Saturday, 8 March 2014

It's all about the sparkle!

Many moons ago, in a previous lifetime (or so it seems) I was asked a question during a teaching interview. Well, obviously I was asked more than just the one, but this particular question has stuck with me over the years :

'What do you think is the most important quality for an outstanding teacher - good subject knowledge, good behaviour management or 'sparkle'?

Folks who know me can probably predict the answer so have my permission to skip the next sentence. I chose 'sparkle'. Not just because it sounded prettier and glitzier, I promise you. Indeed, the second part of the question was 'And why?' so there were no easy get-outs. In a nutshell, you can teach subject knowledge (up to a point of course). Weak behaviour management is a bit more difficult to address as part of it comes from your own 'persona' and presence but yes, there are strategies that can be taught to improve it. But sparkle?  I happen to believe that everyone has their own sparkle, be it wild, calm, gentle or in your face, but letting it shine? That's a different matter entirely!

I often return to that question when I'm watching dance performances, and as I've seen some amazing ones at Majma only last weekend and we are now moving into 'Hafla Season' I'm once again pondering it! So, for 'subject knowledge' substitute 'knowledge of the dance, music and the style you are seeking to portray'. For 'behaviour management' substitute 'technique' (unless you have a very unruly troupe of course! I've substituted technique here not because it in any way parallels behaviour management but because it can be learned, although each to our own level, if you get what I mean!). And for sparkle? Well of course there's lots of sparkle and glitter in the dance world, but here I'm talking about that light that comes from within, that shines out and sparkles from the soul when the dancer is really passionate about what they are doing. With me so far?

Soooo - go on! Ask me the question!!!

'What, for you, is most important in a dance performance? Is it knowledge of the dance, technique or 'sparkle'?

And yes folks, my answer is the same. Of course they are ALL important, but what makes a performance special, what engages me, what brings it to life, is undoubtably that sparkle!

We've all seen them. Those dances that are oh-so technically perfect. Not a foot wrong, not a muscle movement out of place. Immaculate costuming and make up. A seemingly spot on representation of their style. Hell, there might even be smiles.

But there is something missing. The smiles might be there, but there's no real joy behind them, no true connection to the dance, the music, the audience. What you are seeing up there is a performer - without the person behind it shining through. No soul, no 'sparkle'. And it leaves me cold. I want to FEEL the passion. I want to laugh and smile with you, or feel chills down my spine at your Dark Fusion self (yes, smiles not compulsory if that dark soul is shining through!). I want something more than just a pedestrian execution of the steps with a learned smile on your lips. I may be demanding, but I want your soul!! (Muwahahahahaha!!)

So when I see you performing at a hafla near me I will give you all kudos and huge audience smiles and thanks just for getting up there to entertain me. If you are showing me a great representation of your style, whatever that may be, I will hold you in great esteem. If your technique is spot on, your execution of the moves flawless, then I promise you I will be in awe.

But if you let yourself shine through, if you sparkle up there in whatever way, then you will draw me irrevocably into your performance. I will live it, breathe it, feel it all with you. I will love you forever!

You give me your soul and I'll give you mine!

Until next time - happy dancing!

Cayte x

P.S.  Following on from all of that ... and after their Majma performance last Saturday ...

Gypsy Caravan Dance Company International, I do love you forever!

I have your souls!!!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Tribal Rocks Glastonbury!

Wowee what a weekend! Yes, it may be a while since I posted but boy have I got lots to say! Sakura are back now from an amazing weekend of total Gypsy Caravan immersion at the Majma Dance Festival in Glastonbury; over eight hours of workshops with our Tribal Mamma, Paulette Rees-Denis, two shows (including a breathtaking performance from Gypsy Caravan International with our beautiful friend Deirdre making her GC debut together with Paulette and Cinzia), shopping, chilling, hugging friends old and new, laughing, crying ... it was all right in there!

Before I go any further I really must shout out a
huge thank you to Linda, without who we wouldn't even had got there! A last minute car crisis almost put a spanner in the works but Linda valiantly drove us there and back through humungous traffic jams and devastating rain and, together with Bev, we had quite a road trip! We sang (on the way back), compiled lists of classic 'Bev quotes' (don't ask), dried a variety of bits of clothing under service station hand dryers (see - I got that word in Linda!) and downed copious amounts of caramel soya latte! Thank you too to Jan's long-suffering hubby Ian, who was our taxi driver across to Liverpool (we didn't sing to him!)

We had never been to Majma before; it's a 'pay for the whole thing' event and is a fair hike from Lancashire (although as you know that sort of thing doesn't usually stop us) but of course on this occasion we just couldn't resist the 'Paulette Pull', especially as the last time she did Majma was the year I went to Portland so I just couldn't afford it. It is a lovely, friendly festival, great value for money with a wide range of teachers. The workshops are held in different venues across the town; all of  Paulette's were in the Town Hall which is right in the centre and was literally two minutes from our gorgeous apartment and very handy for mooching round the shops! The only downside was that we did feel a bit 'cut off' from everything else as the souk and cafĂ© were at a school about 15 minutes walk away. There was a shuttle bus provided but this didn't run at lunchtimes, so we only actually went up there for the evening shows. The room we were in for our workshops was beautiful (it had chandeliers!) although a wee bit snug for the forty nine folk who turned up for the beginners' workshop on Saturday - but we managed and nobody inadvertently swiped anyone else in the face! Everything was really well organised with the help of the lovely Desert Divas, there were some great bargains to be had in the souk and the shows started bang on time (whoopee!)!

We did five GC workshops altogether - three on the Saturday (GC Beginners, Spunky Moves and Shimmy Queen) and two on the Sunday (Intermediate/Advanced Technique and Tribal Trance). Paulette is just an outstanding teacher, no matter what your level of experience may be. She worked us hard but in oh such a good way. We drilled and danced and danced and drilled and drilled and drilled and drilled! That woman never stops! No matter how many are in a class she is the all-seeing-eye from which there is no escape (and giving her a stage to stand on meant she could see even further!) but everything is done in the spirit of love and in helping you to become the best dancer you can possibly be. And through it all she weaves her tribal web of community and connection, of creativity, of being in the moment, of looking and really seeing, of her vision of tribal, of tribal gone global. Magic moments? Oh so many .... doing Arabic Orbit #1 in long diagonal lines, High Fives across the room, aching hips, aching arms, aching hearts! Funky beats to make you move and groove, the sway of hips in perfect synchronicity as groups of women ghawazeed their way around the Moroccan Box and the drawing together in that sweet circle at the end of the last technique workshop when Cinzia spoke so beautifully and eloquently about why she is a Gypsy Caravan dancer, of her love for the style and of what it brings to her life. And yes, there were tears aplenty (including from the Sakura girls!) as experiences and dance love were shared around that circle.  Our final workshop, Tribal Trance, was a perfect end to the weekend. More laughter, more tears, the heart-stopping 'Walk To Nowhere', shaking it all out and dancing with one another, moving around the room together and alone, journalling and taking that so precious 'me time'. We all came out of it energised and revitalised and filled with GC love! Tribal Rocks!

And now - the shows! We were lucky enough on both the Friday and Saturday nights to be seated on the floor right in front of the stage and so had a fabulous view of some fantastic performances. But, completely without bias (and yes, it is without bias!) one performance totally stole the weekend for us and for many others. And here it is - click on the photo and prepare for total tribal yumminess :

Gypsy Caravan International at Majma 2014

Wow Wow Wow Wow Wow! When those ladies started to move I quite literally got chills down my spine. Breath-taking, heart-stopping, soul-moving. It was just incredible. You could feel that connection oozing off the stage; they weren't just dancing FOR us, they were dancing WITH us. The spirit of tribal lived on that stage and we couldn't stop smiling - with more than a few tears in our eyes (and I'm not just talking about us GC style dancers either). We were over the moon afterwards when Deirdre told us that despite the bright lights they could see and hear us right there at the front. We really felt that we were part of it. These three ladies, including Deirdre making her GC debut, were the out and out stars!! This performance will stay with me for a very, very long time. It was truly a privilege to be there. This is why I dance. This is why I dance GC. This is why I dance tribal. This is tribal. And it ROCKS!
So you think I'm biased? Tell that to all the ladies who weren't tribal dancers but who saw this performance and went out to the help desk to change their Sunday workshop choices so that they too could dance some Gypsy Caravan and to share in this life-changing experience. They saw it, they felt it, they loved that tribal connection!
Tribal rocks and rocks and rocks and rocks!!!!!
Until next time, happy dancing!