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!