In some ways it had felt like a lifetime since we'd been in Brazil but at the same time it was a shock to find we were at the last day of the festival. We had had our ups and downs (to Andean levels) but finally it was time for the climactic final show. True, we were down to just three songs but we were determined to go out with a bang rather than a whimper. We did our last check that the microphones and instruments were still working, waved at Leon on the sound desk, and joined the circle for the opening dance.
As the music faded after the final steps we extricated ourselves from the dancing circle and made our way to the stage. Everything was still (still!) working so with a quick exchange of glances and a tempo check we were away.
Our first song was Lute Lute / Buka Ere, one that we'd played on the first night to great acclaim. Starting with solo tambura but quickly joined by drum and twin voices it slowly built to a powerful crescendo with Rory's driving gajda melody adding the final touch. The dancers responded enthusiastically as the pravo line twisted and spiralled back on itself, adding cheers and whoops as the bagpipe made its appearance. We ended to rapturous applause!
We followed this with Phiravelman Kalyi Phuv to which the dancers did an enthusiastic Rom (Gypsy) čoček and finished up with Sa O Roma - Lucy & Jacqui's haunting vocals framed by Bill's driving percussion and Rory's impassioned saxophone. As we took our final bow the applause filled the hall and we were cheered and celebrated, the popular vote making up for the slights we had suffered along the way. As the clapping died away the dancers started singing in Portuguese, I never found out what it was but it was very moving to be acknowledged this way. We finally left the stage with large grins and glowing hearts.
Immediately afterwards we were surrounded by fans & admirers and the inevitable round of picture taking began again. After basking in it for a few minutes (and maybe a few minutes after that too) we were gently (but firmly) shushed as it was time for the performance dances to begin.
There had been three other workshop slots running in parallel to mine; a beginners class for circle dance newbies, one on African dance, and one based on more modern choreographies. (Or so I deduced, as they were on at the same time as mine I was unable to try them out.) The beginners were nervous but enthusiastic, they had been taught a couples dance with lots of turning while not holding hands - quite a challenge for inexperienced dancers - and despite some wobbles it went very well and they were rewarded with delighted applause. The other two groups did their dances but neither of them really grabbed me - perhaps I was too busy readying myself for my own group's display.
The other workshop leaders had introduced their dances and done a quick reminder of the steps before starting. I wasn't going to talk about our dance and I hadn't realised that a review of the steps was going to be possible so we silently assembled in a long line and I signalled to Leon to start the music. We had chosen to perform Syrtos Kritikos to Iokasti's Dream by Xenos which has a very long introduction - a chance to prepare for the dance itself but also an opportunity for nervousness to build up if you are on display in front of your peers. I looked along the line smiling and attempting to inspire confidence (and getting varyingly positive looks in return) then gave my one piece of instruction - an "Aide" to start the dance - and we began to move.
The dance went really well. The steps themselves aren't particularly difficult but it requires a level of focus and precision to be sustained and maintained, in this case for over nine minutes which is a lifetime in circle dance terms. The group rose to the challenge and soon I found myself surrendering my 'teacher' role and just enjoying sharing the dance with them.
Something that particularly pleased me was the way the group responded to the line getting stretched. In the workshop I'd said that it was better to break the line and continue dancing than to hold on in grim desperation and as our long, long line started to stretch several of the dancers started letting go with one hand and taking responsibility for their own segment. The line was broken but the dance remained intact. We finished the dance spiralled around the centrepiece and as the applause rang out I gathered the group in a celebratory huddle. We had created something powerful and meaningful and I took some measure of pride in having helped bring it about.
After the performances a second band took to the stage. A quintet of Brazilian musicians, they played a selection of 'old favourite' circle dances very professionally and 'danceably' while adding a definite South American flavour to the original tunes. Their short but excellent set was rewarded with rich applause, my own being a oart of this.
When they left the stage a choir began singing but I was too tired to give them their due attention and packed up and headed for the bar. However I was too tired to sustain even this so after one beer I trudged home and collapsed into my bed. A good day.