Saturday, 21 December 2013

Looking Back, Looking Forward!

OK, so we're not yet at the end of 2013. I know, I know - I haven't blogged for weeks and now I'm getting ahead of myself and confusing you all, but it keeps you on your toes and you know you love it really! Today I taught my last class of 2013 - Gypsy Caravan style improv of course, with a bit of Christmas shenanigans thrown in - so it seemed like a good time to blog before the mood went off me ...

2013 has been a fabulous, dance-filled, eventful year for Sakura so let's just have a reminisce. Slip into your fleeciest onesie, grab a cuppa and a mince pie and get those chestnuts roasting on that fire whilst you put your feet up and travel back in time with us. Of course there's no guarantee that I'll remember everything, and definitely not in the right order, but hi, ho - let's go!!!


The early part of the year was all about the Two Ts .... teaching and training! Gypsy Caravan classes continued in Wigan, with my beautiful bunch of students going from strength to strength! We were joined by fabulous tribalistas from all over the North West for workshops including groovy, funky moves and had a ball. Rock on, ladies!!

Without a doubt the highlight of Spring though was my trip to Milan to continue my training with my amazing tribal mamma, Paulette Rees-Denis. Blood, sweat, tears, laughter, friends, food, wine, lots and lots of learning - and celebrations when at the end of it all I passed those tests and came away with my Teacher Training 1 and Collective Soul 2 certificates. It was an amazing experience!

Back in England a week later and Italy came to us, in the form of Cinzia di Cioccio and Les Soeurs Tribales with workshops and performances at Jewel of Yorkshire in Bradford. So much new stuff to take on board and play with as the year went on!

Spring also saw us with our new Sakura logo ... designed by an artist friend of Jan's husband it captures perfectly the cherry blossoms from which we take our name


The warmer weather came around and things started to hot up some more on the dance front! My class were ready to make their debut at our local hafla, performing (improvising!) as the WildHearts and they did themselves and us proud! They all looked fabulous and had so much fun out there and the fact that we were able to dance as Sakura and the WildHearts made me feel more than a little Joan Jett like (Joan Jett and the Black Hearts, in case you're too young to remember!). A small group then followed it up with a repeat performance at the Liverpool hafla a few weeks later.

We were able to both grab some more training and catch up with a lovely friend when Deirdre McDonald from Glasgow joined us in sunny Wigan for a bit of Spanish styled tribal (coming to you in a WildHeart performance soon!), followed by a private class for us Sakura girls. Of course we followed it up with our traditional post-workshop sustenance and chat in the pub up the road! It was great to see Deirdre and to catch up on some GC chat!

July also brought about a new experience for me; teaching and performing at Katy Carmichael's 'Learn Bellydance' weekend camp in Clitheroe. I taught two workshops with the lovely Jo Taylor, with Jo focusing on ATS and me on GC and we then did a joint performance showcasing the two styles. Everyone seemed to like it all - well, we've been invited back in 2014! It was a great weekend all round - beautiful venue, super-yummy food, great company and also the chance to do some workshops with Delilah which totally changed my outlook on performance. Fantastic!

Then came a Big Change for Sakura. A sad change, yes - but for good reasons. Sarah, one of our founder members, had been leading an ever-more hectic life since giving up full time work. She was tutoring, supply teaching, studying for a felting diploma and crafting away both making and teaching workshops for her Gingerbread Bunny business. with all this going on dance had become increasingly difficult to fit into her life and so she made the decision to take an indefinite break. It was a bittersweet time for us; we knew that we would really miss her, but were delighted that other things were taking off for her. And she still comes along to haflas to cheer us on!!

Late Summer saw a couple of very special performances. We had been invited to take part in our friend Kate Farrow's Origins show in Liverpool. This was to celebrate and tell the story of tribal, including those dances that form its roots as well as depicting tribal in all of its beauty. We were delighted and honoured to represent Gypsy Caravan style and had a fabulous evening watching some amazing performances in addition to taking our own place on that (very, very high!) stage!

I mustn't miss out the fun we had in publicising this event - an informal flash mob on the steps of the magnificent St George's Hall in Liverpool, where dancers of all genres joined together in chorus to support one another! The sun shone upon us and we got some fabulous photos too. Much as I would have loved to have clambered up on one of those lions my proliferation of pantaloons and big skirt conspired against me (let's face it, I have enough problems WALKING in pantaloons, never mind mountaineering!!!)

The end of the Summer heralded in a VERY different performance for Sakura. Pauline Qu's 'Bedtime Stories' in Nottingham included dance and story telling and we were asked to depict a 1920s theme. It was a dark, sad but happy piece. Two dead flapper girls (yep, that's us!) awoke to rediscover the friendship and joy they had shared through Gypsy Caravan improv (OK, a bit of artistic licence with timings there!) but all too soon it was snatched away from them as they had to return from whence they came ... We were more than a little nervous about this; it involved a fair bit of dramatics and was to very different music (with completely different costuming and make up!). We needn't have worried! Sarah and Kate absolutely loved it, the audience were soooo supportive (as Jan said, we could really feel the love!) and the ultimate accolade came when one lovely lady told us she was so carried along with it that she cried at the end!! Our go-to phrase now whenever we are worried about stuff has become 'But we'll always have Nottingham!'.

We reprised this performance a couple of weeks later at Amy Carmichael's 'Anything Goes' hafla in Formby, to an equally supportive audience ... we were getting quite into the old drama queen thing by then and who knows - we may have to throw in another performance in that type of genre in 2014! I did grow very attached to my make up, although it did rather scare our lovely friend Mr James Lacey (Dark Soul Photography). Or so he made out! Tee hee!


Well, there was no letting up on the performance front here! First off we were over to fellow GCer Dea Robson's hafla in Grindleton, where we were thrilled to have been asked to perform not once but twice. We were made to feel so welcome and the venue and decorations were just magical, right down to the tea lights guiding our way up the path! We loved it!

Then it was time for the WildHearts to take centre stage at Lowton hafla again and what fun we had! Sakura duetted and were also honoured to perform with the WildHearts - love you ladies! It was a great afternoon as always! It was also wonderful to see some of the Blackburn ladies that I've been teaching this year too - they're loving that GC tribal!

Another exciting late Summer/early Autumn event was our photoshoot with Ian Woodward of The Hooded Lens. We had such a great day full of joy and laughter and the results - too many to show here - were simply fantastic! We love them! Thank you Ian!

At the end of October we had another special performance, as part of the Middle Eastern Dance Showcase at the Unity Theatre in Liverpool. We were so proud to dance alongside so many talented dancers. A highlight was definitely all getting together to dance Gangnam - Egyptian Style at the end!


And so the nights drew in and Winter crept quietly along. Not so quiet for Sakura though - we started it off with a road trip to one of our favourite places, Glasgow! We were off to meet up with Deirdre again, to take a GC workshop with her and then - squeals of excitement and general heebie-jeebies - to collaborate with her in performance at the hafla! We had a great time and loved every minute, despite the nerves. The setting - the magnificent old church of St Andrews in the Square - was spectacular, the audience was so supportive and there were some amazing performances. Here's to tribal collaborations!

Day 2 of the Glasgow trip saw us take a bit of time out for a visit to the Samye Ling Buddhist Retreat and Spiritual Centre in Eskdalemuir. What a special place that is - so peaceful and beautiful.

Late Autumn and early Winter also saw us chilling at various haflas and events and catching up with old friends. It was great to see our first regular tribal teacher, Chris Ogden, at the Friendly hafla in Burnley, together with all the North Wind ladies - and to perform there. we are looking forward to the next one! The NADA hafla in Burscough was another good night out where we not only got to relax  and watch all the performances but also to get everyone up at the end to learn a few GC basics and to join us in a dance  afterwards - that dance floor was packed with some rocking tribal! And then in December the last hafla of the year - another of Kate Farrow's in Liverpool. we soo enjoyed it - it's great sometimes to just chill and watch (although we did get up to rock around that Christmas tree with Carolyn!). There was a fantastic variety of performances and of course Kate's legendary cupcakes!

The teaching year drew to a close this week with the last weekly class of 2013 on Monday. Lots of Christmas frolics and a heart stopping moment when I watched my students execute an Arabic Orbit #2 to PERFECTION! In perfect sync, so close and tight together, soooo beautiful! Soooo proud! Then today it was more Christmas tribal with the lovely ladies of Blackburn who really rocked those GC moves with such joy and are doing so well! Fabulous!!!

A final highlight of the year for me was becoming a Gypsy Caravan Affiliate .... and in 2014 the tribal journey will continue., not least with a whole weekend of GC yumminess with Paulette at Majma. But more of that to come!


Well that brings 2013 to a close, and with it the looking back ..... and what of the looking forward? Well, I WAS planning to do it but I've written so much so I think I'll save it for next time! Suffice it to say we have some really exciting stuff in the pipeline!

Until then, have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

Happy dancing!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013



Wow – what a weekend! It was Sakura Road Trip time and Jan and I packed our butties and headed up north – over the border to Bonnie Scotland! A dance filled Saturday followed by a peaceful and uplifting day at the Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre – what could be better? Not a lot actually – we had a fabulous time from start to finish.

However one of the real highlights of the whole affair was, of course, tribal based. For the past few weeks we had been chatting and plotting and plan hatching with our beautiful friend and inspirational teacher, Deirdre Macdonald of HipswithAttitude up in sunny Troon (not too far from Glasgow, which is where we were headed). Yep – plotting, planning and practising for a very special tribal collaboration ….. Sakura were going to perform with Deirdre at the Glasgow Festival of Arabic dance on Saturday! Squeee – sooooo exciting!

Although we have done a good number of GC style workshops with Deirdre (in case you don’t remember my very first taste of tribal was with her!), have chatted, shared an apartment in Milan and danced with her in Paulette and LST workshops, performing together – improv of course – was a whole new ballgame! So we had been drilling and practising and listening to the music over and over (The Huntress – one of my favourite tracks!) and chatting and Facebooking and Skyping . We had established moves we all knew and Deirdre had challenged us by adding a couple of less familiar ones to our repertoire which was fab. We had – naturally – talked costuming at great length and Deirdre had added a gorgeous new skirt to HER repertoire! As I said before : Squeee – sooooo exciting!

Of course we had had our moments too. Our crises of confidence, not wanting to let Deirdre down, dancing in an unfamiliar setting away from the comfort zone of our local haflas. But hey – it’s good to challenge yourself and we headed up that motorway with a sense of calm and slightly nervous anticipation. We had prepared all that we could, we had time for some final run-throughs (actually also FIRST run throughs with all three of us together in the flesh!) and our improv now was in the lap of the gods and goddesses!

And those gods and goddesses smiled upon us! After a beautiful few minutes where Deirdre led us in grounding and centring ourselves which seriously helped to put us ‘in the moment’ we hit that dance floor and were ready to go! And boy was it fun …… we loved every second of it! We LOVE dancing with Deirdre – she is so encouraging and smiley and joyful! And it seemed to go well … folk seemed to enjoy it! Improv spoke that night – there was tribal connection and lurrve and all of that rocking the rafters of St Andrews in the Square (incidentally a totally awesome venue!!!). The power of tribal reached out and brought us together across the miles as we danced together in perfect harmony.  

I do just need to give a shout out here for everyone else that we met over the weekend – friends old and new. Also to say a big thank you to the event organisers for putting together such a wonderful, friendly festival. And as for the hafla – wow! We were blown away by the performances (just a few of the performers are pictured here) – so well prepared, beautifully costumed and delivered with such professionalism – and yes, with true joy!!! It was a fantastic day!

But of course our biggest ‘thank you’ goes to our tribal sister, Deirdre – for putting up with us and trusting us and having faith in us and sharing that dance floor with us. It was an honour and a privilege to dance with you – and shows the true Power of Tribal!

We love ya Mrs!!

Until next time – happy dancing!

Deirdre  -  - is based in Troon, Ayrshire, where she teaches Gypsy Caravan Tribal Style classes. She is Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance™ Collective Soul Level 5 certified and is a Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance™ Level 3 Teacher.
Oh – and she ROCKS!!!!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Fabulous Friday : Amel Tafsout!

What can we say about this woman?

1)   She is an amazing dancer
2)   She has that 'connection' in bucketloads!  As Jan says, just watching her makes you smile!
3)   We LOVE her

That really is all that we need to say. This performance truly speaks for itself ....

Click on the photo to watch the video!

We are in awe!!!!!

Until next time, happy dancing!!!!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Performance Mastery : Inspiration by Delilah!

Around six months ago, whilst I wasn't exactly disillusioned by performance I was feeling a bit - well - 'meh' about it. I was LOVING teaching (still do!) and dancing informally (still do!) but performing was at the bottom of my love list. Didn't hate it - but it just wasn't that important to me. Since then, however, I have had a revelation!!! Well, quite a few actually .... brought about by all sorts of experiences (some good, some not so good!) and people ... not least our Jan!

However I can quite clearly pinpoint the trigger and underlying influence in this definite metamorphosis ... an enlightening that has not just affected me but has definitely left its fabulous mark on Sakura! Let me tell you more ....

Back in July (oh those long, hot days of summer!) I was privileged, together with Jo of Namaste Tribal, to teach and perform at Katy Carmichael's Belly Camp. When we weren't teaching ourselves we were able to attend other workshops, and a couple on the list leapt out at me .. Performance Mastery, with Delilah. I'd seen her perform at the Friday night show and had been blown away by her joy, her sense of self and her connection with the audience. Delilah is a stunning Oriental style dancer and past Miss Bellydance UK, so being a tribal girl I wasn't too sure what would be in it for me but she was so encouraging that off I trotted - and wow!

Now I am absolutely NOT going to go into all that we did in those workshops - you will have to go and learn from her yourselves (which I strongly recommend!) if that's what you want. However I will tell you that we went through a wide range of exercises, visualisations and discussions (Delilah is skilled and knowledgeable about performing arts in general, not just dance) and that I am soooo glad I went! We laughed and learned ..... and I did come away a changed woman! I had a much clearer sense of identity as a performer, of what I wanted to portray, of how I wanted to present myself to and connect with the audience. I also came away with a copy of her book, 'Performance Mastery' clutched in my hand, inscribed 'To my joyful gerbil'. That may seem strange to you, but if you've been to one of her workshops it will make perfect sense and yes - it represents a big step on my performance journey!

I just couldn't wait to get home and to share my inspiration with Jan ... telling her about the workshops and poring over the book together. It has caused some real in-depth Sakura discussions as we have delved into why we dance, what we love about this style, which dancers speak to us and why, what we as Sakura want to put across in our dance and so on. It's been a book that we have come back to several times over the summer as we have reflected after a variety of different performances to different music and different audiences in very different venues. Through it we have come to realise that for us connection with the audience is a central aspect of performance, whether we are dancers or observers. Yes, dancing tribal improv does mean that that connection with one another and with the music is VITAL but when performing you add in that additional aspect, the audience. We don't want to dance above them, smiling at one another or over their heads, shutting them out. They may be in the chairs, we may be up on the floor but we want to invite them in, to dance WITH them, to feel that joy with them. And Delilah's teaching and book have been a huge platform for us in starting to develop that in our dance.

OK, it's still a work in progress but hopefully we're heading in the right direction! With the help of Delilah we are analysing all sorts of aspects of our performance in much greater depth --- not just the technique and actual physical nature of the dance, but those all-important connections and perceptions. And we do both feel that Sakura has really moved forward as a result. Do we take ourselves seriously? Well, we take the portrayal of this beautiful GC style very seriously indeed but ourselves? If you know us in real life it's doubtful that you would apply the word 'serious' to us and we do now feel that we are more 'ourselves' as dancers than ever before - so you go figure!!!!

If you would like a copy of Delilah's fabulous book, Performance Mastery, then visit her page on Facebook right here. If you get chance to learn from her - do it! And she is also in the process of putting on a show - 'Aladdin' - starring various dancers (with the amazing Darkstar in the title role) which I believe is going to be travelling the country! We can't wait!!!

Delilah is one fabulous lady and Sakura can't thank her enough!

Until next time, happy dancing!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Friday Fabulousness : Three Lovely Ladies!

Well, this is a turn up for the books! Sakura sitting side by side on the couch whilst the blog is written.
Notice I have not said whilst WE write the blog. That may be a rather premature statement as a certain person seems to be focused more upon asking impertinent questions of the one who is doing the actual writing. Just saying, JAN!

Anyway, yes we are here together. Yes we have chosen our video of the week together. Yes we are going to blog about it together. Oh yes we are, regardless of the giggles coming from next to me. You see now why normally I blog alone .....

Enough of the rambling and distractions ... I am going to hand the laptop over to Jan for the next bit ......

JAN : I do not know what to write, this is why I don't blog!!! Yes there is a smell of burning martyr round here!!! Anyway over to my creative writing dance sister to introduce the video.

Sigh. Well at least I tried! But honestly, we DID choose the video together - we are unanimous on that (we are actually unanimous on far more than folk give us credit for!).

Our fabulous video today is from three of our very favourite dancers and friends - it's a Scots/Italian collaboration from earlier this year and involves some beautiful GC style skirt work. We are delighted to present to you, at the Tribal Gathering in York in June, 2013, Cinzia, Deirdre and Sun Fyre! Woo Hoo!

Why do we love this video? If you know us at all it will be obvious ... it's just so full of colour and life and JOY! Jan has now come to life and is chunnering away next to me! She is saying that THIS is why we dance - you can feel the connection between these three (who don't dance together on a day to day or even week to week basis) - they share that soul that brings them together, united in dance and sisterhood across the miles. Those smiles are real smiles, smiles that aren't forced, aren't just on the lips but are springing from the heart and connecting the dancers with one another, with the music and with the audience. Love it!

Deirdre is based in Troon, Ayrshire where she teaches and performs tribal bellydance - Gypsy Caravan style! She regularly collaborates with Sun Fyre as Celtic Hips.

Sun Fyre is based in Aberlour where she also teaches and performs Gypsy Caravan tribal style bellydance.

Cinzia is based in Milan, Italy. she directs Les Soeurs Tribales and teaches and performs both tribal and fusion dance.

It has to be added that all of these ladies are multi-talented, as you will see from their websites! We are so blessed to have them in our community. Tribal Rocks!

Should I do it? Yes I will - I'll hand over to Jan for a final few words ...

JAN : Sorry all, but I would rather draw/paint and make vegan chocolate truffles than blog, good job my tribal sister is fab at it!

And it must be said she would also rather EAT vegan truffles than type!!!! Tee hee! Love ya really Jan!!

JAN : Excuse me  and who helped me eat them?

On that note I think I shall sign off! Enjoy the video and until next time - Happy Dancing!!!

P.S. I have just been instructed to tell you all that the vegan truffles are fab!! Which they are! 

Friday, 20 September 2013

Friday Fabulousness : Gypsy Caravan!

Today's video is a long one - and is best enjoyed curled up in an armchair with a caramel soya latte and two warm cats. Yes, I have personally tested this - and if you don't mind the cats looking alarmed at the zurna, it truly is heaven on earth!

Now I could have picked so many Gypsy Caravan videos to share with you today, but this one is definitely my go-to watch of the moment. It shines out like a beacon of everything I love about tribal bellydance - I am right there with them, barefoot in the dappled sunlight, dancing together beneath the trees, smiling, laughing, connecting, part of this amazing dance community! Dancing together through time and place - for joy, celebration, support. Every element blends together perfectly - the venue, the dancers, the costumes, the musicians (and the zills, played so beautifully and as a true part of the music). As I watch it I feel the warmth on my skin, the breeze in my hair, the rhythm. I am there, in that moment, in that dance ....

And here it is ...  [click on the photo to watch the video]

I'm not going to say much more - I don't want to break the spell ...

What I WILL say is on behalf of both myself and Jan, who have been watching so many GC style videos over this past couple of weeks ..from glorious dancers such as Gypsy Caravan, Gypsy Heart, Celtic Hips and Les Soeurs Tribales.. and it is just this ...

We are unspeakably proud to dance in the footsteps of these fabulous women, and to share in this amazing style of ours. Our souls are truly singing!

Until next time - Happy Dancing!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Friday Fabulousness!

Here again for a limited time only- some of the videos that really inspire us, make us smile and are just generally fabulous!!!

The first one is from one of our very favourite troupes at the moment - Gypsy Heart of Portland, Oregon (and yes, there may well be more videos of these beautiful ladies coming up over future weeks, because we just love them!). Directed by Carol Vance of Gypsy Caravan, they describe themselves thus :

'Bringing the spontaneous and improvisational core of Tribal Bellydance to each performance, this Troupe will take you on a dance journey as old as time and as new as this moment.'

This time we have chosen a duet as our featured performance - it's something that, as a duo ourselves now, we identify really strongly with. We love to sit and 'ooh' and 'aaah' over it ... and yes, to use it as inspiration for our own Sakura performances! It's from 2012 so has been floating our boat for more than a year now, and we still adore it just as much as the first time we saw it ...

There is just so much about this that we love and we are constantly finding more in it! But for us the key thing that comes across is the sheer JOY in the dance that is shared by these ladies. Those smiles are real, not just pasted on for performance! The little glances at one another, teasing looks at the audience - everything is 100% genuine! Add to that the wonderfully flowing, relaxed Gypsy Caravan style, the style that sinks into your body, bones and very soul, and you  have our perfect experience. We love you Gypsy Heart!

You can catch up with Gypsy Heart on their Facebook group - GypsyHeart Tribal Bellydance '- or via their website,
Until next time, happy dancing!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Every Picture Tells a Story!

Good morning! And it is a good morning ... I'm just chilling and doing a bit of writing whilst I get ready to head over to Jan's for a Sakura practice, more chilling, coffee, chat  - you get the idea!

One of the topics of conversation is sure to be the fantastic 'Book of Bedtime Stories' where we performed on Saturday. It was a great evening; storytelling, some wonderful dancing and of course catching up with friends! We just loved seeing everyone and grabbing reams of hugs and it was fab being joined by Sarah and our lovely friend Kate. We made quite a carful I can tell you, particularly with us Sakura girls up front in our scary makeup!! Beware, oncoming vehicles!

I don't want to give too much away about our performance as we'll be pulling it out again at a couple of upcoming haflas (albeit slightly different as there's a fair bit of improv in there!) but I can tell you that it was something completely different for us Sakura girls. Certainly the costumes and make up were not our usual thing as you will see from the photos here. We were captured in performance and beyond by the most excellent Mr James Lacey of Dark Soul photography; visit his website here for more wonderful examples of his work! But it wasn't just our appearance that was strange on Saturday ...

The hafla title says it all really - our dance had to tell a story. Now this is a path we've never ventured down before and so it was a real voyage of discovery. It did present its own particular challenges as we were determined to get as much improv in there as we could - which we did - whilst still ensuring that there was a clear tale to tell. I  was especially concerned about this as I am notoriously not the most astute at identifying stories in dance when I'm an audience member. Quite honestly, I do usually need it spelling out to me in words of one syllable as I tend to get lost in the dance itself (poor old Jan is often the one who has to explain it to me!). But maybe having those limitations was actually a help in making sure our story was extra clear?

Whether that was the case or not, we certainly seemed to manage it! People told us our dance made them feel both happy and sad (box ticked), someone said she got so tied up in the story that she actually 'awwwwwed' at one point (another box ticked!) and we were told we should do stuff like that more often (my make up did grow on me - but yes, Jan, I DID take it off before I went to bed!). The audience were wonderfully supportive and it was great to look out at a sea of smiling faces (as I have blogged before that really does make such a difference to dancers!), So yes, despite the inevitable post-match dissection ('We did that move on different feet' etc etc) we did leave feeling good about it, and yes, we're looking forward to doing it all again!

I think though, that what meant the most to us was the feedback from Sarah and Kate. Now they won't mind me saying here that they are not the most fluffy of folk. They have much in common - neither likes being hugged for example (although they don't always get much choice!!) and we were really bothered that they would hate our story-telling dance. So imagine how fantastic it felt to see huge grins on their faces as we danced, and to hear them clapping along! They loved it!!! And yes, we glowed!!!! Thank you girls!!!

So - Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to practice I go. More chat about the show, new combos to play with .. it's all good!

Until next time, happy dancing!