Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Les Soeurs Tribales - Oh JoY!

Performing an Old School Tribal/Indian Fusion piece at JoY
Us Sakura girls have been mega fans of  Les Soeurs Tribales for quite some time now (if you hadn't guessed!). So you can imagine how excited we were as we headed eastwards last Saturday morning to take workshops with them at the fabulous Jewel of Yorkshire festival (JoY for short!). We had an early set off (Jan got the best deal here as she was last to be picked up!)and got there in time for a swift cuppa and catch up with friends before heading into our first workshop - squeal!

Cinzia with Paulette
 For those of you who don't know, Les Soeurs Tribales are Cinzia Di Cioccio, Denise Forte and Gaia Dunya Rai, a dance company based in Milan, Italy. Their  style is very much based on the Gypsy Caravan format of tribal bellydance - Cinzia is a member of Gypsy Caravan Dance International and has recently achieved Collective Soul Level 5 with Paulette (wow - that is some achievement!), in addition to appearing with Paulette in the new Gypsy Caravan Technique 9 dvd. However, not only do Les Soeurs dance Gypsy Caravan, or 'Old School' tribal, but they have  developed from it their own unique LST improvisational format, within which you can see their own creativity shine! They don't stop there though - these talented ladies have also developed their own styles of Retro-Chic and Vintage tribal, which, together with some wonderfully inspired fusion work make for a pretty impressive package. So you can see why we love them and were so eager to learn from them ...

I spy our very own Sakura Jan. Go Jan!
Our first workshop of the day was was Tribal Old School - the fundamentals of tribal within the Gypsy Caravan format. After a thorough warm up (and do these ladies make sure you're thoroughly warmed up - but in a good way!) we went through some basic fast and slow Gypsy Caravan moves. The girls are excellent teachers; Cinzia took the lead and as she is very fluent in English we all really benefitted from her clear explanations and constant gentle reminders about posture. Having all three of the ladies there meant that we could all see demonstrations of the moves and also catch one of those beautiful smiles. They really enjoy what they are doing, and it shows. As this was an open level workshop there was a range of experience, from people who had danced Gypsy Caravan format for some time to total tribal beginners, so the basics were covered in great detail (and of course no matter how experienced you are it's always good to revisit those basics - there's something new to learn every time!). There was a real emphasis on drilling all the moves - including on the left of course! We even got chance to do a bit of improv in small groups at the end. All in all it was a great workshop, and we really enjoyed it. There was a really positive, supportive atmosphere and certainly the faces of the other attendees indicated that they had a fabulous time too! Before I go on to the next workshop, here's a little taster of Les Soeurs in action - performed Ols School/Indian Fusion at the JoY show on the Saturday night :

As you can imagine, they went down a storm!

Denise and Gaia
 Now, I must confess I'd been a little hesitant about the next workshop. Bellydance Workout brought to mind lots of leaping around and sweating. But I'd been talked into it by my Sakura sisters so after another quick cuppa and a bit of a shop in JoY's amazing souk, off we trotted. This workshop wasn't at all what I'd expected; it was actually much, much better. Yes, it was challenging - but as Gaia took us through different moves and exercises there was a strong focus on posture, balance and flexibility. It was one of those workshops where you can really feel your body working .. and become very aware of the quality of your movements. I really 'felt the benefit' as we say up North. Afterwards my muscles felt as though they'd most definitely been used, but not in a 'dragging yourself up the staircase groaning in agony' sort of way. In a 'just right' sort of way. I really, really enjoyed it, and am going to incorporate some of the exercises into my own practices. It also made me think I really do need to stop procrastinating about taking up some nice gentle yoga or something again!

Lunch and a bit more shopping later and it was time for the last workshop of the day : Retro-Chic Tribal Bellydance. I was the lone Sakura gal in this one (although I think Sarah and Jan did have their regrets, having had such a great time in the previous two). I was REALLY looking forward to this, having caught some of Les Soeurs' vintage inspired stuff on You Tube. Such as this one :

Vintage Style!
 Looking at this I can see lots of moves that we covered in both the Retro-Chic and the later LST workshops. I love it! And boy, was that workshop fun! There were huge smiles all round, lots of spontaneous clapping .... some great music choices to drill to (including a rather fabulous version of 'It's a Man's World'), and lots and lots of drilling those moves. I really like the way in which Les Soeurs not only drill the moves you've just done, but skilfully weave in everything you've done so far - both fast and slow moves - so that you don't forget (and let's face it, we've all been there, where you remember the moves you've just done but everything before that has flown away with the fairies!). We learned lots (and Cinzia is sending us some notes to jog our memories!) and this was such a feel-good workshop - the perfect end to a perfect day!

Performing at the JoY show
 We were up bright and early on Sunday morning for our final workshop of the weekend - New School and Signature Moves. This introduced us to LST's own unique tribal bellydance format, which we have long admired from afar. Once again there was so much to learn, presented in a warm, supportive environment with lots and lots of joy and smiles. We came away with several fabulous combos to incorporate into our dance, and will never forget the sheer happiness of drilling out those moves to 'Papparazzi' - I think our grins were so wide that the Butterfly Effect must have spread them all over West Yorkshire! The two hours seemed to fly by, and in what seemed like only twenty minutes we were stretching out, cooling down and saying our goodbyes.

Voguing on the JoY stage!
Sadly we had to miss the last workshop of the weekend - tribal fusion choreography. Whilst we were sorry not to be there, we have heard it was challenging, so might not have been the best choice for us at the end of a long weekend. Having said that, if the rest of their workshops are anything to go by then it must have been well worthwhile. Les Soeurs had also performed at the show the previous night, to thunderous applause .... three numbers, including a bit of Voguing!

Cinzia with our Gypsy Caravan Mamma, Paulette
 It is so good to see Les Soeurs Tribales over here in the UK, and to see more and more people learning about them. They are not only wonderful dancers, but also really warm, lovely ladies. Their happiness in dancing shines out not only in their performances but also in their teaching, and they represent both their own dance format and their Gypsy Caravan roots perfectly. Cinzia told me that in her teaching and dancing she seeks only to honour her teacher. Well, Mamma Paulette, should you be reading this, she certainly does all that and more besides!

Should you want to learn more about Les Soeurs Tribales visit their website here and their official Facebook page here.

Chris Ogden (One of JoY's organisers) performs tribal with
Debbie Berry at the JoY show
Now I really can't sign off without giving a huge shout-out to the fantastic JoY festival itself. Warm. welcoming, well organised and excellent value for money; as always we had a fantastic weekend there and can't wait until October when Paulette Rees-Denis herself is teaching (guess who's already booked all her workshops?!). Thank you so much to Chris and Mandy for all their hard work, and for bringing all these wonderful dancers together for us. If you missed out on this April you real;ly did miss a treat - make sure you don't miss out again! Dates for the next one are October 12th and 13th and details should soon be up here. Get those forms in!!

Until next time, happy - and JoYful - dancing!

Big thank yous to Brian and Liz Jarrett for use of photos from the JoY show, to Les Soeurs Tribales for workshop and Vintage Style photos and to Paulette and Cinzia for the photos of the two of them together!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Just Gotta Share ....

Sakura improvising with a Fraggle! She's leading us in the Camel Walk - but sadly Jan and I are blithely working on the wrong hip! (Sarah honey - you were well out of it this time!).
Big thank yous to Ian Woodward for this fabulously cool pic! We love it!

Until next time, happy dancing(humans and Fraggles alike)!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Dance Without Cruelty : Part Three

Cruelty-free costuming
So here we are at last ... the final part of our 'Dance Without Cruelty' series (which has taken far, far longer than I ever thought it would!). In some ways this is the hardest bit to write. Indeed, when I became vegan last year (having been vegetarian for close on thirty years) this was the most involved step to take. I had planned on a phased introduction of a vegan diet - but that took only a week! I was already using cruelty free cosmetics and so on, so that just meant watching out for ingredients such as honey and milk, which wasn't too bad. But clothes? Now that was another matter!

Yes, we know some people won't agree
with us, but we still have to say our piece!
I really just want to tell you how we manage our costuming, and don't want to preach, so I'll include some links at the end if you want to know WHY we avoid the things we do. Or just contact us and we'll explain (And no, we're not crazy. We're all intelligent women who've made an informed decision!!!) (Well, ok, maybe a little crazy in some ways, but not in this one!!)

A whole vegan shoe shop - heaven!

Leather is the obvious material that most people understand that vegetarians and vegans avoid. We've been doing that for years, so it isn't too much of a hardship as there are lots of sources out there for shoes, bags and belts; it just means we have to search and research a bit. I've certainly become even stricter on that since becoming vegan. The only thing I do bemoan on at least a weekly basis is the TOTAL LACK OF NON-LEATHER DANCE SANDALS! .I really so love them - I just wish there was an option for us!

Fur - well, that goes without saying. None of us have ever worn it, and none of us ever would.

Real beauty
What many people don't realise however is that vegans and many strict vegetarians wouldn't wear anything that came from an  animal, regardless of how it was obtained or, in the case of a dead animal, how it died. I'm not going to go into the whys and wherefores here, but suffice it to say it's about respect, exploitation and in general our attitude to other living, sentient beings. Yes, animals are beautiful - their soft fur, glossy feathers, wonderful colours - but to us an essential part of that beauty is in their life, that spark of warmth. I read a quote from Ellen De Generes upon seeing a stag's head on someone's wall. Ellen asked why it was up there. It's owner replied 'Because it's a beautiful animal'. To which Ellen replied 'Well, so's my mother, but I don't have her head on display in my home!'. Nuff said!

A lovely hair frippery from The Tribal Temptress.
Look, no feathers!
 So, with that in mind, we don't now wear feathers or quills of any kind (even naturally-shed ones). Now, you may well see photos of some of us looking rather fluffy in feathery headdresses .... but that was before our awareness was raised. We underwent extensive de-feathering (in a non-painful way!) and now don't wear them at all. We do make lots of our own headwear which is helpful here, but some sellers do offer non-feathery options! We also find that we can get a beautiful tribal look with flowers, hairsticks and scarves ... who needs feathers?

Sadly it's not like this!
Cowrie shells can be a large part of a tribal dancer's wardrobe. I will confess that I adorned myself in them for many years - blithely imagining some gentle island girl tripping down a warm beach in the bright sunshine happily flinging cast off shells into a large basket just for the use of Sakura Tribal. It doesn't happen like that. And yes, I have de-shelled too now and wouldn't buy or wear them anymore. We use beads, buttons, wood and metal findings instead.

More cruelty-free costuming!

Now - what else do we avoid? Well, silk is another biggie. And it really is pretty hard to avoid in our dance. Silk veils, silk skirts, silk scarves, silk mixes in velvet, silk sari ribbon ..... but avoid it we do! It just, once again, involves a bit of research. but when you believe in something you do it. So we go for natural fibres such as cotton. The vegans amongst us also don't use wool at all ... but we get by on acrylic!

So, that's us. Of course, you don't have all the arguments and reasoning behind our choices here, so they may not make sense to some of you. If you are interested in delving a little deeper here are some links :

UK VEGAN SOCIETY  - The Vegan Society promote veganism and a cruelty-free lifestyle. There's a wealth of information on their site!

PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - have lots of information about the fur and leather industries in addition to articles on cruel practices in many other areas of the clothing industry

 ANIMAL AID - Animal Aid campaign peacefully against all forms of animal abuse and promote a cruelty-free lifestyle. If you browse their site and look through their campaigns you'll find lots of information on clothing

And hey ---- if you thought veganism was all a bit un-exciting, just check this out :

CHIC VEGAN - a totally fab site with so many tips for funky cruelty-free living. You can even get free e-books there, including 'The Ethical Girl's Guide To Being Vegan and Fabulous'! 100% recommended!

Now, all this doesn't mean we rate animals over humans - a really common (and very annoying) misconception. (Not least because veganism and vegetarianism also bring untold benefits to humans and the environment too, but that's not why I'm here today!) We also do everything we can to ensure sustainability, fair trade and recycling in our costume choices. I think however that's a post for another time!

So, making cruelty-free costume choices isn't easy, and can sometimes be soooo frustrating (like when you see that dream hair frippery ... with a couple of feathers firmly attached). But to us (and the animals concerned) it's worth it.

Think we're crazy? Well, if trying to live a dance lifestyle that avoids causing pain and suffering to any other living thing is crazy, then yes, we are. But that's just us ... and we're crazy in so many other ways it's just a drop in the ocean!

We'll be back soon with our usual dancey blogs!

Until then, happy - and crazy - dancing!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Dance Without Cruelty - part Two!

Shimmying Caterpillars ...... I have just realised how long it's been since my last post! Almost a month since I chatted to you all about how Sakura's vegan/veggie lifestyles affect our dance, and in particular how we ensure we use make-up that isnt tested on animals and doesn't include animal products.  Doesn't time fly when you're having fun? Apologies to you all for the big time lapse ... I shall now give you Part Two of that post without further ado ..... (you may want to re-read part one to remind yourself at this point!).

Sooooo - what next? And can I fit it all into one post? Only one way to find out I guess!

Cruelty-Free Toiletries

Oh how I hate that word - toiletries. I'm sure there's a much better word but my poor addled brain won't wrap itself round the issue right now (which bodes well for the rest of this post, doesn't it!) Anyway, toiletries it will have to be. So where do us Sakura girls go for our lotions and potions?

The 'Sakura' Bath Ballistic!

Well, they have to be right up there for fabulous smellies that are animal friendly. I would reckon most of you have heard of them even if you haven't tried them. If by chance they've slipped you by check them out here.  And we're not even the tiniest bit biased by the fact they named a product after us .. (well ok, they didn't but a girl's gotta dream!)

What would we recommend - well, everything! Bath Bombs, soaps, shampoos, face creams, deodorant, henna, shampoo, perfume, body tint ... you name it! I'm going to try to pick just three things that I really really love but it's going to be SOOOO difficult!

Firstly ---- it's Buffy! Previously known as 'Buffy the Backside Slayer' this exfoliant bar leaves you feeling so soft and smooth it's untrue. And it smells great too!  It contains all sorts of yummy things - almond oil, lemon, lavender ..... just gorgeous and really effective!

Second on the list are 'Toothy Tabs' - a wonderful, cruelty free toothpaste alternative! I do like the 'Breath of God' fragranced ones --- sandalwoody (which have a matching perfume!!!) which are warm and spicy but there are lots of alternatives. If you're used to pastes then they're a bit different to use but they really grow on you. I always end up singing that old hymn 'Breathe on me Breath of God' whilst I'm brushing my teeth now!

Finally --- Lush do gorgeous gift boxes and bags for every occasion! I've just selected one to show you here. They contain a huge variety of stuff - shower gels, soap, bath bombs and so on. There is something for everyone and for all occasions! (Some of their products aren't suitable for vegans as they contain honey. so just watch out for that).

In order to truly appreciate the glory of Lush you do need to visit their website - I've given you the link above - so that you can browse their range of products and find out all about their philosophy and ingredients. I daren't go there right now --- I will want to buy things! Better still, pay a visit to one of their super-friendly shops. They smell totally delicious (again a word of warning - it is VERY strong as it's a mix of all sorts of gorgeous things, but if you dont handle such strong smells well you might be better online!)


So where else do we get lovely goodies from? Well, there are lots of fab sellers on Etsy, Folksy and  Facebook, but one of our favourites has to be Earth Kandi, run buy a lovely dancer from Manchester, Madeleine Mitchell. She has her very own blog here, and it is fabulous! It's full of news, links, videos, information and links to her shop so you can buy her products. As you can see her products look stunning - and smell amazing too. We thoroughly recommend her! Her soaps and bath products are vegan (apart from the ones containing honey, but you can see that clearly from the ingredients), but sadly her beautiful face creams contain milk so us vegans don't use them. They are gorgeous though!

You can also find EarthKandi on Etsy here, on Folksy here  and on Facebook here. Go and check out some deliciousness!!!

Well, I think I'm going to leave it there for now. I'm trying hard not to repeat myself so please, please read this post in tandem with our last one as there's lots of information on there about policies and practices as well as links to sites where you can find cruelty-free products of all kinds - including in supermarkets and on the high street. To us it's just essential that we do our best to avoid all products either tested on animals or containing animal derivatives, from hair dye to mascara to mosituriser. And hey, that's pretty important to the animals concerned too.

I will be back ---- very, very soon, I promise ----- with part three of Dance Without Cruelty; how we try to costume ourselves in an ethical, cruelty-free way!

Until then, happy dancing!