Mirramu near lake George, Australia – November 2013

26th November 2013

2013-11-24 21.51.39Spending time at Mirramu Arts Centre near Lake George in Eastern Australia last weekend was just magical. In fact, that is an understatement. I am still trying to process all the amazing moments that happened. Moments such as meeting Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, the creator of Mirramu, who has dedicated the last 79 years of her life to dance. Moments such as dancing Silvestre technique on the lakebed of Lake Weereewa (The original name of the lake), one of the oldest lakes in the world.

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I start realising that we have mutual friends all over the world, doing similar work across the globe: bringing different cultures together to learn from each other through dance. Having a group of 9 women of all different ages and different walks of life that just happened to find out about my intensive at Mirramu was really fantastic. We got to really go deep into our dance practice, and we got to explore Tribal Fusion, Silvestre technique and Choreology theory and practice based on Laban’s work. The input of everyone’s energy at the event really made it into what it was. What a great group of women we had. It was also incredible to hear each other’s background stories and how it relates to their dance background.

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Being on the sacred ground of Mirramu really felt special, and I still feel the energy of the lake and the positive energy of everyone involved. And I got ideas. I am inspired! I can’t wait to create more work, and work on the projects that are currently developing in the back of my head.

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Very special thank you to Lissa-Jane De Sailles for trusting that this event was going to be amazing, and for bringing me over to teach in Oz. Very special thank you to Elizabeth Cameron Dalman for inspiring me with your stories and anecdotes about your life as a dancer and thank you for believing in me. Thank you to Jessie, Maryvonne, Gabriella, Lissa, Elizabeth, Eileen, Kylie, Mara and Allison for coming to the intensive. Thank you to Jilha for taking me to see the dolphins today…

I am looking forward to teaching at Kylie’s studio tomorrow and Friday and perform at Squid studio on Saturday night, in Nowra. We got a live band and I am dancing to Bubamara! Last time I danced to this song was May 2009, dancing with 12-piece brass band Fanfara! Can’t wait to relive that experience….

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What do we really know about Rwanda – July 2013

26th November 2013 – writing this from Nowra, Australia, as I all of the sudden remember it’s been a while I have written something here. And then I remembered that I never ended up posting my post on my trip to Rwanda in July 2013. So I thought now was a good opportunity. Nice to reread my thoughts from 5 months ago also….

Here it goes:

7th July 2013

What do we really know about Rwanda?

Genocides, corrupt governments, poverty, extreme acts of inhumanity, issues with safety,… Those are some of the things most people associate with this country, and given the focus of the media on all that is negative, it’s hard not to. With this letter I want to draw a very different picture, from my first hand experiences in the last 10 days I spent in this country.

It is clear that each person beyond the age of 19 has suffered immensely in this country, but what I found most inspiring about the Rwandan people is their drive to make a change. When arriving from Kigali airport the first thing you notice is how clean the streets are. A very different image than what I was expecting. And another thing I noticed were the billboards in the roads, each one with slogans in improving the country on different levels (i.e. promotion of free HIV tests, say no to corruption,…), The Rwandan people some of the friendliest people I have met, with a genuine smile on pretty much everyone’s face when you greet them or smile at them. I felt really welcome here from the start and it made it even harder to leave.

On Saturday 29th June I had the honour to attend the launch of a new association: The Be Healthy Family. An association the students of the Catholic University of Rwanda in Save had founded themselves. They invited 10 of the poorest families in the district and offered them free products that would help them with hygiene and nutrition and explained how to use them. It was inspiring to see how much the Rwandan people give back to the community at any opportunity.

I asked many people about their Rwandan government and everyone spoke very highly of the government, that really is trying to make changes to improve the lives of all people. For example: cows are considered a wealthy asset to have as a family as it provides milk to feed the families. The government has given 1 cow per family to the people living in the rural areas, providing that they use it to feed their community with the milk of each cows. They also promote family planning, nutrition and hygiene to create optimal living conditions for their people.

On Saturday and Sunday 29th and 30th June, my dad and his wife Claudine showed me some of the work they did with the Impore Project. Having organised 3 fundraisers so far to raise money to support their projects, I was keen to see the work that had been done. My dad took me to the maternity they built in Sovu, next to one of the 12 healthcare centres in the Huye district in Rwanda, and explained what each fundraiser went to in full detail. It was so amazing to see the materialisation of their ideas and to see in what way we (all dancers that performed at the fundraisers) contributed to this wonderful project. Next up is Chez Marraine, Claudine showed me their current project in progress, explained what each room was going to serve for and what she was going to do with the funds of our last fundraiser at Tribal Café just days before my trip to Rwanda. We raised £252 which will be used for the labour to build and install all windows in the children’s crèche. The crèche is meant as a temporary solution for babies that lost both parents and have no nearby family. The total number of children will be a maximum of 8, with one nanny/nurse for every 2 children, so that the children receive enough care and attention on all their basic needs. In the meantime Claudine will look for a suitable family in the area that can adopt the children. On the 4th July, 7 young students from Belgium arrived in Kigali, offering their school holidays to work on the project ‘Chez Marraine’ and help build the crèche which Claudine says to be in business by the beginning of 2014.

On my first day in Rwanda I met the director of a dance, music and theatre company called Mashiriki. We chatted for a little bit and soon found our ideas about arts were very similar, that in order to move forwards in arts new creations need to be made. She talked about creatively fusing traditional Rwandan music and dance with outside influences such as contemporary and hip hop so needless to say we got on well. I explained about my background in mathematics, Silvestre Technique and Choreology and she was interested to know more. On the Sunday after our meeting she invited me to teach a workshop to some of her company members. I covered a combination of some Silvestre Technique as well as some Choreology exercises to get the students to see how I see dance and movement. From my experience on this trip, there is not a lot of access to this kind of training. I have rarely experienced an audience so eager to learn more. They are so keen to explore new ways of moving and are looking for the tools to do that. Given the universality of Choreology, I truly think this is the way forward to look at dance differently, and I tried to give them some tools to start exploring with different dynamics and to think about their movement from a new perspective.

On Wednesday, roles changed and I went to one of their rehearsals for a show that they were preparing for on Saturday. It was great to experience how their group dynamics worked. With a group that involved many different dancers from Rwanda and Uganda, as well as actors and singers, they were creating a show in just a few days using each group to their full potential. Hope, the director of the company did an amazing job in unlocking that potential, and it was inspiring to see how she managed in a few days to create a coherent showcase where music, dance and acting is integrated. I got to learn some of their dance routines, which involved a mix of hip hop, contemporary, Ugandan and Rwandan dance, and I got to say: they really kicked my butt that first class. The high paced energetic African movements in that heat was something I haven’t experienced in quite a while so I had to catch my breath on quite a few occasions that day. By Thursday afternoon, the show was pretty much set, so left all day Friday to refine the 30 minute performance. Hope asked me to lead the warm up with the whole group of 25 dancers, actors and singers, so I incorporated some Silvestre technique with some of my own warm up routines, and used the live musicians that were there. It felt very spontaneous and was pleased with the class, as it created a feeling of togetherness between the different artists, ready for another full day of rehearsals. I am gutted I have to miss the performance today as I write this on my flight back home.

Speaking to one of the actors on my last day, yesterday, he told me how he’s been in the acting industry for over 40 years. I told him about my experience and how I feel inspired by how these young dancers and musicians are working together, each valuing each other’s input, and he said: ‘Given our past, we want to move forwards and live in the present and think of the future. We have to work together as a united people to do that. We want to make things better, and will give it our all together as a group. The youth plays a strong role in this change, they want to dance, they want to learn, they want to grow. Those that survived the 1994 genocide see it as a great treasure and they want to use this time well.’ Something in his story triggered something so strong. I knew exactly what he meant. And I felt strongly that from a Western point of view, it will be these same artists that will change the image we have on Rwanda and show all the beauty this country has to offer.

This has been one of the hardest returns back home and I am trying to process why. I have a strong feeling of unfinished business I think. I want to work more intensively with the dancers here and exploring with them new ways of moving as I feel their work ethic and ideas on dance are very similar to mine. Maybe it’s because I feel Rwandan dance is on the verge of something new and I would love to be part of this change in some way, as it’s exciting and fresh. Maybe it’s because I just like to be with my family and I miss them more than I admit sometimes. Or maybe it’s the genuine warmth and hospitality of the Rwandan people, acting with extreme acts of kindness towards someone they barely know. Maybe there’s something in the soil of the Rwandan land, an energy that feels vibrant and alive. All I can say is that I can’t wait to come back here and continue what feels like a beginning of something new for me artistically.IMG_5184 IMG_5262 IMG_5306 IMG_5327 IMG_5557 IMG_5566 IMG_5778

Tribal Cafe – the Impore/BatStork experience…

Hello everyone,

 

last night was pure magic and I just had to share with you all the amazing stuff that went down at The Blue Man in Brighton during yet another sold out Tribal Café. One of my favourite venues to perform at, The Blue Man is the perfect venue to perform the beauty of what is ATS and Tribal Fusion. It feels great to be near the audience, and the energy is infectious. Everyone starts shouting even before you step onto the stage… feels kinda awesome. I bet this must be what Amira was like back in the day in San Francisco, from the stories that I heard. I imagine Tribal Café could be the beginnings of this magical hub… And what feels even more amazing is that all dancers danced for an amazing cause: The Impore Project in Rwanda.

For those that not know Impore, it’s a project my dad Luk and his wife Claudine set up about 8 years ago to reduce the child mortality rate in Rwanda. I asked my dad to write me a letter to read at Tribal Café so that everyone knows to what an amazing cause all the profits for this project will go.

 

But apart from this amazing project, and all the amazing dancers (we had Alexis Southall, Kathy Pearlson, Ter’zim with Charlotte Wassell and Emma Hubbard, Masmoudi with me, Charlotte and Emma, Emily, Tenzin Harley and a solo by myself) we had another announcement. For those of you that know Katie Stork, she is one of us, she’s like our family and she was there that night. She was actually originally planning to dance as well, however her health doesn’t allow it at the time being. We (when I say we, I cannot even start the long list of people that got involved… we have over 100 donations and counting…) have been very sneaky. Behind Katie’s back we set up a fundraiser, to raise money to help her with her medical bills. We were originally going to donate the funds on the actual fundraiser (Tribal Café July 2013) we had planned for her in July, but from what we gathered best to get some funds to her immediately rather than waiting any longer. She had no idea of the amount of lying we all had to do to keep this a secret from her. We managed to raise £2600 on the night, however since last night funds have gone up to £2900 and counting!

 

It feels good to be part of something big like that. To know that you can make a difference just by being positive and by taking action. I find that when you hear about things in the world that make you feel helpless it’s just cause you don’t even know where to begin. This seemed so easy: hey let’s set up a secret FB page, let’s invite all Katie’s friends and see if we can get some money together. Positive energy spreads like fire so it seems! More so than negative energy… I always thought that negativity was infectious, and spreads like a disease, but now I am thinking: negativity makes you isolated, as eventually people will take a step back from it. Good vibes… sweet like honey! Addictive. So people want to get involved, cause it’s so damn sweet! For once, addiction doesn’t seem to be such a bad thing. It makes things happen, it makes for change in people’s lives and it makes you feel useful. And for me it’s been a big learning curve… what else could we make happen?

 

It’s the perfect timing for me to make my trip to Rwanda. On Tuesday I shall be flying to Kigali, to see my dad, Claudine and my baby brother Sam who has been adopted when he was born 1.5 years ago. His mother unable to look after him and with no other family I do not think he had very long to live. Now, at 1.5 years turning into a strong little boy, I wonder what difference he might make in the world when he grows up. I can’t wait to meet him.

 

Looking forward to visit the building site of ‘Chez Marraine’ – thank you to everyone that came to the show, thank you to all dancers for being so BADASS and thanks to those that made extra donations on the night! I will be sending an update on this once I am back from Rwanda.

 

Here is the letter from my dad that I read out at Tribal Café June 2013:

 

Dear Impore-friends, dearest Hilde,

Ten days from now, a group of 8 young volunteers from Flanders will arrive in Rwanda to work for a month helping to construct a temporary shelter for mother-less babies in Butare. In August a second group will continue their work. The shelter is called Chez Marraine. My wife Claudine launched this   initiative. It is part of the Impore-project that we started 7 years ago in order to contribute to the reduction of infant mortality in Rwanda.

Chez Marraine focuses on some of the most unfortunate newborns, those who have no mother nor family to take care of them. We are convinced that we will find families who are willing to adopt them later on and raise them as healthy individuals who become part of a loving community. The initiative is appreciated by many, but without sufficient financial means it will never get of the ground.

You cannot imagine how grateful we are with this (and other) fundraising activities and how good it feels that both Charlotte and Hilde took this initiative. Obviously Claudine and I wanted to be with you tonight and share with you the fun and joy of this happening. It is practically impossible, but our minds and soul are with you tonight.

Soon, Hilde will visit us. We are sure that she will tell us all about this great event. We are so looking forward to seeing her again. Needless to say that we will also show her the construction site of Chez Marraine. And of course you are all welcome in Rwanda as well so that we can thank you in person for your support to this project.

Take care

Claudine and Luk

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Tribal Remix 2013… the down time

So what I love about Tribal Remix the most is the down time… The time spent with this AWESOME UK dance community.

So rather than talking extensively about how just super amazing the workshops were, or what an amazing job the performers did in the student hafla, or how wonderfully weird the band was or how kick ass the teachers showcase was… instead, I would like to talk about the downtime. As these are the things I want to read back in 20-30 years time when we are all having tea and biscuits together reminiscing about the past hehe.

First thought that came to mind when on Thursday eve Mardi suggested to have a sing along in the karaoke gay bar called Poison Ivy was: yep… this is going to be a goooood weekend! I thought that’s definitely one for memory lane, hearing the transvestite presenter saying: ‘Love? Mardi Love? Is that your real name? That’s a brilliant name, that!!’

On Friday, Tjarda and Mirjam joined the team and we all went to Mardi’s workshop followed by welcome drinks in the pub. Great to see everyone again! Sammy, Katie, Kathy, Kathleen and many others from all over the UK and Europe came along to hang out, which was lovely…

On Saturday we had our student hafla, which went brilliantly, although the presenting was a little dubious at times… note to self: get a professional in to do it! hehe. Some of the performances were so strong, I was blown away! Sammy killed it, Charlotte and Mandy were kicking ass in their duet, Catherine Taylor’s piece: sexy!, Tara: Earthquake shimmy all the way!! woo. But everyone was great, so much diversity. I particularly liked Edina’s piece also, very inventive: giving a lecture on belly dance finding it hard to stop the body from moving until there’s just no more holding back, jacket off, sequins on. I think we’ve all felt like that as dancers, heh. Are we an outsider studying a sub culture or are we the sub culture experiencing it. I feel sometimes swinging between those two persona myself. Anyway… the band… where to begin. Oh Yes! Fred, lead singer of The Top Shelf (aka Arthur Foxaque… brilliant…) told me: ‘and when you dance, feel free to spank us numerously with this whip I have here for you!!’ Charming! so I did. They were indeed some fine purveyors of filthy swing heheheh nice one!

Sunday, our show. Spectacular!! Mirjam’s first piece. breathtaking. Tjarda, your choreographies are so inventive I’m always blown away by how clever they are. Valerie, that first piece where you walk in the square, stunning! Kathy, ksssss like a chilli cigarette burn, beautiful piece to The XX, Darkstar, you rock! Mardi… you legend… Masmoudi: I love you, ladies, you were fantastic it was so great to share the stage with you again… Sundari, I had to miss your piece but I am looking forward to see the video 🙂 – and after the party comes the afterparty. Cocktails at Brighton Rocks with… 50 of us, was it? excellent.

Monday eve is fast becoming the legendary after festival party. Including dance offs, dance off challenges set for next year (Love, bring it on!), Dutch rap attempts, Emily’s face (Your Face!), Sammy’s pipe, a pitcher of Mojito’s, Bohemian Rhapsody, air guitar, Meatloaf, the Running Man, the Worm, the Robot, the Beyonce, motorboating, Steps – ‘tragedy!’ and about every tune from ‘Les Miserable’

Quote of the weekend, by our camptastic new best friends: ‘But if you are the fag hags, then where are the fags?’

And to summarise it all with one word, I am quoting the BatStork!

\BADASS/

Tribal Remix 2013 was legendary. Bring on 2014!!

Thanks everyone for coming and I hope to see you again next  year!! 🙂backstage with Masmoudi

4 months onwards

4 months onwards since my last post. 4 months. In that time I have travelled half the world and back. My initial idea of keeping a blog didn’t quite work out. But this is the thing with processing, how can you write about it when you haven’t got a clue of what’s going on? What’s all this stuff I am going through right now and how am I going to write this down? So I decided to stop. I decided to stop documenting and just experience. I even stopped taking pictures as I felt how can I experience this beauty from behind this little screen. Then a great sense of alone-ness comes with that. Nobody can feel what I feel. Taking pictures while traveling is a way to try and connect to friends and family at home, for them to understand or experience with you. But there are no images or no words that can describe the transformation I was going through.

Bali, Thailand, Brazil. Only now do I seem to process some of the magic that has happened over the last few months. I feel thrown in about all directions you can be thrown into in all aspects of life. Career, health, love, friendship, spirituality, loss. Whatever the universe is trying to tell me, I find it hard to understand. But one thing is becoming clear: my desire to understand and analyse (hello, maths teacher!!) is becoming an obstacle, and right now it seems that I should just ride that wave and trust I will stay standing.

I remember in Bali all I could think was: this is it! this is what I have been searching for! I need to be traveling ALL THE TIME! Then, in Brazil, all I could think was: this is it! This is what I have been searching for! I need to move to Brazil so I can study Silvestre technique full time and understand why I feel so drawn to this technique and how it can now help me to grow. When I came back to Brighton and started teaching again I remember thinking: this is it! I need to refocus on my job at home, my students, my dance company, rebuilding what I have worked on for the last 10 years by being at home more and working hard! Well, that is helpful… so I want to do everything all of the time, brilliant! and one thing that really is an obstacle for transformation is setting a time limit on it, that’s for sure…

What if all of the above is true and I do everything. I travel the world, I go to Brazil and I stay in Brighton all at the same time. Rather than thinking one phase of life should lead in another, why can’t I just experience all these things at the same time, and rotate them like the seasons change. That way, each time I revisit a place I can see how things are the same and how things are different from last year. All I need is some seriously good time management (hello, maths teacher!!)

I had the wonderful pleasure to stay with my friend Kathleen these past few days to teach a workshop in Devon. Being one of the ladies that knows what I am talking about, as she was with me in Brazil, it was so good to talk these past few days and help bring some clarity to all this. And the cliché saying: ‘it’s the journey, not the destination!’ takes off the pressure of understanding also. Just enjoy the ride…

As for dance, a few days ago I read some hurtful comments on one of my youtube video’s. But even though they were hurtful and my first reaction was to defend, I eventually let it go as just as the process I went through in the last few months, they were just not looking through the same lens as I was and couldn’t see what really was going on there. The times of performing purely for entertaining the audience are over. I am sorry to disappoint 🙂 There seems to be a shift happening where more and more in my dance and in other aspects of my life I want to figure out what I want, not what I think my audience, my friends, my family expect. It feels like a good place to be in right now, because again the pressure is off and I can just naturally let the process take place: in my transformation in my dance and outside. And if my audience is on that same wave I am surfing, they can join me on that journey. If not, they can watch from the side, which will just be a different experience altogether, but still an experience worth having. They’ll just be looking through a different lens.

Anyway, I am looking forward to my next trip. Rwanda is coming up in July. It will be good to be with family. I will get to meet my little brother for the first time, who’s now 1.5 years old. I get to dance with some of the best dancers in the country and experience some traditional Rwandan tribal dances. I will definitely post more on that one! and pictures this time, I promise… 🙂

No Fear, No Doubt, No Hesitation

Just landed in Jakarta from Bali and taking some time in my hotel room to digest the last few weeks. The last few days I stayed at a stunning home, built by Muriel, one of the participants of the Colleena Shakti workshops, and her partner. To every little detail, the house was built into a dream home. I performed at her Christmas party two days ago and I got to say, celebrating Christmas by the pool is a very different experience from home! No complaints there, for sure! Great bunch of people, great food and some great conversations with her friends about their journeys and how they ended up in Bali. I am still thinking about one particular conversation that night. About rules. In our minds, travel is often linked to running away from home and eventually you should be thinking about coming back and living your life. But funnily enough, so many people feel more alive when they are on the road. No Fear, No Doubts.

It made me revisit my notes on a lecture by Rosangela Silvestre in January 2012 in Salvador, Brazil and what her technique is based on. She speaks about things in life that try to mould us; family, school, culture, religion, … Silvestre technique tries to break these moulds and open you up for possibilities. Like in Afro Brazilian dance opposed to Ballet and Modern dance, often Afro Brazilian is not considered an art. These opinions mould us. We are boxed into definitions of what is all controlled by our society. The Silvestre technique works with the idea of energy. Rosangela: ‘Take all these restrictions, turn them into energy and open our bodies to become the universe. We could still be in a box but we could leave open the window!’ Silvestre explores the idea of the universe and processes it towards culture, family, school, … instead of the other way around. Because the universe is never orthodox and never judges, but friends, family or society might. This way we suffer less and we are more tolerant towards others.

The feeling of being stuck in a place or situation is what often leads to fear. Going back to that same place or situation knowing that everything is temporary is a good place to be in. No Fear, No Doubt, No Hesitation.

Ubud

9th December 2012

‘I am tripping on mushrooms!’

Group of people I met in Monkey Forest

Group of people I met in Monkey Forest

That was my first introduction to a crazy 21 year old couch surfer from Germany. His host is this lovely Balinese guy that lives in Kuta. I bumped into them at the Monkey Forest, in Ubud. The German lad offered me some mushrooms but somehow hallucinating in a forest full of attacking monkeys didn’t seem like my idea of fun, so I kindly refused. Earlier that morning, I got attacked by one of the monkeys, who literally climbed me like I was some tree, pulling down my strapless dress so I could do nothing else but drop the bananas in my hands that I bought two seconds ago and grab onto the top of my dress, in order to save me some serious embarrassment.

My newfound friends said to join them to see the rice fields and coffee plantation, and

please stop pulling down my dress!!

please stop pulling down my dress!!

since I had nothing else to do all I had to say was yes. We drove our scooters, on the way got ripped off by a 5 year old girl selling post cards (fair play to her!), and when we arrived at the coffee plantation I felt so happy I agreed to coming with them. This place was like paradise, so beautiful. Civet Coffee, the most expensive coffee in the world is made at this plantation. You pay about $50 for a tiny pack of coffee beans. What makes the coffee so special is that the beans of the coffee berries are excreted after they have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet. How lovely! After passing through the civet’s intestines they are still in their original shape and collected by the farmers. Apparently the flavour of the coffee is intensified (no wonder!) and it is a real delicacy. I always wonder when it comes to strange food habits: how does someone come to this conclusion?! Apparently it’s the Dutch’s fault! During colonisation, they prohibited the native farmers from picking coffee fruits for own use. Desperate for a cup of coffee, the native farmers found some whole coffee beans in the faeces of the Civets and then discovered its added flavour. Brilliant…

cought in a tropical storm

cought in a tropical storm

After a coffee tasting session we were ready to go back to Ubud, when rain started to fall. And didn’t stop for about 2 hours. When I say rain, I mean buckets and buckets per second per square meter. After about an hour, we realised it was not going to stop so decided to make a move on our scooters anyway. Walking through the rain in what felt like a river, I looked up and saw that the lightning had taken down some trees. One branch was laying on the electrical wires running to the plantation. It was one of those moments where you look down at your feet, look up, look down again and realise that there is a chance you might die of electrocution. Since the river went on for another 200 meters, there’s just not much you can do but hope the wires are strong enough to not snap and kill us all! OK maybe a tad dramatic but I was happy when I was on my rubber wheeled scooter, I can tell you that. J Riding back to Ubud all I could think was: that was an awesome adventure! Nothing to make you feel more alive than a tropical storm like that…

12th December 2012

Ubud is a magical place… I can see how days can become weeks, weeks can become months and months can become years! So many Westerners have come here and never left. There’s so much to do, yet it’s such a chilled out place. Lovely bars, cafe’s, spas, … it’s like Brighton but a 10th of the price, so you’re actually able to do all the amazing things this place has to offer. It will be hard to leave tomorrow…