Sunday, 30 June 2013

It's all about the timing...

Timing is so important. Not just in the world of dance, but in pretty much everything we do....finding a rhythm, missed opportunities, striking while the proverbial iron is hot and just being out of sync can be a small matter with a large impact. Recently I always feel pressed for time. I always try to make sure I have enough time. I don't like to be running out of time. But I don't think my timing was good for my short trip to Rio. I almost didn't make it infact...and not because of bad time keeping. I got to the airport, checked in, through security, check my flight and my gate and it's all good. I get around to boarding...quick double check...yes right flight number and gate. Cool. I get past the gate and onto the bus (a few people get back off the bus at this point but I don't pay any attention as i'm on the right flight afterall). The bus takes us to the plane, I get on the plane, get my window seat, get comfy. Happy days. Now by this point my portuguese is pretty rubbish but I can pick out a few words while the airhostess is doing her thing. I manage to deduce that this plane is going to Belo wait....that's not Rio. I have a look on the map. yes indeed BH is not Rio. Perhaps they are going via Rio I thought. I better check. The hostess confirms my fear and at this point the plane is beginning to back out onto the runway. FML. So I cause a fuss and manage to get them to bring me back. It turns out I was not the only person shepherded on the wrong plane. A hop skip and a jump and we're finally on the right plane.

I don't know if anybody reading this has been to Rio, but if they have then they will agree with what i'm about to say next. Rio is beautiful. Unreal city. What a location. It's a clear sunny day (well received after the continual wet and greyness of SP) and the city looks in fine form. The nature surrounding the place looks incredible. After a rather dicy (imo) low flying episode to get us on land I taxi it over to the apartment where i'll be staying to the next 2.5 days. I just can't really do hostels anymore. Used to love them but now I just actually want my own space so I can walk around in the buff whenever I feel...actually some folk do that in hostels. Anyway I scored a tidy wee apartment right on the front of Copacabana beach. I was sure that the owner could speak english due to our previous exchanges. But it turns out she was infact just a handy user of google translate. Nevertheless we got all the details sorted and I kicked off my shoes and had a wee rest in the indoor hammock while listening to the sound of the neighboring beach action. 

Whenever I go somewhere new I usually try to link up with some locals and get a few details from friends of friends. I think I probably bit off more than I could chew for the time I was there. that coupled with some lax Brazilian time keeping  meant a lot of missed opportunities ensued. I was a bit knackered but felt it would be nice to link up with some bboys around here. I got in touch with one guy called Lucio (thanks Ella). We had arranged to meet out on the shore front opp my apartment. Some miscommunication and bad time keeping meant we actually met about 3hrs later. By that time there was no danger I was gonna do any training but I figured I could at least check out the spot. So start to walk away from the beach area and into town. We begin climbing a hill. He had suggested hiring some mopeds but since many of my encounters with motorised vehicles end up in accidents and since I ain't got much clue about how to ride a bike...I felt it was best just to use the tools god gave us in this situation. So we start walking up this hill. And we're chatting away about breaking and what he does and what I do blah blah...all good. As we're walking, i'm looking around and i'm starting to get the sense that we're heading into the Favelas. Now I hadn't really intended to go there. It wasn't really on my to do list and certainly not at around midnight. But we were going there. I don't mind admitting feeling a little bit anxious about that. I figured I could pass for a Brazilian but as all the street sellers who wouldn't leave me alone demonstrated, I was not passing as a Brazilian. But Lucio seemed to be the man about town, saying hello to everyone as we climbed further. It turns out he works for an NGO that promotes cultural activities in these areas. The same group our compadres Bad Taste Cru worked for (who did actually get robbed once while there). But I gotta say...the Favelas is definitely where the action is. It's pretty lively up there. We hit the spot and first of all we're greeted by young feisty kids thrashing about a football with some Brazilian swagger and all barefoot. Inside, there's a handful of bboys getting down. It's all concrete but not a bad space at all. We go out onto the balcony and the view is amazing. And this was another case of bad timing. The air was so clear that night, you could see the full moon (which had a slight orange tint to it) sitting effortlessly on the edge of the horizon...with it's reflection shimmering in the calm seas. And all the lights of the favela's illuminating the hillsides of Rio. It was a sight...but I had forgotten to charge my camera. So when I went to take a picture...nada! So that's just one for the memory banks. Lucio put me in the hands of a capable young lad to take me back down the road. We managed to pass the time with a menagerie of portuguese, french and english. All the while i'm just trying to look like i'm one of the boys you know what i'm saying.

The next day I met up with a friend who I had met on my Blaze Russian adventure, Natalia. A reporter who is now pole dancing and writing her way around South America. We managed to get some tanning and beach time before she had to head off and pack for Chile and I wanted to go and see old Christ the Redeemer. I did waste a lot of time that morning searching for a coffee on the beach. You can get pretty much anything on the beaches in Rio...but not a coffee? I don't understand. After very poor coffee in SP I was pleasantly surprised at the perky wee espresso com leite I ordered at the restaurant just outside the apartment. Solid taste, good depth and texture with some rich flavour. I liked. So once i'd satisfied my coffee addiction and said goodbye to Natalia, I was all sorted for seeing Christo. I could do it in a few hours then be back in time to meet with another friend of a friend who was going to take me along to see some capoeira. I was running low on funds due to the rather high cost of doing your laundry at the Golden Tower Hotel in SP (first person to comment with a suitable pun gets a free t-shirt). So I went to a bank to stock up, but my card was not being accepted. I tried several banks. All turned me down. I did actually need cash or else I would have been struggling to get to the airport the following day. So after an long process of skype calls back home and several visits to the same bank the problem finally got sorted. But I had lost too much time and it would have been too tight to head out to see Cristo and get back in time for some capoeira. So I thought I would do Cristo first thing in the morning. So the time came around when I was supposed to meet this capoeira dude. But facebook no text. So I text him. He had forgotten about out appointment....who could forget about meeting Tony Thrills you know...????? beggars belief. So he suggested making my own way there and would send me the address. The address never came but if it had been too far away I probably would have given it the slip anyway as I didn't fancy trying to negotiate my way around late night Rio. I had another invitation to meet with someone else but by that time I was simply too tired and thought I would save my energy for Cristo.

BAM!!!!! RATATATATAT!!! BOOM!!!! ....these are the sounds that woke me up in the middle of the night. Now i'm no expert on guns (i'm pretty good with a .22 air rifle though) but these sounded like gun shots to me. A mixture of automatic fire and single shot. The flashes and the noises that went with indicated they were fairly close as well and probably not out of place in this town. This went on for a fair bit of time also. There were no police sirens to follow so perhaps I was wrong or perhaps it was some young bucks shooting ammo up in the air. That late night mystery remains unsolved. The next thing that woke me up was my alarm. Time to get myself over to see the redeemer. I have a look out the window and it's not looking good weather wise. The previous 2 days were clear and sunny. Today was humid and misty. I may well not get the stunning views i've read and heard about but this was my only chance to off I went. While researching it, getting there seemed to be a bit of a headache but actually it was pretty simple. The drive up was almost as impressive as standing on the top. Some people have some lush houses on the hills. As suspected the view was nullified by the weather. My penultimate case of bad timing in Rio. Still it's an impressive monument and well worth going to if you get the chance.

I managed to squeeze in a final dip n the sea before packing my bags and catching a bus to Rio's International airport...which fyi is frigging miles away! So due to not being as flush as I would have liked taking the bus seemed to be the cheapest option. I had heard and read that it takes about 1 hr from the beach areas. Ok then. I gave myself 2 hrs. I don't like to be late if I can help it. I can only be thankful that I was not traveling at  peak times because the whole journey took about 1hr 45. I just about made it before check in closed. It could have been the final nail in the timing coffin. My problem in this type of situation is that I try to pack too much as many people...check out as many things.  Nah. I should opt for the more just-let-it-happen approach I think. I guess that just means i'll have to have another crack at Rio.

The wandering continues and I have touched down in St Petersburg for a week of performances and teaching for Open Look Festival. It's kicked off with me having to sleep in a sofa bed for the week so let's hope things go on the up from here.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

3 for 3

So we are done! Our South American adventure has come to a close. Well almost...i'm using the opportunity to head to Rio and see what all the fuss is about. Only for a couple of days, as i've got an appointment with Open Look Festival in St Petersburg starting on the 1st July. It's a been a pretty wham bam type of affair in Sao Paulo. Often when a project like this comes to a close, when there's been so much build up and work to make it all happen and then it's over, you can be left with the question of who really benefits for all this effort? Or at least i am. I have a constant dialogue with myself on this subject. But i think one ought to question what you're doing...keep yourself on the right track...or at least the right track for you. But if i had to look at the outcomes i would say it has been an excellent learning experience for R2M to organise, mount and deliver the show in such far off foreign lands. The show has been super well received...3 for 3 on the standing ovations. And although that's great, what actually tickles my fancy is the fact that you can make a piece of work in a completely different country with a different cultural and social background. Then present this piece somewhere else and it's accepted. They get it. Whether it's everyone's cup of tea or not is fine, but people can relate to the show and get some enjoyment from it. That is a success for me...and for R2M. And we have built relationships. With audiences, with fellow artists, those in training and our theatre colleagues. The Cultura Inglesa team did an excellent job in bringing the work to Brazil and supporting us while we were here. It is these professional relationships, based on a mutual desire to see work happen, that can be so enriching as well as the surprise outcomes that result from such activity. And, in my opinion, establishing such relationships are fundamental in the dissemination of art and culture. Because whether you question what you're doing or not, or if sometimes you can't see the end point....what matters is to do it, to put something out there in the first place. Because if you're looking for answers, then there first has to be a question. Anyhow, enough semi-philosophical musings. I'm about to depart to Rio. Apparently it's's still Rio :)

Setting up at Teatro Celia Helena

No room for vertigo in this job

Video and set team

Chief of LX at Teatro Celia Helena

Rolling out the red carpet

Now i would have left a video of Rio by Duran Duran here for you to watch, because that ties in nicely doesn't it! But, unfortunately, the wifi network i'm using won't allow access to video sites. So just imagine.....Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand....(you know the rest)...

Monday, 24 June 2013

Someday Sunday

Our first and only day off for the tour was yesterday...Sunday. We were invited to come and check out the music concert as part of the Cultura Inglesa festival. After successfully negotiating the underground by ourselves we arrived at the venue. Some young Scottish lads going by the name of the The Dark Jokes were playing when we arrived. I got to find out that they were from the burgh in fact. The weather wasn't so hot but the hospitality was pretty good...and that's all i'll say about that! I've kept this one short so you can spend a bit more time watching the videos below...if you like Kate Nash and The Magic Numbers (apologies for my dodgy camera work).

R2M team getting comfy.

I guess no one in SP has heard about the helium shortage.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Revenge of the Ants

Well i didn't manage to get a post up after the first show so here it is after the 2nd show. Day 1 was hectic. I ran the show 4 times in the end. Looooong day...but totally worth it at the end to get our first proper (no best mates included) standing ovation. Everybody worked super hard and the team that Cultura Inglesa supplied was great. There are always a few kinks to iron out. Even more so when you try to mount your show in a different country. But everyone wants to get the show up and looking it's best and that was the vibe all day. Still the control freak in me won't totally let go so i have to remove myself from time to time to get out of people's hair. To ease the stresses of the day Cultura Inglesa put on a nice spread for the dressing room rider...

All bases covered...fruit, sugar and coffee.
Where the magic happens at Teatro Cultura Inglesa-Pinheiros.

We started to day with a 3 hr workshop for some local SP dance enthusiasts. A mixed group but all very much up for it. At first 3hrs seemed pretty long but in the end turned out to be too short. Such is life. I was able to get 40 winks before show 2. The show began very well...until it got to the point where i turned on the flatscreen tv. I was greeted by the words "sem sinal" as in no signal = fml! This is the problem with technology in shows. When it works well it's incredible...when it doesn't you're completely f£$%ed! I did a litte bit of fiddling about and somehow the picture finally came on....but the show had been knock off balance a little from that point. Following this i managed to tie myself up in the TV cable during the ensuing pas de deux. Then there were some sync issues with my TV dialogue. Ah well you can't win them all. But i put this wayward show down to karma. Yesterday some ants got the notion to attack my rider..and i put a stop to that pretty quickly. It was borderline ant genocide. So i name tonight's show the Revenge of the Ants. I'll be watching my step from now on and keeping the wrapper on my food. All that being said SP repped with another standing ovation. Muito obrigado!

Manuela and Gabriel doing a little last minute set design. I miss the old chair!

Our "angel" Vitor and his squeeze
So we have a day off tomorrow and will be checking out one of the free concerts as part of the festival. BUt not before doing some serious number crunching with Ed the producer....trabalho, trabalho, trabalho!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Unsettling Dust

*note to readers...was without internet for a day so this is sort of a day old.

So last night got pretty hectic in SP. I wanted to see the aftermath of the carnage I’d seen on TV. Dave (production manager) and Ed (big dog) both arrived good and well in the early hours of the morning. There was a plan to head to the theatre and start finalising things with the set. But this got cancelled last minute. So we (or rather I) persuaded or go to guy Vitor to take is to the protest hot spots. And to be honest I really needed to get out and about, have a walk and see some of the city. I had put the feelers out for a some breakin’ sessions but as yet no luck on that front. Although we have bene internet-less at the hotel for almost a whole day (imagine the drama) so there could be some replies waiting for me when I get back online. Anyway, we hopped onto the tube into the centre. We couldn’t help but notice a rather dashing fellow on some poster advertising an obscure dance show called Watch iT!

I always said i was underground!
Arriving in the centre, things seem pretty normal tbh. I guess people have to work afterall. Theres no tension or any such vibe…infact Brazil is playing in the confederation cup against Mexico and winning, so folk are pretty upbeat. I grab a few snaps from where it was all kicking off last night.

Scene of last nights fracas with the locals
Some glazier is going to do very well out of this.
Well all this walking makes a man hungry. We stopped off in SP’s largest indoor market and got stuck in to some local dishes:

Would you like some bread with that sandwich Ed? 
I had been gently nudging the team here to hook me up with a spot to shake my tail feather for a while…gotta stay sharp afterall. I managed to barge my way into a classroom in the Cultura Inglesa building, which is also where the theatre is. I got my sweat on a wigged out to several killer beats including this one…too much!

I wiped the sweat from my brow and made my way down to the theatre to watch what was basically a scratch night for local dancers and dance groups to show their work in 10 mins then receive feedback from the audience. It was quite a full on onslaught of Brazilian avante garde dance made worse by not understanding a word of the following conversations, which actually sounded quite interesting. The final piece as the most interesting imo: A guy throwing lots of buckets up in the air…some containing water and some containing other surprises. It then went into darkness and was occasionally perforated by a strobe light. An interesting and original performance…but was it really dance? I think that’s what everyone was discussing afterwards.

We finally get into the theatre tomorrow and get to work properly on Watch iT! 7am start so it’s bom noite from me.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


I was having this discussion not so long ago about what the 2000s (noughties??) and now the 2010s (i suppose Twenty Teens maybe??) would be remembered for. I think we came to the conclusion that they were sort of an amalgamation of all the other previous decades in terms of style and cultural aesthetic (perhaps that is the same thing). But for me, i very vividly remember the 90s as the britpop phase. When indie music was at it's coolest (imo), Jo Whiley hadn't sold out and wearing flares was ok again. Musically, I finally started to define myself with a little help from a Mixmag top 100 albums of the year....i forget the year exactly, but it was in the 90s. Massive Attack's Blue Lines was number one and i just followed the trail of bread crumbs from there. I was always tuned in to Radio 1 and what dominated most of the musical stories back then was the Blur and Oasis tete a tete. Of course there were many other good bands going about back then, but at least this story had a bit more drama to it. I only bring this up because life has been a bit of blur recently. So many things have been going on...some good, some bad, some internal and some external. But i suppose this is called progress or making some headway in one's career (i hesitate to use the word successful...whoops i just did!). Things are going super well with R2M at the moment. It feels like i've been in the saddle of a rather rambunctious thoroughbred, trying to carefully steer it home. But now it has bolted, and i'm holding on by hook or by crook til we cross the finish line. So sometimes i think about when things were a little more straightforward...with me, Blur and Oasis on the radio and my standard grade revision books. Don't get me wrong...i'm not complaining...just kind of taking stock of the moment. Many times i've tried to control situations, but things just have a way of spiralling out of control until they settle again. The old idiom stands true that if you can't stand the heat then get out of the kitchen. But, I like cooking and don't mind breaking a sweat now and then either. Here's a blast from the past for you before i say what's happening now in R2M land.

I think a lesser known Oasis track....

Perfect song title for this blog.

So what has been happening?...well by Jove we're on tour. So much organisation has been going on to get up to this point, for now and the future. Big thanks are due to Made In Scotland and Creative Scotland for backing the tour. We have landed in Sao Paulo to present Watch iT! for the Festival Cultura Inglesa. We seem to have arrived at a point when Brazil is undergoing a mini revolution...well i dunno if you could call +100,000 people on the streets of SP, "mini". Apparently the straw that broke the camel's back was a 20 cent increase in the local bus fares. Lothian Buses should take note. This increase has sparked a reaction against other matters that have bene bubbling away under the surface and now Brazilians have turned their priorities from partying to protesting. Surely something positive must come from such a huge public movement but we shall see. This has meant of course that audience numbers for the festival shows (which involve other Scottish companies) have been less than normal. Hardly surprising. I watched, on the news, police back into the major's office and metal barriers come up from the ground to barricade themselves in whist the public went radge basically. Quite full on. Anyone interested in seeing a dance-theatre-multimedia show then? We shall find out on Friday.
Jet lag has not been so much of an issue. I think it's easier to travel west, rather than east. Although i have bene nodding off here and there. We have spent most of today sorting out the various nuances of the set. The kind people of the festival (of which there are many) have opted to build the set. So i have make the final say so...a bit like the man from Delmonte (some of you probably won't even know who that is). Only one real issue persists and that is the chair. The one they've sourced isn't quite right, although may have some alterations done to it. But we thought it would be prudent to go and have a look at other potential candidates. We found some very funky stuff, but no winners yet...

Manu and Vitor taking a few notes as we search for the perfect hot seat.
Ooh...look what i found in the junk store!
Watch iT! south american set...ready to get the final touches.
I have found a good croissant spot just nearby but the coffee situation is in a bad way. At least for the time being...there's bound to be somewhere good in a city this size...and come on! we're in south america fo crying out loud. I haven't done my normal thing of going for a mooch around to get a sense of the place. But i hope to do so over the next few days. I just realised that i should have enquired about the missing projection screen material. Oh yes i forgot to mention this...i arrived but the screen material did not. I should have taken a picture of all the excess baggage i had...ridiculous. When i made this show, i spent so much time (and money) taxi-ing Watch iT! set around Edinburgh to the various rehearsal spots. Coming to SP was like next level business...unreal. Anyhow, most of it got here but not the screen. It should have arrived today, but there has been no

And with that cliffhanger, i'm off to bed. boa noite x