Archive for the ‘Dancing’ Category

Learning to Lead

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

Ballroom dancing is done in couples. And in the couple there are clearly defined roles. One person leads and the other follows. In the case of choreographed routines it doesn’t really matter since both know what they are doing beforehand anyway. But when freestyling it is important that one person is directing the movement – the leader.

The steps in the dances are different between leader and follower. The leader is often showing off the follower and the follower is the one who usually does most of the turns, dips, etc.

In the vast majority of cases the couple is made up of a man and a woman. The man leads, the woman follows. In most international competitions, same sex couples are not allowed and it is not allowed for the woman to lead.

In the Arthur Murray context women are very strongly discouraged from leading and men from following. If a group class consists of 10 women, no men and one teacher then the teacher will dance with each woman in turn and the nine other women will practice the steps by themselves. The teachers all know the leader’s and follower’s steps and will swap between two with ease. In fact, we don’t usually say “leader’s steps” and “follower’s steps” we say “man’s steps” and “lady’s steps”.

The gender distinction between men and women is very clear and almost never challenged. Jokes about masculinity and femininity are often made when the teachers swap between leading and following. Male teachers will often pretend to be quite ‘girly’ when they do the lady’s steps, and female teachers sometimes act ‘macho’ when doing the man’s steps. Male teachers have done performances as followers, but wearing dresses. The interesting thing about this was that while it was done for comedy effect, one of the male teachers is so elegant and graceful that he was absolutely beautiful when he danced (and not comedic at all). He wasn’t feminine or girly or silly. He was simply a wonderful dancer.

While dancing, it is certainly traditional that the man is taller than the woman and stronger than the woman. The woman wears a dress (long and flowing in ballroom and skimpy and tassley in latin). But these things are not required. Sometimes a shorter male teacher will dance very successfully with a taller female student. And they look amazing.

Having said all of this, while dancing, we don’t actually use our reproductive organs. So it should make no difference physically whether the leader is male or female. The differences seem to me to be quite clearly social, cultural and traditional.

And I’m not a big fan of gender differences based on society, culture and tradition. They don’t sit well with me.

So I’m doing my bit to change it.

I’ve asked my teacher to teach me to lead. And after a small amount of persuasion he agreed. And I was really rather nervous for the first lesson. But completely without foundation. The lesson was fabulous. Leading is hard (I knew it would be). It uses muscles that I don’t use when I dance as a follower, but that isn’t surprising either. But I’m enjoying it! And since the lesson I’ve done some practice with some of the other students. And it’s great fun!

I love the different challenge that leading entails. Knowing about leading helps me to be a better follower. Knowing about following helps me to be a better leader. Leading is a different approach to dancing and that is fascinating. It is a physical and intellectual challenge. And one that I enjoy very much! Leading is not harder or easier than following. They are different. Some people are probably more suited to one than the other. The same can be said for the difference between ballroom dances and latin dances, one set aren’t easier than the other, but some people are certainly more suited to one than the other. But working on both does help to make a better dancer.

So it’s only a small step. But I am doing my little bit for challenging gender roles! (And having a lot of fun in the process.)

Inspiration

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

A friend of mine recently asked me what was inspiring me.

One of the reasons why he is my friend is because he asks such interesting, thoughtful questions. He has such a yearning for knowledge and understanding and communion. And it is something that I very much want to be a part of. But because he and I live in different parts of the world, we don’t catch up in person as often as we would both like. But that’s ok. That just means we have to make the most of the time we do have together. And one of the ways in which he gets to the heart of what is happening in my life is to ask me what is inspiring me.

And it’s a serious question that deserves serious thought and attention. And it’s not trivial. It’s not easy to answer. But the more consideration I give to the answer (both during the conversation with him, and on reflection later), the more I am able to actively harness that inspiration.

In general there are very many things that inspire me: wonderful people, education (in any form), social justice, stories of people who grasp life with both hands and actively live it, a fascinating book, beauty (a frozen spider’s web on a branch in winter, a forested mountain range, a waterfall, maths and logic, poetry), my job (depending on what I’m doing in my job at the time: creating spreadsheet/database systems that improve efficiency, teaching), helping others, smiles and laughter.

At the moment people, smiles and laughter are large causes of inspiration for me.

But probably the biggest thing currently is dancing. And that’s because it has so many of the other elements interwoven into it.

  • There are wonderful people (my teachers, my fellow students) who I love talking to and laughing with and dancing with.
  • There are patterns and maths and music: a precision to the structure, a beauty to the form.
  • There is a challenge to myself to develop my skills. To improve. To train my body and my mind to work in ways it has never done before.
  • There is an aesthetic component, though that is not so much about me watching others dance, nor is it about how I think I look when I dance, it is about how I feel when I dance – the beauty in the movements of my body and the movements of his body, the synchronicity, the team work (when we do it right we complete each other).
  • It’s about the simple joy of moving.
  • It’s about education. How I learn the steps and the technique and the style. How I create patterns and schemas and how I integrate the new information into those patterns and schemas. How I think about physics and maths and muscles and music. It’s about how he teaches me. How he translates the world that he knows so well into something that I can access and take part in. About how I learn from watching others around me.
  • It’s about communication. How he leads, how I follow, how I respond to his body. How we tell a story to an audience (even if it is an audience of just the two of us).
  • It’s about thinking and not thinking. About feeling. About creativity. About call and response.

And it is just magical!

So my passion for my other sources of inspiration has not dimmed. And inspiration in any form feeds inspiration in the others. And it feeds itself.

And for me, a very big part of leading a happy, wonderful, fulfilling, successful life is about being inspired and thriving on that inspiration. And feeding it. And growing from it.

So I am dancing. And I’m inspired. And I’m happy.

Back in the UK

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

I’ve been back in the UK for a day and half at time of writing. And what a day and a half it has been.

I’ve brushed my teeth with tap water. I licked my fingers when I was eating cheese on toast. I ate cheese on toast. I ate cheese and it was even better than I remember it! I have used idioms and slang and spoken quickly and mumbled. I have worn socks. I have used toilet paper. I have had hot showers. I have clean feet. I chopped vegetables and a piece of mushroom feel from the chopping board to the bench and the bench was clean enough that I could pick up the piece of mushroom and throw it into the frying pan with its mates. I have lain in bed rejoicing in the peace and quiet (no ceiling fan, no monsoonal rain, no dogs, no shouted arguments, no religious observances). I have walked along the pavement and looked up at the buildings rather than down at my feet to see what I’m standing on. I’ve made myself cups of tea whenever I wanted them (with no sugar). I’ve drunk soy milk. I’ve been to a pub. I’ve washed clothes in a washing machine and they smell wonderful! I’ve watched crappy TV in English!

And most importantly, I’ve met up with some of the most wonderful people in my life. I’ve talked, I’ve laughed, I’ve joked. I’ve made new friends.

And I’ve danced. And words fail completely to express how incredible it was to be dancing again.

I loved my time away. I’m looking forward to going back again next year. But I’m really enjoying being back.

One of the wonderful consequences of my exceptionally transient lifestyle is that I spend a lot of my time rejoicing in the newly remembered wonders of my current location. And it has the added benefit of giving my friends something to laugh about each time I get giddy about drinking tap water! 🙂

A Man’s Job on the Dance Floor is to Make the Woman Look Good – Discuss

Friday, September 12th, 2014

My father does a lot of dancing. And has done for a very long time. He used to do Ballroom but decided that was for the ‘old folks’ so he does Swing and Lindy Hop instead. My father is 78. 🙂

When I started dancing we started talking about dancing. In a couple of conversations he has said to me that the role of a man on the dance floor is to make the woman look good. At first glance, I liked that. It makes some sense. It is usually the woman in the couple with the extravagant flowing (or skimpy) dress. It is usually the woman who does the exciting spins and who gets lifted and dropped and thrown around a lot.

Dad was telling me about a woman that he often dances with and her experiences. She had danced with someone else who was telling her that the role of a woman is to augment the man. Dad thinks this is a load of rubbish. She also thinks it is a load of rubbish.

I was thinking about some of the dancing that I have seen. Particularly when I’ve watched my teachers dance. And what I’ve seen mostly seems to agree with my dad. Though there is one male teacher who used to teach at the studio. He was so spectacular when he danced that I don’t think anyone ever noticed who he was dancing with. I think in his case, his partner was there to make the mechanics of dancing with someone else possible. She was rather irrelevant. Which is not to say that he was arrogant or dismissive of his partners. I have danced with him on several occasions and I always loved dancing with him. It was just that he was a spectacular performer and he just eclipsed others around him.

Most of the dancing that I see (and take part in) is a male instructor dancing with a female student. And in this, the instructor is trying to bring out the best in his student and to that extent is there to make her look good.

Female instructors dancing with male students is interesting. They seem to be trying to make the men make them look good. Which sounds confusing but is quite clear to see when it happens. He leads. But she has to encourage him to lead without leading herself. It is subtle but an important skill.

So I’ve been thinking about all of this and wondering what my considered opinion is. The thought that either of my male teachers exist on a dance floor to make me look good does not sit well with me. They are certainly there to bring out the best in my dancing. But that is a different thing.

For me, dancing is such a team effort that it is not about one or the other, it is about the couple. It’s about the couple flowing together. It is about the telepathy between the couple working well. It is about the timing and the styling of the couple working as a unit. It is not about one supporting the other or one competing with the other. It is about me dancing well when I dance with him and him dancing well when he dances with me and us dancing well as a couple. To me, it also about having fun – which is why I have such difficulty with Tango, I just can’t bring myself to even pretend that I want to kill him – even when he makes me do Tango! 😉

I’ve seen my instructors dance with different people. Victor dances much better with Victoria than he does with me. Because her skill allows him to dance better. But the way he dances Argentine Tango with me now is so much better than when he was dancing that with me back at the start. This change has nothing to do with his skill as a dancer and a lot to do with his skill as a teacher!! 🙂 But it’s not just about better dancers dancing better when they dance with better dancers. There are some students who I love to dance with and who I dance well with. There is one in particular, he is probably not the best Salsa dancer I’ve ever danced with, but I dance better Salsa when I dance with him. In fact, I think I dance better Salsa with him than I do with either of my teachers, despite the fact they are certainly much better Salsa dancers than he is. Dancing is about the couple and the dance and the music and the day.

But most importantly for me dancing is not about how I look. For me, it is about how I feel. The man is not on the floor to make me look good. I am not on the floor to make him look good. He is there with me so that we can both dance well together and so that we both feel good dancing together.

Going Home

Friday, August 1st, 2014

I’m going home (for some definition of home – in this case, London) in September. My flight is booked for the 29th.

There are several reasons for this.

I knew when I booked my return flight for February that there was very little chance of me going back on that date. But I really wasn’t sure what things were going to be like out here (from the point of view of productive work for me to do). Plus, there are issues in my Indian family and I wasn’t sure if or how they would affect things. And I wasn’t sure how much I was going to miss the UK. And I wasn’t sure when/if I was going to run out of money.

And the result of all of these considerations is that heading back on the 29th of September is the right thing to do.

The Behaviour Management programme that we have been running here has been a great success and we want to run a follow-up programme with these schools and the same programme (with some improvements) in new schools. We’d like to do that at the start of the next academic year, which is June 2015.

In order for me to be able to be back here in June next year, I need to go back to the UK early so that I can earn some money to fund me through next year. If I go back in February, I won’t earn enough before June to be able to come then.

Plus, I am missing the UK and my friends there (as well as all the usual things that I miss: clean feet, tea with no sugar, bread, cheese, toast, brushing my teeth with tap water, hot showers). Of course, these are all important but I’m used to missing them all and they’re not enough to make me actually want to change my flight.

But there is a new element in the mix this time. Dancing. I have REALLY been missing it. And there is a showcase in London in October. Now, there are lots of different dancing events all the time, so missing the London showcase would not be the end of the world, and that’s not something to change my flights for. But since I was changing the flight anyway, arranging things so that I’ll be back in time for the showcase seemed sensible. 🙂

The issues with the family here are certainly having an effect as well. Not to the point that I want to leave, but the issues are a definite source of worry.

So here is my plan for the next two months. The current batch of volunteers finish up at the end of August. There is a Keralan festival (Onam) at the start of September, then I’m hoping to take Johnson and Lisba to Sri Lanka for a couple of weeks for a holiday! (And for me to meet up with lots of my Sri Lankan friends.) Then back to India for the end of September and my flight back to the UK on the 29th.

Then it’s London and working and dancing and catching up with people till the start of March. Then Cambridge and Easter Revision till the end of April. Then back to India again in May or June to do it all over again!

And everything in this plan makes me very happy! 🙂

Missing Dancing

Monday, July 14th, 2014

I have been in India for about two months now. I have done some dancing practice about 10 times in the past two months for about 45 minutes each time.

This is wonderful.

But this is not enough dancing!

I have been watching dancing videos practically every day (I have videos of my dances from Istanbul) but have not been able to dance every day.

I am really missing it.

I talk to Kate once a week and she tells me about how she’s getting on with her dancing. So it’s very nice to hear that everyone is going well. The lessons are still happening. Kate is having the same issues with frame in Ballroom and hips in Latin that I have. The world continues to turn in my absence (this does not surprise me). The instructors have apparently not forgotten me yet. The other students are progressing and having fun. So all is right with the world!

I am trying to find time to dance. And when I do find the time it is certainly worth it!

And I can’t wait to get back to London and get back into the studio! I hope I haven’t forgotten too much by then, or developed too many bad habits!

Professional/Personal Relationships

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

When I work with VESS and VESL I often work with volunteers. And I work with them in-country. It can be really quite intense. It’s not just a normal 9-5 job. I often spend entire weekends with a volunteer, or group of volunteers. I sometimes live with a volunteer (usually sharing a room, sometimes sharing a bed). I take them out shopping. I take them out for food. I take them travelling during their time off. I introduce them to their school. I watch them teach. I help them teach. I meet their host family. I help them solve their problems. I hear about a lot of their personal struggles and difficulties and how they are working (or have worked) to overcome them. I build their confidence. And I do all this as a professional who has a professional relationship with the volunteer.

However, I also develop a personal relationship with each volunteer I come in contact with. I can’t help it. I’m a human being. Each one of them is a human being. They are, by and large, incredibly interesting human beings. I think it would be wrong for me not to develop a personal relationship with them.

I think the personal relationship and the professional relationship complement each other. I don’t let the fact that I like (or dislike) a volunteer personally get in the way of providing professional support for them. I don’t engage in professional favouritism.

Sometimes it’s tricky because it can be hard for me and for the volunteers to see the line between me providing them with support and me holding their hand and doing everything for them. I can certainly help you by working out which bus you need to be on, but you really need to decide for yourself whether to wear suncream or to bring a skirt or what time you should go to the toilet. 🙂

And, because my life is full of parallels, I found a parallel. In Istanbul there were 6 students from London who went to dance. There were two teachers. Each teacher had two students of their own and then another two who they shared. And the studio manager came along as well. On the non-dancing days we did bits of sightseeing. In the evenings there were dinners. And the instructors were very, very good at looking after us and making sure we had everything we needed. They fetched drinks for us. They carried cases. They danced with us. They counted us on and off the bus. They checked that we had enough food. Etc.

And they did this because it was their job. It was their professional responsibility. However, that wasn’t the whole story. They also did this because they have personal relationships with us too. Nothing inappropriate, of course. But, in spending their time talking to us, of course they shared some of their experiences and listened to our experiences. And it was all very relaxed and very good fun. They couldn’t be working all the time they were interacting with us. They needed some time off too!

I imagine that for them, it must have been a bit like my role as volunteer coordinator. I love working with and supporting every one of my volunteers because that’s my job. I love spending time with some of my volunteers more than others because they are people I connect with more than others. I sometimes find that volunteers try to take advantage. I sometimes find it hard to draw the line in the sand. I will help you to shop for a sari (because you need that for teaching), if you want to buy a ring then you can wander around the market all on your own, I’ll meet you at the other end for coffee. But every single one of my volunteers deserves the best professional service I can give them. If I fail to deliver that, then there is a problem. But until that time, I see no problem whatsoever with having professional and personal relationships with the same person. In fact, I think it helps!

Physical Contact

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

Physical contact between people is something that is dealt with differently in different cultures (and within different subcultures and within different friendship groups and within different families). There are some norms that dictate what physical contact is appropriate between husbands and wives, between parents and children (fathers and sons are different from fathers and daughters and this is different again to mothers and sons and to mothers and daughters). There are also rules for siblings, extended family members, friends, partners, strangers, casual acquaintances, etc.. These norms can also be broken by some individuals just because their preference and behaviour are able to overrule standard behaviour. And collections of people from mixed backgrounds have to develop their own rules as a combination of the rules inherited from each of the individual groups. For example, I have some friends from Europe who do the air kissing thing and so when I meet them I do that (1, 2 or 3 kisses – depending on who they are), but I don’t do that with my other friends, even friends in the same friendship group.

Women in Sri Lanka have a lot of physical contact. They hold hands with each other a lot. In fact, it is incredibly difficult to get a girl to do anything on her own; she is usually attached to at least three other girls at all times. 🙂 Physical contact between men is similar. They hold hands, they put their arms around each other. But physical contact between men and women, even married couples is very, very rare. Handshakes in a formal situation but that’s about it.

In the UK things are different. There is a lot more physical contact (and yet, by European standards, we are very standoffish and isolated). Even though there is no contact between strangers or casual acquaintances (except handshakes) there is contact between friends and within families. I get hugs from each of my friends when I see them, both male and female. There are some male friends who I will walk down the street with my arm around. If I had a boyfriend, I would be able to hold hands with him or walk down the road with my arm around him. I’d be able to kiss him in public. Female friends will frequently hug, though there is usually less physical contact between men in the UK.

Dancing involves an amount of physical contact. And depending on the dance and the couple, there can be quite a bit of physical contact. And part of the point of dancing is to dance with lots of different people. And since there are often more female students than male students, we girls frequently have to dance with the female teachers. What is interesting is that I’d asked one of my teachers about the male teachers dancing with male students. And he said that some of the male students object to dancing with a male teacher. Which I find odd. Dancing can be romantic and it can be intimate and it can be sexual. But dance classes are none of these things. The physical contact is there in order that the dancing can happen. It is mechanical. And what worries me slightly, is that if some of the male students object to dancing with a male teacher then perhaps that’s because they don’t see the physical contact as mechanical. In which case I’m not sure I want to be dancing with them!

Here in India I don’t get much physical contact at all. I feel like enough of an outsider that physical contact with the women here doesn’t seem appropriate and physical contact with the men is definitely out! My Indian family get a hug when I arrive in the country and then another when I leave. But for the several months in between we just smile and wave at each other.

And since I’m someone who thrives on physical contact, I always look forward to getting back to the UK and getting lots of hugs again! 🙂

Indian Traffic and Argentine Tango

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

I was enjoying the Indian traffic during my first auto ride after getting back to India. And I know that ‘enjoying’ is a rather odd word to use. But I really was. There is a poetry and ballet about Indian traffic. What may look like complete chaos to the outside observer does have some quite intricate patterns when you know what you’re looking for. But don’t apply the normal rules of traffic aesthetics!

And I was thinking about how crazy this seemed and how hard it would be to explain this to anyone else. About how I could see beauty and pattern in something that is apparently chaotic. And I was reminded of the Argentine Tango.

I have a distinct love/hate relationship with the Argentine Tango. At first I thought it ugly, chaotic, inefficient, ridiculous. Then I actually tried it and it went down in my estimations. I was frustrated, annoyed, constantly in the wrong place and doing the wrong thing, and frequently hurting other people. It doesn’t flow. It is full of obstacles. It lacks symmetry and regularity. If you do it wrong someone gets hurt! (Sorry Victor! Sorry Aga! Sorry Daniel!) But after devoting some time to it and trying to relax and be patient I’ve started to not hate it so much. I stopped comparing it the other dances. I stopped looking for the patterns that I wanted to see. I started to give myself up to the dance. I started to just breathe and to listen to my partner’s body and to move. I started to slow down and do away with my expectations.

I still don’t really love it, but I have enjoyed dancing it on several occasions. It shall remain for me a dance that I do to prove to myself that I can get over my natural tendencies and dance outside of my comfort zone. And I am now convinced that there is beauty in there for me to find if I just stick at it long enough and open my eyes in the right way.

So back to Indian traffic. It is chaotic and insane. Like Argentine Tango, people can get hurt if you misjudge the situation. But there is beauty and elegance in the dance of the vehicles. There are patterns. They just aren’t the ones we’re used to. Indian traffic flows. Indian traffic is about intuition. It is about abandoning yourself to the movement of what’s around you. And if you encounter Indian traffic and find it difficult then try not to look at it with eyes that are accustomed to British traffic. Don’t look for the beauty of the Waltz in the Argentine Tango. Breathe and put your judgements aside. Accept the traffic. Laugh at the traffic. Flow with the traffic.

And for goodness sake, be exceptionally careful when crossing roads!! You could get seriously hurt out there!

Arthur Murray Dance Showcase – Istanbul – Not The Dancing

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

So the most interesting thing about the Istanbul Showcase was the dancing, of course. But it wasn’t all that happened. We also did some sightseeing and other stuff. So here’s all the stuff that wasn’t dancing (warning: may contain some dancing).

We arrived in Istanbul on Friday afternoon. Most of us had flown together from London. I’d had very little sleep the night before and had woken up with that horrid sense of dread that you get when you’re sure that it’s the wrong day or you’ve booked the wrong flight or something. Anyway, my fears were unfounded.

Right day, right flight, good seat. Lots of sleep.

We got stuck at the airport waiting for the mini-van that was to take us to the hotel. It’ll be here in 10 minutes. 10 minutes in Turkey is roughly equivalent to ‘After some time’ in India. I think we waited for an hour to two. But that was ok. It gave us time to drink iced coffee and get to know each other a bit more. The mini-van on the way to the hotel gave me a chance to practice being a teacher again. We played Train to Timbuktu which was quite hilarious and helped to pass the time. Alena then invited us all to a party with a very tricky BYO policy. But we all managed to work that one out in the end too. 🙂

Dinner that night was in a 130 year old restaurant. The food was good (all the starters were vegetarian – happy Kath). The halva for dessert was incredible (it was hot and gooey). And it was great with watermelon!

After dinner we went to a Tango club. Yep, that’s right. A Tango club. We didn’t have our dancing shoes. But that wasn’t going to stop us. So we danced. I made one attempt in trainers but couldn’t pivot or slide so gave up on that and decided to dance just in my socks (well, not just my socks, I was of course, completely clothed from the ankles up – it wasn’t that kind of club). It seems dancing in socks is not really the done thing: Victor: Are you insane??? Kath: Well, yes. 🙂 But he didn’t step on me and he managed to lead me around the room so that no one else stood on me either.

It was really cool! That’s the first time I’d danced outside of the studio (except for practicing at home) and it was a good feeling to be able to go to a Tango club and dance. Though next time, I’m voting for something that isn’t Argentine Tango. 😉

Friday night saw some sitting around in the bar of the hotel. Good work!

Then Sarah and I toddled off to bed at a reasonable time so we’d have lots of sleep in anticipation of our exciting day of sightseeing. Unfortunately, Sarah is a wonderfully, interesting person who is just as chatty as I am and we both were really rather excited. So it was 3:30am before lights went out and sleep was had. 🙂

Saturday was sightseeing. We went to Hagia Sofia (temple of wisdom). It was an Orthodox Church, a Roman Catholic Church, a Mosque and is now a museum. Cool domes but not as many golden ratios as I was expecting (ah well, can’t have everything). We then went to the Grand Bazaar. (There’s another blog post about that – Kath reacted pretty much as was to be expected.) Lunch –traditional kofte (or soup and salad if you’re a Kath). We wandered past the Blue Mosque on our way back to the minibus and headed back through the drizzle to the hotel.

Sensible people did sensible things like nap. I went on a chocolate mission. I always feel uncomfortable in a new city until I’ve been able to look at a map, put on my walking shoes and head out into the wild unknown and successful buy something. Even if it was just chocolate from the shop round the corner. Nonetheless, I managed to cross roads, find a shop, choose the chocolate, pay for the chocolate and get back to the hotel again. And my reward: chocolate! 🙂

Saturday evening was a boat trip that included dinner. I think this was to help improve our balance in advance of the next day’s dancing. The boat was a little rocky, I blame the wake of the big ships. But the food was good, the company was great and the attempts at belly dancing by many of the congregation were to be applauded. Note: Phosphorus is indeed the 15th element of the periodic table (high heels little betty bought can not often fit neatly, Namgal sips claret, kit kat – this is the mnemonic that we learnt in year 10 chemistry to remember the first 20 elements and it worked!). Phosphorus, however, is unrelated to the river we were on (except for typos on the schedule).

After the boat there was more sitting and chatting in the bar. Do we see a theme? Oh yes we do. I got to grill my teachers and Victoria with such difficult questions as “What do you think makes a good student?” or “Do you consider yourself a dancer who teaches, a teacher who dances or a dance teacher?”. Well, Kath in a bar, education was bound to be the focus of the conversation for some significant portion of the evening. You’ll be happy to know that the answers from all three of them were highly satisfactory and quite different from each other!

There may well have been a lot more chatting once Sarah and I got back to our room (another theme). So much for early nights! 🙂

Sunday was the dancing, as is described in the other post that focuses on the dancing. Short summary: there was dancing.

After dinner the teachers did some dances for us so that we could see what it’s meant to look like! That was cool. And given that I usually see Victor and Daniel dance with students, it was really interesting to see what they can do when they have a partner who knows what she’s doing (and who can bend in ways that most of us would need surgery for). I really need to learn how to spin like Victoria though. That was really cool!!

More bar. More chatting. Though a lot more exhaustion. I think I feel asleep mid-sentence (my own probably).

Monday was breakfast and some more sightseeing. We went to see the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet). Which is the first mosque I’ve ever been into. It was blue. Lots more interesting geometry. I like geometry.

Some decided that they need to shop so headed off in the direction of the Grand Bazaar. The rest of us went to the Topkapi Palace. Lots of courtyards, nice view of the Bosphorus, some hideous chunk of carbon that people think is valuable and pretty. Lots of gorgeous sun (resulting in Kath getting burnt – so not so gorgeous after all).

We then met up with the shoppers and navigated the trams (with a lot of help from our local guide).

Then to a wonderful place for lunch. The chicken was baked whole in a salt crust and comes to the table on fire. (Cue bad singing of ‘this chicken’s on fire’.) Again, the starters were great and all veg. I got rice and roasted peppers. The rice was lovely. The first piece of the pepper was delicious. The seeds, however, tried to kill me. Ah well, what’s life without fending off the occasional assassination attempt by one’s lunch?! 🙂

Back to the hotel (funky English pronunciation lesson on the way home – it turns out that jewellery is quite tricky to say if you’re Spanish).

Minibus – no games this time. Lots of sleeping. Airport. Plane. 4 hours of chatting, watching videos of our dancing, comparing photos.

Then the delightful Tube back home.

A truly outstanding weekend!