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!

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