Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Deepest, Darkest Milan OR Truly Tribal Travels

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions ..... and yes, my shimmy lovelies, I fear that is where my story begins today ..... It is a salutory tale, a dreadful warning of things that may happen when you plot a wonderful surprise for someone and it all goes tragically wrong ...

In actual fact the going wrong bit would have happened anyway but that doesn't sound as melodramatic and I'm feeling in need of a bit of melodrama this morning. In actual fact the only thing that would have changed events is if we had decided our surprise wasn't going to be a surprise at all and had been completely open with it , and yes, we are still kicking ourself vigorously in painful places for that one. And, although it may be told tongue-in-cheek, this is essentially a sad story ... of horrible things that happened to a lovely lady (who, I should add, is perfectly OK with me blogging all of this - I wouldn't have dreamt of writing all this if she hadn't been) who most certainly didn't deserve any of it. However, it's also a story of tribal togetherness, of laughter through tears and of triumph over adversity. It all sounds very Shakespearean, doesn't it ... and what better backdrop for such a tale than the historic streets of beautiful Milan. In 2013 of course, which COULD reduce the melodramatic impact... if we let it. Which we won't .... such minor detail has never stopped us before .....
 
Basta! Enough! (See - I picked up a bit of Italian!) Enough of the rambling monologue! Let's gerronweeit as we say in Lancashire!
 
Our story begins one dreary Tuesday afternoon when, our Gypsy Caravan Teacher Training successfully completed, three of us tribal girls had a Bright Idea. Yes, you just know that that is a portent of doom, don't you? Bright Ideas so often are .... Having time on our hands in which to Get Up To No Good we decided a bit of sight-seeing in Milan would be a Good Idea (All this capitalisation is deliberate by the way. I'm not just having a funny turn, which wouldn't be at all unusual I grant you). So onto a tram we hopped (we got quite good at tram hopping, and even hopped onto the right tram) and headed for the city centre. Now, it wasn't the sight seeing that led to trouble ... that was fun. We saw lots and lots of lovely shops with fans and brollies and jewellery and shoes and gorgeous things. We saw giant blue snails and policemen (why that should be exciting I don't know but it was. I would have taken a photo but they scared me) (the policemen, not the snails.I did photograph the snails) and lovely old churches and fountains and things ...
 
But then it All Went Wrong.
 
Our beautiful friend Wendy was arriving in Milan that very evening you see ... and we decided to give her a True Tribal Welcome by meeting her off the airport bus. We found a lovely little bar close to where the bus came into San Babila and there we drank coffee and waited ...
 
and waited ....
 
and waited ...
and waited. 'Perhaps her plane is delayed?'  'But why hasn't she phoned?'  'It might be taking ages for her baggage to come through?'  'But why hasn't she phoned?'  'Perhaps she got a taxi?'  'But why hasn't she phoned?'  'Why hasn't she phoned?'  'Why hasn't she phoned?'  'Maybe her phone won't work?'  'Nahhhh.'  'Why hasn't she phoned?'  'Maybe she's sitting outside the apartment waiting for us and she's very VERY cross?'  'But why hasn't she phoned?'  'Let's just wait for ONE more bus then if she's not on it we'll head back.'  'WHY HASN'T SHE PHONED?' You get the gist of it ...
 
And back we headed, through the twilight .... back to our funky little apartment .....
 
And there she was. Sitting on the floor. On the doorstep, like the Little Match Girl.
 
And what was the first thing she said?
 
'I've had my passport stolen. And my train tickets. And my travel documents. And ALL my Euros.'
 
Can you imagine how we felt? It was action stations all round. Hugs. Into the apartment. More hugs. Kettle (well, saucepan) on (we didn't have a kettle. Which is a tale in itself). More hugs. Hot, strong tea. More hugs. Wine (you just knew alcohol would come into it somewhere, didn't you?). Yet more hugs.
 
To cut a long story short, Wendy HAD been on the airport bus -- but had jumped off a couple of stops early to catch the Metro to the apartment instead. And there it had happened. In all the crush some evil so-and-so had managed to unzip her bag and make off with her travel wallet and all its contents. she was devastated, we were devastated. Just to add insult to injury her suitcase key was in the wallet too, so we had to do a bit of nifty lock picking. And then to pile even more insult on top of even more injury her nail varnish remover had leaked inside her suitcase and so the smell of acetone pervaded the apartment. Instead of having an exciting catch up and gossip poor Wendy spent the night on the phone (Eleanor's phone ... Wendy's WOULDN'T work over there ...) to her insurance company. It wasn't good ..... but there were lots of tribal hugs.
 
We can start to smile about it now, but no, it wasn't good. However, as this things often do, it did have a silver lining .....  in the form of a Tribal Adventure ...
 
The following morning dawned bright and sunny. Yes .. endless blue skies. A perfect day, if it hadn't been for the events of the night before. We had been due to start the next phase of our training but Wendy had been told she needed to get herself down to the British Embassy ASAP, and given what had happened to her there was no way we could let her venture out there alone. A swift call to Mamma P to explain the situation, a delayed start for the training (Thank you Mamma! x) and we were off - back on the tram into Milan.
 
Now, if someone says 'British Embassy' to you, what do you think of? We thought 'Huge edifice with flags outside'. With the help of Julie's map ... (she sadly missed out on this part of the adventure as she was flying home that day) we found the right street. We found the huge Ferrari shop. We found places we had wandered to the previous afternoon on our sightseeing trip. But did we find a large edifice with flags? Of course not! That would have been far too simple .... Instead we found a nice policeman person near to La Scala. We HAD been in the right street but 'edifice' was apparently not the word you would use to describe the embassy.... and in any case we needed to go to the police station first ...
 
By this time we were getting pretty nifty at finding our way round Milan and hey, we got there .... no problem! But we did a double take when we got inside .. I've never actually BEEN inside Wigan Cop Shop, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't look like this ....  Happily (or not) the rooms inside were much more what you might expect and there we sat, in a line (just like that scene from Beetlejuice - you know, the one with the man with the shrunken head?). I sat there, sang Middle Eastern rhythms and ate my butties whilst we waited for the very ad-hoc queue to die down. Unfortunately the very young (yes, even in Italy they're getting younger) policeman didn't speak a lot of English and did look mildly alarmed at three Britishers with wildly divergent accents (one Welsh, one Scottish and one Lancashire) in full dance gear descending upon him in his little cubicle. He did a lot of to-ing and fro-ing (we weren't sure whether that was through blind terror or because someone had thoughtlessly situated the photocopier several miles away) whilst we perched precariously on two very hard chairs (yes, two chairs. Yes, there were three of us. Yes, we shared. No, it wasn't comfortable).
 
However, more quickly than we had anticipated (not that he wanted to get rid of us or anything), the report was safely in Wendy's eager little hands and we were off on the next stage of our Italian Adventure .... back to the elusive British Embassy ....
Which was just a doorway. With a couple of soldiers outside.
 
And where, of course, it was lunchtime.
After perusing the Italian Book of Condolence for Lady Thatcher ("Just one thing to say - Gorgeous woman!" Who on earth wrote that?!) we had no option but to find a nearby bar. And wait.
 

On the plus side this meant that I did get the chance to sample a delicious iced, spiced soya coffee ..
.. and it did mean that our lovely dancing friend Catherine (who speaks Italian .. yippeee) could join us! Mamma P had been really understanding and delayed the start of our training until later that afternoon so there was nothing to do but wait (some more) ...
 ... and then venture into the Embassy (where we had to peel one of our number, Who Shall Remain Nameless (but it wasn't me) off various sultry young Italian soldiers) ....
 
... where we waited some more. Eventually, after copious amounts of form-filling, an impromptu trip back to the Metro for photographic purposes (not one of those there booths but a real, live little photographer man!) and Wendy being divested of the princely sum of 117 Euros for emergency travel documents, we were done. And yes, we felt we had been well and truly done!!!
Of course, although that signalled the end of our adventures for that day ... and we had ventured deep into the nether regions of Milan, into places we never thought we'd get to see ... that wasn't the end of it for Wendy. Even now she's home she has sooo much to sort. However, despite the wicked monsters who swiped her stuff in the first place, it has to be said that everyone else we met was soooo helpful (even the very-alarmed policeman, in his own way) and was so apologetic, sorry and yes, ashamed that this had happened to her in their beautiful city. And yes, despite it all I found myself LOVING Milan! We were all distraught for Wendy of course ... but I do have to confess that somewhere within the upset was an air of semi-excitement at getting to visit unexpected places! That sounds awful, but you know what I mean!
 
And thankfully, the story has a happy ending! Tribal togetherness, sisterhood and spirit won the day! We DID get back to the studio in time to start our training! Wendy, gutsy lady that she is, rose above all that adversity and went on to successfully complete not only her Collective Soul 2 certification but also, the following week, her Teacher Training 2 and her Collective Soul 3! A terrific accomplishment at the best of times, but, given all that she'd been through, nothing short of FREAKIN' FABULOUS!!!!
 
Tribal Rocks - oh YEAH!!!
 
Until next time - Happy dancing!
 
Cayte x
 
 
 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

An Intense Experience

Oh my goshly goodness! April has been such an eventful month - I have SOOOO much to tell you about, SOOOO many thoughts to share with you ... I just don't know where to start! It will certainly make up for the absence of posts for a couple of months, let me tell you! I even woke up in the middle of last night with an idea for a blog on my mind. There will be reflective blogs, eventful blogs, funny blogs. Something for everyone!

The REALLY big news is that I started the month with a trip to the beautiful city of Milan. Not just any old trip - this was most definitely a dance trip. Those of you who know me well will know that up until three years ago I had never flown in my life ... never even had a passport ... and so it was a really big deal to head off for Italy all on my ownsome, with a change of plane at Frankfurt (which was actually more exciting than scary as I LOVE take offs and landings - the more in a journey the merrier as far as I'm concerned!). But hey, I had a really, seriously strong motivation for making that trip, and the thought of flying all alone wasn't going to stop me!

So, what had spurred me into action you may ask? Why, training with my amazing dance teacher and tribal mamma, Paulette Rees-Denis of course! Linking up with beautiful dance friends from all over the world .. sharing thoughts, hopes and dreams .. days filled with hard dancing, laughter, tears ... these things aren't called 'Intensives' for nothing!

Having travelled to Portland, Oregon back in 2010 to train with Paulette and to take my Collective Soul Level 1 certification programme with her, I sort of knew what to expect. This time however I was expanding my horizons a little and was going for both Gypsy Caravan Teacher Training Level 1 and Collective Soul Level 2 over the course of the week. I knew it would be hard work, I knew it would be fun, I knew it would be rewarding, I knew it would be physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. And boy, was I right! And yes, it was fabulous! This really is 'training' in the true sense of the word - all too often I see people use the term 'trained in ...' when they've actually only been to a few classes or a couple of workshops in a style (ooh, I feel a blog post coming on there!). Group sizes are kept small so you receive really individualised attention and correction from Mamma P herself and so she really gets to know you as a dancer. There is a wonderful balance of dance technique, improvisation, developing musical understanding, zilling, discussion about all things tribal, journalling ... with a bit of yoga, breathing and meditation thrown in for good measure! You revitalise old friendships and forge new ones with dancers from all over the world and really come to understand and sink deep into the whole Gypsy Caravan philosophy - TRIBAL really and truly ROCKS!

I do have a fair few 'diary' type blogs coming up .... how I got to experience a side of Milan that I never dreamed I'd see, how to tell your malfouf from your masmoudi, the joys of Italian LIDL and other Lombardian food experiences, life in the Italian Big Brother Hoooooose. the fabulous folk I met and danced with  .... so I'm not going to go into all that here and now. Instead I'm just going to throw in a couple of thoughts about my dance training experiences ....

First up was the Teacher Training ...in order to take this you need to have already taken (and passed - yes, these certifications do involve end-of-training testing!) Paulette's Collective Soul Level 1, which focuses on your personal dance technique. The training covers how you would actually teach moves and combos (lots and lots of practice at this!), but is oh so much more! Working on student corrections, thinking about what tribal is and how to market it, sharing experiences, hopes and dreams, zilling, teaching Middle Eastern rhythms ... it's all in there! And to cap it all off of course there is the opportunity to draw upon Paulette's wealth of knowledge and experience in dancing and teaching this wonderful style! I just can't tell you how much I got out of it and how much I would recommend it ... my class have already started to reap the benefits!

Oh yes ....... and I passed!!!! Huge smiles all round!!!! So proud and honoured to represent this style and to be a part of Taking Tribal Global!

No time for resting on our laurels however as it was straight into Collective Soul Level 2 training! The Collective Soul series of certifications is all about your personal dance development - about Paulette supporting you in becoming the best dancer you can be - as opposed to your teaching of others (and I do believe teaching is NOT for everyone. It does disturb me when I see teaching being treated as a 'natural progression' for dancers. It's a very different thing --- and yes, I do feel yet another blog post comiung up). So as you can imagine - lots of dancing, working on personal technique, dancing with others, dancing with our zills ... some truly, truly beautiful moments in there!
 
And such a sense of achievement when Paulette handed me that certificate! Yes, more testing .... personal feedback from Mamma P about what I now need to do and work on to take those next steps in my dance journey. Freakin' fabulous!
 
So here I am back in the UK ... still buzzing from the whole amazing experience, with the benefit of JoY workshops with Les Soeurs Tribales yesterday to stave off any post-Milan blues! I seriously cannot say enough how much I love this dance style, how much it speaks to me, how much it makes my soul sing. And how eternally grateful I am to my tribal mamma, Paulette, for all her love, encouragement and support ....
 

 
 Oh yes!!!!

Until next time (which won't be long - I have sooo much more to blog about!) - happy, soul singing, rocking tribal dancing!

Cayte x