Saturday, 13 August 2016

Cardigan Belly Dance Festival 2016

It seems impossible that that only a fortnight ago, we were mid-show at the 6th (yes, 6th!) Cardigan Belly Dance Festival. Our guest teacher Zara bravely took on a last minute challenge to do a children's workshop in the afternoon, as friends and family had descended unexpectedly on my dance-partner-in-crime Rose a few days before the weekend (so we were both having meltdowns!). The noise added a counterpoint to the rehearsals for our other guest teacher Siluria and her 'pop-up troupe'. Both sets of dancers were sorted out with costumes, ready to perform that evening. A last minute drop-out due to illness was replaced by a last minute drop-in, enabled by not working a shift after all. I had managed to organise a running order which enabled repeat performers to change costumes without being too frantic as well as roughly balancing the two halves, despite other last minute unknowns - a dancer with a very ill father, would she perform and how many pieces, and whether the children would want to perform. In the end, I ditched any thought of performing a solo piece, as I found myself frantically busy covering for another LIFT leader who gives four or five classes a week and who was off training for the middle two weeks of July. I also had to ditch any thoughts of going to the Foundation for Community Dance summer school, which clashed with the preparation week before the festival, and besides which was more than I could afford.

The show went without a hitch, thanks to our tech who has become used to working with us and, having received running order, start on/off cues and music, is a master at getting the most out of the limited lighting rig so we're well lit.

The children were so cute and could have taught the adults a thing or two about ditching the nerves and just getting out there to dance. Two of the girls had a bit of a costume malfunction where their skirts tangled as they turned, and they just stopped and sorted it out with no fuss, then picked up their cue from Zara again. What stars!

Still from Lazlo's Bar
Lazlo's Bar
The pop-up troupe was a bit different this year. Working with Siluria and her husband Andy on live sax, the music and theme was taken from a piece called 'Lazlo's Bar' by their band, Rogora Khart. All of the Imago dancers also did the pop-up troupe. When I arrived at the theatre after lunch, it was great to see that they'd already got the choreography down and were sorting out costume and rehearsing in the afternoon session. The performance was great, the choreography picking up on the lyrics and creating the atmosphere of the bar.

Siluria's other two solos also used music by Rogora Khart. She has great flow and expression; her Sunday workshop was about getting more expression into the dance, and more connection with audience and other dancers.

The Imago piece was possibly the best we've ever performed it. It seems to have been a struggle this year, despite being shorter and simpler than the previous two pieces. It really confirmed to me that classes on only the first and third Wednesdays of the month (which was all the dancers felt they could afford and commit to) just isn't an effective way to learn and retain a choreography and sort out the technique, if the dancers also don't practise at home. We'd spent about 21 hours on the choreography and supporting technique over seven months, which proved long enough to have forgotten all the phrase-by-phrase break-down we'd started with and for bad habits and blocks to creep in. There must be something in the immediacy of learning a piece on the day, without having to commit it to long-term memory. How you can spend months on a piece and feel under-rehearsed, but not feel so under-rehearsed on a piece you learned (but don't really know!) in a day, just boggles my mind. Anyway, I was proud of everyone for their commitment, hard work and performance, and had some lovely feedback from the audience on how good we were, how nice we looked (all different bits of costume, but linked by top, bottom or both in shades of blue) and how much they liked the piece.

I was intensely proud of one of my dancers, who choreographed and performed her first solo. We'd had some rehearsal time, in which I'd given feedback and tips, but this was her creation and expression, a fusion piece which had the crowd clapping along. She worked extremely hard on it, with a quantum leap in improvement each time she rehearsed with me. It just goes to show, when you dance from the heart, you can perform and produce something that an audience can enjoy watching, without having good, much less perfect technique. (Although of course, we should all be working towards that, but just think what you and your audience could miss out on if you wait to perform until you or others think you're really quite good! But that's a whole other discussion and I digress!)

Juliana came down from north Wales to perform her fusion sword piece, one of those times when the dance ends and you feel as though you've just been released from a spell.

I admire my dance partner Rose greatly; she does separate choreographies for her handful of different groups and gets the best out of her dancers with some beautiful pieces. This year, one of her groups ordered made-to-measure galabeyas from Cairo via Zara's Zouk and they were gorgeous, and left me green with costume envy. Some of her dancers are now creating their own solos and duets, some of which had been shown for feedback at Yvette Cowles' weekend of workshops relating to dance drama and performance, and the polish which had been put on them since that weekend at the end of May was fabulous to see.

Tribal Unity Wales did a fast piece in the first half and a slower set in the second half, including a Puja to the most beautiful guitar music (although I still don't know what, or by whom, it was).

Zara also did a set comprising a high-energy raqs assaya, where her cane became a blur of silver, baladi which revelled in the music and a drum solo to top it all off. She brought the same energy to her workshop on empowerment through the dance the following day, where we walked around like divas, shouted across the space and found our centre of gravity and the source of our feminine power in our pelvis.

As it always does, the weekend flew by and it took me a few days to come down off the high.I still haven't unpacked and dealt with all the bits and pieces and operation 'reclaim the sewing table' has stalled because ... ah, that's a different post!

No comments: