Saturday morning saw me up at the ungodly time of 8am to head over to the deepest darkest depths of the Black Country. It takes a lot to get me out of bed that early on a weekend, but I was expecting good things from this trip.
The glorious Alexis Southall, who is not only a very talented dancer, but hilariously good company, organised a weekend of workshops with Hilde Cannoodt and live band Chaos Carousel, culminating in an evening performance on the Saturday.
The workshops, however, very nearly didn't happen!
I got to the studio at 9.30 (for a 10am start) to find it all shut up, and Alexis, Hilde and associated bag carriers just arriving. Minutes ticked by, people started to look concerned, the building remained closed, the business phone unanswered, the mobile switched off. Eventually we rang the Zumba teacher advertised in the front window, who had a home number for the owner and very kindly got in touch for us.
The owner arrived at gone 10.15, and rather than grovel profusely for such a cock-up, immediately told Alexis that it was her own fault for not confirming the booking, refused to believe Alexis had paid a deposit in person, and generally treated the whole passel of us as if we were so much shit on her shoe.
Which is ironic, because the studio itself was the filthiest, mankiest hole I've seen in years. It was freezing cold, every surface was ingrained with grime, the windows were opaque with dust, the toilets were full of broken furniture and the roof was leaking. Even worse, the sprung wooden floor was pitted and worn through, and full of splinters.
http://www.classicacademy.co.uk/index.htm, if you're wondering. Do not recommend, unless filth and appalling customer service is a kink for you,
Once we finally got in and got set up, matters improved. Hilde is one of the most charismatic teachers I've ever met. She's like a little dynamo, full of energy and excitement, and it's very contagious. The workshop was on dance expression, and we got it in spades! It was a perfect mix, Hilde led us through various ideas, including a lot of information on the dynamics of movement, but there was also room for us to play with those ideas ourselves. I was disappointed when the class ended!
I couldn't stay for the second workshop, which involved skirt dancing with a live band, but my troupemate C was there, and assures me that I missed out on an absolute treat!
I did make it to the evening show though, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Hilde and Chaos Carousel performed for the whole of the first half, leaving me marvelling at their stamina dna creativity. Early on in the show, Hilde was calling dancers up to join her, and being unable to resist a spot of improv, I was straight up there, looking a bit incongruous in my fifties tea dress! We ended up staying on stage for the entire act, and just standing there clapping was enough to leave me hot and sticky- can't imagine how Hilde and the band must have felt.
The second half saw other performers, including Alexis herself. Leccy has just blossomed as a dancer since I first saw her perform. Her technical skills are astounding, and this time she showed a lot of connection with the audience too, which was great- sometimes tribal fusion dancers can seem to be 'in their own little world'. It was a surprisingly traditional second half with at least four ATS groups, including Pedralta, Ashima Tribal, and my own troupemates from Khalgani. Unfortunately, this did serve to highlight the difference between some of the more experienced groups, and those who were just beginning on their tribal journey, and there were a couple of acts that did not benefit from the comparison.
Les Dames du Serpent were astounding- their fusion of contemporary dance really works. Bedouin Shiver were also amazing, we loved their strong, Rom-themed movements and dramatic hands, and will keep an eye out for them in the future. Hilde closed the show with a simply adorable Charleston piece. I love this style anyway, and it really suited her personality- she gave it an almost clownish feel. The only downside, and this was an issue throughout the show, was that the lighting director was being 'artistic' so a lot of the dancing was done in shadow while he played blue and orange lights across the audience. Not good, and several people were complaining about it afterwards.
Over than that though, cracking night out, and I can;t wait for the next one in October.