Tuesday 9 August 2011

Learning Balkan dances in New Zealand

Last weekend we attended an international dance workshop in Christchurch sponsored by the local Farandol International Folk Dancers.  We've been dancing with Farandol on Friday nights.  The workshop was led by Andre van de Plas, a Dutch man who teaches international dancing in Europe and Asia.  He has family in Australia, so every second year or so he makes the extra trip over to New Zealand.

From Friday night through Saturday afternoon, Andre taught 13 dances from 10 different countries, including Bulgaria, Macedonia, Croatia, Israel, Ireland, Greece and Romania.  Most were of the easier variety, though a few were more challenging (as the international folk dance community ages all over the world, there's no longer a lot of call for the fancy 12-part fast dances).  The Dutch have a strong dance education system, and it showed in Andre's teaching style - he was quite good at getting people to start moving generally in the right direction and then building up the precise steps with practiced repetition.  It was a rewarding but tiring weekend - we danced approximately 10 hours out of a 21 hour period.

We think that Americans have a harder time understanding a variety of accents, maybe because of the relative lack of exposure to many cultures.  At least Cindy and I seem to have this problem.  We still struggle sometimes with New Zealand accents, and moving to a Netherlands accent sometimes confused us more.  On one dance, Andre kept saying "lift your foot near your cuff".  I thought it sounded like "cough", which didn't make any sense.  Cindy thought it was "cuff", maybe like a cuffs on one leg of a pair of pants.  After putting our heads together, we think he really was saying "calf",  meaning tuck one foot near the calf on the other leg.  We understand more than when we were traveling in China last year, but we're certainly not understanding 100% of what we come across (which is part of what makes traveling so interesting...) 

Andre leads a line of local dancers
... and teaches us a circle dance
Farandol organizers Alistair and Katy, plus Andre
A faster Croatian dance circles to the left
13 dances in 10 hours
The group thanks Andre with a card

Sugra, a member of the Farandol dance group, demonstrated his juggling and unicycle skills (individually and simultaneously).  Paul gets his first unicycle lesson, is a little wobbly, regains control, and decided to leave moving away from the fence for lesson two...

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