Thursday, 20 August 2015

Let's Play Dress-Up - Sakura Style!

So here I am, doing a bit of sewing and thinking about costuming for upcoming Sakura performances, and I've been dragged into that sew-to-the-end-of -this-thread-then-you-can-reward-yourself  thing. And today I'm rewarding myself by flicking through lots of old photos depicting Sakura in different costumes through the ages! 

Now, much as we appreciate the 'traditional tribal' look it has to be said that for various reasons we don't sport it every time we perform, for a variety of reasons. But hey, we CAN do it from time to time, and you'll get the evidence later! For a lot of performances we do prefer to be a little less -well, encumbered. And we have a few signature items that crop up regularly as part of our 'Sakura Look'. 

1. Sakura Skirts!

I can't remember where the idea for these sprouted from, but suffice it to say they are our very own designs, lovingly brought to life for us by our friend Kate, and are quite definitively 'us'! As with most of our costumes they are similarly themed but not identical - we are our own people with our own tastes and body shapes so that makes sense! We had lots of fun fabric shopping for these several years ago, as I recall, and they're still pretty unique one-of-a-kind, which is why they keep coming out to play! We usually wear them with tribal pants for a slightly funky look ...

2. Coat-Dresses

Now these again are our own creations! Supremely comfortable they work over 25 yard skirts or tribal pants, so are pretty versatile!

Again they are personalised with various splits and sari ribbon (Ye gods, did that take ages to sew on!)

3. Rock Chick Rips

This kind of look comes out when we're dancing to non-traditional stuff - usually rock/metal (cos that's how we roll!). And yes - it involves a certain amount of raiding of our 'everyday' wardrobes! 

4. Seriously Old School

Whilst not a look we would normally go for, we really did enjoy going the whole hog and donning turbans, tassels and tribal bras for the Manchester Day Parade earlier this year. It's certainly a look that draws the eye and commands attention - but not, does it feel good to take it all off and get into your pjs afterwards! I felt like I still had that turban on several days later! 

5. Simply Tribal 

I'm not sure about the 'simply' bit but at least we weren't in the turbans. Although maybe three 25 yard skirts made up for that! This is indeed a beautiful look ... And we love to wear it sometimes - just not all the time! 

I've been quite disciplined here as I could have posted LOADS more photos, but they'd all really have been variations on a theme! Suffice it to say we love to dress up - and to think about how our costumes fit the music, performance and our personalities. Yes, comfort comes into it too - we like to relax and chill after dancing without having to do a complete change. We also like to wear stuff that's a little different - and is very 'us'- hence why we came up with our Sakura Skirts and coat-dresses. Having said all that, we do both adore that traditional tribal look too - it's so distinctive and is just gorgeous! 

Better get back to sewing now - time and costuming wait for no one! 

Until next time, happy dancing! 

Monday, 17 August 2015

Beautiful Beginners

The very best dancers know that they are never too good for beginners' class. 

I could actually leave this blog right here, with just that one sentence (and maybe a pretty picture of course!). It really does say it all. Some of the most powerful moments in my dance life have been when I have taken a workshop with a fab teacher at a dance festival and then gone into my next - beginner level - workshop, to find that very same teacher dancing and learning right alongside me. Yes, it's about humility, but it's also because those teachers recognise you can never have too much of the basics. You never stop learning, and adding and improving. And it's that realisation that makes them so darn good!

Conversely, it's often those students who really NEED more work on those basics that think they're above mere beginner classes. They think they have been there, done that and are ready for something new. I really hope that isn't you, dear reader (Jane Austen moment there!) but just in case .......

Five reasons why you're never too good for beginners : 

1. Beginner classes are the foundations of your dance. Shaky foundations mean wobbly buildings, folks. And guess what - that basic Arabic that looks a bit dodgy because it needs more work is STILL going to look dodgy when you throw it into that more advanced combo that you've been racing to learn! Beautiful basics impress more than poorly executed fancy stuff, every time. 

2. Learning doesn't happen in a simple straight line, where you learn one new thing after another. It's far more complex than that and involves lots of layering, adding new stuff, adapting, adjusting ..... The first time you are introduced to a new move you'll focus in on the main, visible aspects. The big picture. Unless you are an extremely talented, multi-faceted dancer, you will at first tune out the finer points. It's only when you revisit the move that you will become more aware of the small details; once your body is confident in the basic move then you'll be free to become aware of the nuances that make it special. Let's have an example ....

Let's take the Ghawazee #1 - a GC move. Essentially a ghawazee with a level change - down down up up. OK - so you've got the level change and reckon you've 'got' the move? Well - how is your ghawazee doing in there then? Is it still going or has it faltered? Are you remembering to keep your rib cage and hips separated for better definition? What about your knees? Are you keeping them bent, even on the up up? And your feet? They are staying parallel aren't they? Not too far apart? You're not stepping out too much either? Are your shoulders down? What about your arms- hands at shoulder height, elbows slightly down (this is GC!)? Have you managed to keep power and intention through to your hands? And your head - not hanging down/sticking forward is it? Oh - and have you found the '1' in the music? Are you dancing on the beat? AND ARE YOU REMEMBERING TO SMILE?!!!!!!!

Phew!!!! So much to think about in one simple BEGINNER level move ...... And we haven't even tried to turn it! Yes, some of those points are generic, will apply across lots of different moves and can be practised in many different contexts BUT by revisiting such beginner moves in class you are getting the ideal chance to reinforce and build on them! 

3. Old habits die hard, and bad habits are all too easily picked up. Revisiting the basics will help you to become aware of these and to correct them. Do you seriously think you haven't picked up any such bad habits on your dance journey? If so, you're way above us mere mortals! 

4. Skills on their own aren't a lot of good. What's important is being able to APPLY them. A decent beginner class will not only give you the opportunity to work on the moves, but also the chance to drill them in different sequences, put them into short sequences as you travel across the floor, work on leading them clearly and confidently and following them quickly and faithfully. If you're a reflective learner - and to be truly effective and get better you do NEED to be - then you'll be thinking about transitions, how to make them flow, what works and what doesn't, how things fit into the music ..... It's what makes a good dancer. Working in a beginners' class with more familiar moves frees up your mind and body to concentrate on that stuff. It's a different challenge to being in a more advanced class where you're taking in more complex moves - but make no mistake about it, it's still a challenge!

5. Taking a beginners' class means you are learning alongside, yes, you guessed it - BEGINNERS! And if you think that you have nothing to learn from dancers less experienced than yourself then I just wasted a whole blog post. There is ALWAYS something new to learn; I learn from my students every single class! Where do I start? Well, you'll have to put into practice one of the basic aspects of tribal improv; you're all in it together! When you're in the lead you will have to THINK extra hard about what moves your followers know. There's nothing clever about throwing in that tricky move you learned in last week's intermediate class, because this is about everyone being able to follow and look good. Oh, and are your moves and cues clear enough for everyone, including less experienced dancers, to follow? If you're following, then you may well be taking your lead from someone who's far less confident than you are. Their execution of moves make not be clear, maybe they're off the beat .... But you need to be right there with them. Yes, it can be tricky, but it really is great practice and will impact positively on your development as a whole. And don't switch off in those drills either! LISTEN to the points and corrections your teacher makes. Just because you've been learning longer it doesn't mean you've got it all right! Practice makes perfect. 

Still think you have nothing to gain from beginners' classes? Then you are obviously a dancer at the top of your game with nothing to learn from anyone! 

All I can do is finish as I started : 

The very best dancers know that they are never too good for beginners' class.

Until next time, happy dancing!