Brazilian Diary - Thursday 3rd June 2010

Thursday morning was warm and sunny, a bit more 'Brazilian' than the previous days. After my (by now) usual early morning routine of catching up with the diary I arrived at the dining room to find my bandmates ensconced outside, enjoying an alfresco breakfast. None of the Brazilians followed our example - for them I suspect that it was still midwinter weather - but they greeted us warmly as they passed, no doubt tickled by the antics of the crazy foreigners.

Our morning rehearsal was scheduled for the large room we'd been in the day before but the day was so inviting that we decided to play outside in our breakfast nook, at least until someone told us to move. Instruments and set lists were retrieved and we started to play.

Within minutes we had become a tourist attraction. Many of the festival participants came to take photos but it was interesting to see that rather than take pictures of the band they would get their friends to take pictures of themselves standing in front of us. They were polite and respectful, keeping out of our way and not distracting us while we were playing and asking if it was OK if we were between songs, but it seemed like our purpose was to be an Interesting Thing that they could document themselves as having visited. I got a sense of what the Eifel Tower must feel like.

Today was to be the first of my afternoon dance sessions. There were too many participants to teach all at once so they had been split into three groups who were rotated through the various workshops on offer. I was under strict instructions to do the same dances to the same music each time, a new experience for me and one that I hoped wouldn't cramp my trademark style.

I arrived in good time, primped and prepared, and found the dance space locked. After a slightly nervous period of scurrying around I found one of the English speaking members of the organising team who found a member of the hotel staff who (eventually) found the correct key and we were in. The sound system was explained to me (it turned out to be one of the powered speakers that we'd used for monitors so I was by now familiar with the controls) but as I tried it out I found there was a very strong echo for the far wall which, in the middle of the room, muddied the sound enough to make the rhythm difficult to make out. Not great for a dance workshop, especially one featuring tricky rhythms. I moved the table and speaker to the middle of the long side of the room where the echoes would be the least, only to find that the power cable had an earth prong while the socket didn't have a slot for it. More scurrying, slightly more urgently this time, resulted in an extension lead that had the required combination of prongs and slots and we were ready to go.

The workshop went well but was hard work - for me at least! There are all sorts of extra problems to deal with when teaching a large group (there were about 70 in the circle) and having to use a translator can slow things down and dampen the flow of the teaching, especially with a wordy teacher like me. Luckily Frances had been assigned to be my Portuguese voice and she was wonderful, quick and clear so the rhythm of the teaching was preserved. Even so I automatically cut down on the amount I was saying and resorted to demonstrating the steps with lots of mime, gesturing and sound effects - meaningless words that somehow expressed the rhythm and style of the steps. I've resorted to this method of teaching when dealing with non-Anglophone dancers in the past and it's amazing hoe much can be expressed without a working vocabulary. One way or another the essence of the dances were transmitted and we were soon moving as one (or at least a fairly small number).

For some strange reason I found myself teaching in French, something that popped up again and again through the festival, both in my workshops and in the hall with everybody present. I suspect this was a way of making me think about what I was saying rather than just letting the words flow, subconsciously reminding myself that everything was being translated. For whatever reason it seemed to work pretty well, very curious.

The Brazilian dancers were attentive and (in general) quick to pick things up but had real problems with uneven rhythms which seemed even more alien to the South American psyche than they were to northern Europeans. We persevered and, through a combination of their determination and my expert tuition, ended up moving with a sense of union and harmony. Mostly.

I'd been given very strict instructions to be done and finished by 6 and it was with a sense of professional pride that I completed the closing ritual with five minutes to spare. However I'd not allowed for the fact that most of the dancers wanted to have their photo taken with me so it was another ten minutes of smiling and posing before I made it out of the hall. As setbacks go it was one I was happy to live with.

After the workshop there was just time for me to wash my face and change my shirt before heading down to the hall for another soundcheck with the band. Once all was well (or well enough) we set off for dinner and to prepare for our evening's performance. What could go wrong?



Later