Thursday, 29 October 2009

Two Wrongies Can Make A Right

Last night I started a Contemporary Dance course run by Evolution Arts. The course is led by dance duo Avis Cockbill and Janine Fletcher aka The Two Wrongies - the double act who dare to do the dirty! I've just checked out their website and there are some hilarious videos of them in action.

Avis was doing it alone last night, as Janine was involved in some sort of contemporary dance/parcour performance - ooh, hark at her! I have to say that Avis did very well on her own, injecting a great deal of humour into the class and making me feel pretty relaxed really - no mean feat considering the rather intimidating dance studio we were in, complete with mirrored wall at one end. She started off the class with some simple warm ups and stretching exercises, but in true dance fashion these were all performed rythmically to music. We learnt a whole sequence of standing and lying warm ups, which we will apparently perform at the beginning of each class and which will be built upon as the weeks progress. In fact I already felt like I was dancing.

Halfway through the rather hurried hour we moved on to the actual dance part itself and managed to learn a little choreographed sequence consisting mainly of jumps and hops with a rather awkward looking (well in my case anyway) floor sequence thrown in at the end. Two of the moves were affectionately nicknamed "The Dick Van Dyke" (a little side kick in the air) and "The Brucie" (a standing stance with one fist forward and one back). So when we performed the dance to music with Avis calling out the moves, it went something like this: "Right, left, right, Dick. Left, right, left, Dick. Brucie. Brucie. Brucie Brucie Brucie". Hilarious!

And that's just what you need on an autumnal Wednesday night - a pair of legwarmers, some funky music and a room full of people doing Bruce Forsyth impressions. Good game, good game!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Resistance Is Futile

Ah, resistance. Don't you just love it? You know, when that annoying little inner critic screams at you that you're no good, you can't do it and you may as well just give up? I experienced this twice last week and am still suffering the consequences.

On Saturday I went to a yoga workshop in Brighton taught by a world-renowned yoga teacher, Bhavani Maki. She was giving 5 masterclasses over the weekend and I chose to attend just one of them, entitled "Becoming Grounded - Standing and Balancing Poses". Now, I've been practicing Mysore style Ashtanga yoga 5 mornings a week for 5 months now and, although I still consider myself a beginner, I do feel I've developed a certain amount of strength and flexibility in my practice. So I was looking forward to a nice 3-hour workshop concentrating on some of the standing postures and developing my practice in a new way.

But oh my God! This was the most intense yoga I had ever done and right from the beginning those whiny inner voices were shouting "I can't do this", "You're going to make me hurt myself", "I'm doing it wrong and you haven't even noticed". Of course I was blaming the teacher entirely; her unending enthusiasm and playful energy coupled with annoying Americanisms ("awesome", "that's great guys") just didn't cut the mustard for me or my foul mood that day. After my thighs and hips had been crying out in pain for what seemed like an eternity, and tears had begun to roll down my face, I decided enough was enough and walked out. Yes, I actually walked out. I don't think I've ever done that before but boy did it feel good!

I found out later that The Partner, who has been a practising Ashtangi for over 3 years now, also found the workshop incredibly demanding. That didn't stop him from attending all 5 of the masterclasses though - what a fool! My thighs and buttocks are still feeling the effects from Saturday so I can't imagine how his are feeling.

Wind the clock back 2 days and you find me in my Learning To Draw evening class. And oh yes, the resistance bears its ugly head again. But this time I give it what for and actually win the battle. So I'm sitting there, charcoal in hand, trying to draw the objects I've composed through my (rather shoddy home-made) viewfinder. And for the life of me I just can't get it right. The proportions are all wrong, nothing seems to fit together properly and I just can't bloody draw! I'm screaming inside and really want to just throw the paper out the window and storm out. But somehow I manage to keep going. By some miracle I manage to bring my focus back to the lesson in hand - seeing the shapes of the negative spaces around the objects. And hey presto, it actually worked! Part of my brain was still going "look at that, it's pathetic, it doesn't look anything like it's supposed to, you're no good at this" but its self-assuredness was lessening as it knew it was gradually being proved wrong.

And, ok, so I'm still sulking over the art class and my thighs are still killing me, but wow what a good lesson I've learnt: resistance really is futile - just give up or get over it!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

More Tea Vicar?

Last week, The Partner was chatting to his friend on the phone. They were obviously trying to make an arrangement for something, as he kept asking me when we were free (yes, I am the walking diary). A date was agreed and they hung up. The Friend and his wife had invited us over for tea on Sunday. How lovely.

Now you might think being invited round for tea would be a fairly casual affair; sitting around drinking tea, maybe eating a slice of cake or two. But not so with this particular friend. The next day I discovered a hand delivered, beautifully designed invitation to High Tea on our doorstep. And as if that wasn't enough, with it came a very descriptive menu full of wonderfully exotic teas, like Silver Needle White Tea, Monkey Picked Green Tea and Pu Erh Tea, which apparently gets better with age like vintage wines. We were asked to mark our first and second choices on the menu and post it back to The Friend in time for Sunday. I asked The Partner if this was a joke and was told it most certainly was not and I should regard the event with the utmost sincerity.

The day of the High Tea arrived and we were greeted at The Friend's house by a simply breathtaking sight: a large table laid with the most exquisite art deco tea set you can imagine, complete with vintage lace napkins and delicate 1930s butter knives and cake forks. Antique cake stands and serving platters were adorned with cucumber sandwiches, mini onion tartlets, fresh fruit scones and even a fruit cake made by The Friend himself (a rare feat according to his wife's aunt apparently: "Fancy that! A man who can make a fruit cake!") On a sideboard near the table stood a proud display of beautifully ornate teapots and an array of different teas in packets, each with comprehensive instructions on the optimum brewing times and even temperatures. Instructions which were, of course, meticulously followed by The Friend and his new little helper, The Partner, now affectionately known as Chai Wala (or Tea Boy to be perfectly English).

Well, what a delightful afternoon we had, sipping our way through cup after cup of delicious tea and daintily nibbling on the delicious homemade treats. Now that's what I call a real High Tea. The only thing is, the next time someone invites me round for a cuppa they'll have some rather high (tea) standards to live up to. Simply spiffing dahling!

Monday, 5 October 2009

Sorting My Life Out

I've just spent the weekend on a Life Coaching workshop at Evolution in Brighton. It was a very interesting weekend that allowed me to take a closer look at myself and to re-evaluate my life and the direction it seems to be moving in. There were only 4 of us in the group (although there are usually 6-8 participants) who happened to be all female, so there was a very open, supportive atmosphere over the weekend - not that men aren't open or supportive, you understand, but I expect the energy would have been quite different if any had attended.

The workshop was a mixture of writing exercises, visual exercises, role play and meditation via individual, partner and group work so it was very varied and interesting. We also read some Angel Cards and Medicine Cards based on Native American wisdom - just for a bit of fun really, but I like stuff like that. At one point we had to think of a persona that embodies who we want to be or a type of personality that we can emanate to help us get through things in a different way. We had to walk like that person, then teach our partner how to walk like them too. I chose beautiful singer/songwriter Carrie Tree so I was floating around the room, very calmly and rhythmically, with confidence and grace, softly smiling with my head held high - aah!

Although much of the content and many of the exercises were very similar to what I'd been dealing with all through The Artist's Way, it was good to re-visit those issues and reaffirm where I'm at now. We also looked at some confidence boosting techniques and our coach, Christine Brown, recommended a book called Confidence Booster Workout by Martin Perry, which I intend to buy as it's full of interesting exercises and has lots of brightly coloured pages (that's the real reason)!

Chris also runs weekly courses, 1-to-1 sessions and a Saturday morning group in Life Coaching. See her website at Inner Balance or the Evolution website for more info.