing for folkloric dance and so have been to a short saidi course over recent weeks. Real earthy saidi - wielding very big sticks! It was such fun, and several of the moves really struck a chord with me. Then at one point I was practising some footwork and couldn't work out why it seemed so familiar, until it struck me. It was the same footwork as the GC Stomp - that's why it was engrained in my muscle memory!
Out And About

Performance opportunities are often limited over the summer months as so many people are away but we managed to squeeze in a couple of Sakura outings (with poor Jan having to be a supportive audience). You've already read about us at the Liverpool hafla, but we had an additional treat in mid- August when we got to dance again at the fabulous Summer Sizzler hafla in Handforth. It has to be said that Sarah was eying me with more than a little trepidation as we stepped onto the dance floor as I'd been displaying distinct symptoms of total brain mash up earlier that day (and my evil smirk as we took our places possibly didn't help). But the music kicked in, the Gypsy Caravan connection went into turbo boost - and it just flowed! Totally, completely in the moment. I jst loved every second - and the audience seemed to like it too!
Upcoming Outings
We are really seriously fingers crossed that Jan will be up and running and back with us in time for our next performance in Formby in September (see side bar for details). We'll be reprising our performance to 'Human' by the Killers, which was what we improvised to at the Summer Sizzler hafla, and hopefully this time two will become three again! We then have some different music lined up for improv performances in Rainhill (end of September) and Burscough (early October). Not giving too much away at the moment but it's a track I have REALLY wanted to dance to for ages. Sooo excited. Squeee!!! 
And Great Excitement!
And finally, finally... last but so most definitely not least (It has taken so much discipline to keep this bit till the end of the post!) us Sakura girls are all of a flutter and basically can't wait until October! Why? Don't you know? Our amazing tribal mamma Paulette Rees-Denis is back in the UK! We'll be having a road trip over to Yorkshire to do workshops and see her perform at the Jewel of Yorkshire festival (and will be meeting up with lots of lovely dancing and drumming friends to boot) and then later that week I'll be boarding a train down to Bournemouth (for nearly two weeks!) to carry on my dance journey - my 'Tribal Pilgrimage' - with Paulette via more Collective Soul and Teacher Training intensives. Sadly the other Sakura ladies can't join me for this part of the adventure (though Jan may be able to sneak down for the hafla!) but once again there'll be other friends there - in the same hotel even - so lots of hard work and fun to be had (not to mention the shared apprehension of being tested at the end!)!
Still in Gypsy Caravan Land (and what a wonderful place it is!) we're also waiting anxiously for Paulette's new online classes to come out! This is going to be such a great way to keep in touch with the heart and soul of Gypsy Caravan! Whilst I have all the DVDS (and am eagerly awaiting number 11) to have these classes each week is going to be a brilliant motivator and will certainly keep us on track with practising and technique, as well as with the spirit of the dance. I shall certainly be recommending these to students at my classes (and to anyone else who will listen!).
I know I said 'finally - well actually I said 'finally, finally' - but this is really part of the Great Excitement. Just to keep us going till October here it is - some of the joy, soul and magic that is Gypsy Caravan!
Really hope to see some of you soon, whether at haflas, JoY or even at class!

Until next time, happy dancing!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Dancing Barefoot - The Sakura Take!

If you've already read the Namaste Tribal blog then you'll have an inkling as to what all this is about! If not then you really need to look at this post and the most recent post in Namaste to get a full glimpse into the amazing weekend we just had at the fabulous Barefoot festival down in Leicester.

It's Cayte here, and I'm doing this (kind of but not quite) double post as I've been down there both as a member of Sakura and as a Namaste dancer - with Sakura Jan and Namaste Jo (Sakura Sarah was away on jollies north of the border so missed this one!). And what an amazing weekend we had! Don't worry, I shall do my best not to repeat myself too much so that the posts here and on Namaste are coming from different slants so that those of you who read both won't feel too cheated! And hey, there's really too much to say all in one blog!!!

So - what is Barefoot?

Well, it's a musical, dancing, healing, arty, inner hippy type festival held down in Middle England every summer. Price wise it's really, really reasonable - I think it cost us around £70 each from Friday afternoon to Sunday tea time, including parking. And for that you get two free shows, an extra outdoor fire show and as many workshops as you can take! Jan has been before and sang its praises loud and long so that Jo and I just HAD to try it this time around. And are we glad we did!

The Accommodation

Although you can stay in nearby B & Bs, most people seem to stay on site either in tents (me and Jo), campervans or caravans (Jan. She was living in luxury but was amost accommodating in terms of cups of tea, comfy chairs and snacks!). There is an amazing array of decoration and fairy lights around the site and it's really close to where all the action is - and not TOO far from the car park for tent-lugging! There are plenty of portaloos which are cleaned regularly and only really started to look a teensy bit grotty early in the mornings after being visited by late night party goers. It wasn't too noisy - we were lulled to sleep by the sound of distant fireside drums on the Friday night and a Samba band on Saturday, although Jo was woken at one point by a screaming child! It's a family friendly festival, but there's lots for children to do - I certainly didn't notice any marauding about!!!

The Food

Drawing upon Jan's past experience at Barefoot we didn't take much food with us - just emergency supplies - but to be honest we needn't have bothered. We even found vegan stuff (although disappointingly one stall that was doing a fair bit shut up shop an Saturday afternoon to restock - just when we needed them most! We did find other places though!). There are curries, chillis (vegan too!), chips, breakfast barms, falafael, wraps, ice cream - oh, and divine frozen chocolate covered bananas! There's tea, coffee, water, herbal tea, chai. hot chocolate and a Pimms bus that sells other drinks too. We visited the Pimms bus. We had Pimms!!!! Most of the food is fairly priced and several stalls open early for your morning cuppa!! And of course it helps if you have a lovely kind friend with a caravan who keeps you topped up with tea, vegan pain au chocolat and fresh peas from time to time!! Thank you Jan! There is also a rather lovely tea tent bedecked with cushions and hangings and drums where you can dream away your day ....

The Workshops

The great thing about Barefoot is that all the workshops are included in the price so you can choose to do as many - or as few - as you like. And there really is something for everyone!From ATS to Capoeira, Five Rhythms to Jive, Aerial Skills to Dhol Drumming, Poi to Life Drawing, Creative Writing to Hooping, whatever your taste there's something for you! Fancy a bit of yoga, tai chi or meditation? Come on down! Graffitti or paint fighting more your thing? There's a place for you here! I had originally circled at least eleven workshops I fancied - but when it came down to it there was so much else going on - including just lazing in the sunshine - that I only did half that number. Jan was a bit limited because of her toe, but because of the great variety of things going on was able to drum and do arty things instead. She did try the Chakra meditation workshop with me and her hubby, Ian ... but unfortunately I led them astray as my chakras meditated their way right out of the Peace tent and over to the calypso rhythm of 'Jump In The Line' pulsating out of the poi workshop! Still, she got to play with her poi!

The Shows

You certainly get your money's worth of shows at Barefoot! Full shows in the fabulous Big Top on the Friday and Saturday nights --- Fire Dancing and Burlesque on Friday and a cabaret show including performances from many of the teachers on Saturday plus another fire show around the camp fire afterwards. Like everything at Barefoot there's a lovely laid back feel - but everything is also well organised! There were tables and chairs (for a charity donation) at the back of the Big Top but we huddled up on a picnic rug close to the performance area on both nights! We resisted the cupcakes during the interval (not vegan!) but Jan had discovered the vegan chilli and chip van so that warmed us up nicely! If you want a run down on some of our favourite acts then hop on over to the Namaste Tribal blog. Suffice it to say here that we had a fantastic time on both nights and that there is really something very special about dancing your way across a field, following a fantastic Samba band to a blazing campfire surrounded by whirling fire poi!!

The Shopping

Ah, now you're talking! Inner hippies eat your heart out! There is just sooo much to see and soooo much to drool over! Assuit, jewellery, henna and hoops. Hippy clothes of every type, fairy wings, candles, poi, flowers, tribal bellydance costumes, zills and bags. Sound healing, crystal healing, tarot and fortune telling. We were in our element - and soon spent up -  but have brought some rather gorgeous things back with us. Luckily most of the stalls don't take credit cards - or Jo's might have taken a bit of a hammering! There's also a really handy convenience store selling both everyday stuff and things like tent pegs and kettles. There were old favourites among the shops, such as Pauline & Asif and Tribezuza, and others such as the very special Devi which are now firmly on our top shops list!

The People

Most definitely the best part of the weekend! It was fabulous to chill with old friends - at Jan's caravan, in the shows, on the grass by the stalls, around the campfire and in the workshops - and also to make new friends wherever we went. For the most part everyone was really friendly and there was very, very little evidence of bad behaviour (we did spot someone getting narky with the poor, hard working stewards over having to show their wristbands to get into the show but hey, there's always one isn't there?!). It's a place where you feel safe whether wandering about on your own or whether camping. It was great to all be there together (though we did miss Sarah) and to hang out and just chill!

To cut a long story short - we'll definitely be back next year, hopefully with full Namaste AND Sakura contingents! It really does leave you feeling very chilled and peaceful - a special place!

And as the fabulous Karen of the Mai-ni-Axe said on the Namaste blog; 'Barefoot vibes have reached deep into my soul!'

Until next time, happy dancing - barefoot or otherwise!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

That Tribal Connection

Improv is special.

Anyone who regularly immerses themselves in it will know exactly what I'm talking about here. It isn't just something you DO; it's something you FEEL. Now dancing choreo can of course be great fun. You can get on really well with your fellow dancers, bond really closely, do stuff together, have a whale of a time on that dance floor, communicate really well whilst you're dancing. But the connection you get when you really give yourself up to improv IS different.

Of course, it doesn't necessarily happen JUST because you're improvising. It's possible to improv more - I hesitate to say mechanically - but that's the closest I can get. And that can be great fun; following one another's moves, having a good laugh together, jumping up to different tracks. But it still isn't the same thing as when you let your mind and body really 'sink' into the improv. Kind of 'deep improv' for want of a better word.

(If you have never felt that true improv connection you may well be arguing with me now! It's hard to explain if you've never experienced it. But trust me, it IS a completely different feeling!)

Paulette Rees-Denis of Gypsy Caravan talks about that 'Collective Soul', about that connection and shared consciousness, that being completely and utterly there in that moment with your fellow dancers. Feeling, moving, responding as one. And that's it in a nutshell. A Collective Soul.

Last night Sarah and I danced improv together at a hafla.We rocked it out to 'SuperMassive Black Hole' and boy did we have fun .... a few seconds of an arranged entrance then into improv for the rest of the song ..... cascades, straight improv, pulling out our favourite moves and having a blast. Feeling that tribal connection!

Then it happened ... last lead change, Sarah stepped forward. Arabic with a twist and suddenly her arms were up and she was spinning round. And I was right there with her. Not a second's hesitation - spinning as one! This isn't a transition we normally do, but there wasn't any conscious thought or analysis on my part. It just happened spontaneously, perfectly. And it was magic! It was true improv.

So if it wasn't conscious how did it happen?

There wasn't a cue - arms going up can mean a few things so that wasn't it! Quite simply, it was tribal connection. It does happen a lot when we dance - but this was a perfect example. We'd been connecting all through the song and dance together a lot together (and with Jan) and so there is a shared, unspoken understanding. We dance close together too - so as Sarah started to turn I'm sure my subconscious must have picked up on the first little muscle movement, the tiniest weight shift. And that moment, that going into a spontaneous spin together, just like that, encapsulates what improv is all about.

Improv IS special.

And yes, Tribal Rocks!!

Until next time, happy dancing!