Sunday, June 20, 2010

"If you play it, they will come"

Or "Saltare, 2010".

This year, Saltare, the event all about dancing and music in Meridies (be it European or Middle Eastern), happened at West Georgia University. I went with my friend Renee. She has a wonderful Aunt and Uncle that live close by and were kind enough to let us come stay with them. It was great to finally get to spend some time with Renee. I enjoyed the driving as much as the event itself (:

So we got up on Saturday morning to have delicious blueberry pancakes with sausage for breakfast before getting into our garb and heading over for the event.

I decided that between All Things Middle Eastern in the past 2 years, and Saltare last year, I'd had every middle eastern class except "How to have fun at a hafla", so this year, I would get to enjoy some of the European dance classes, since I hadn't been to any since we'd been in Atlantia almost 5 years ago. I would also get to teach a drumming class.

After trolling in (paying and signing in), we got -wonderful- site tokens! Definitely working on an idea how to display all the great site tokens that I've gotten from events. Then, since I was up to teach a class, I needed to head over and sign in there as well. And they had awesome goodies for teachers!

I got a lovely artisan blown glass vessel, signed by the artist, plus a cool cloth bag to carry my things around, and fun stuff inside (:

My first class was Bransles. Part of what I love about them is they're some of the easiest dances to learn and they don't generally require a designated partner. But the -other- part that I love about them is the pronunciation of the name: Brawls. I have to admit, I'm a fan of what I like to call, "Beautiful Train Wrecks" and Bransles can be some of the funnest, funniest beautiful train wrecks in Medieval dancing (: We had a fun teacher for it and loved the dances. I say 'we' because Renee and I had the first 2 classes together. Also got the handout so we're hoping we can -remember- the dances and share them with the shire.

Then we headed to Whirligig. An entire hour and half dedicated to a single dance (: And you need it too. It's another dance that has the potential for beautiful train wrecks, and was a whole lot of fun to learn. A couple of times, we ended up switching partners (lol). But they say that the key to the Whirligig is *don't stop moving*. Even if you're lost-- don't stop. Or it WILL be a train wreck (lol) (:

Then we had a break for lunch and I took the opportunity to change into my middle eastern garb-- since two of the classes I was going to be at for the afternoon were in the middle eastern track. The first class after lunch was Mistress Jadi's "How to have fun at a hafla: for dancers, drummers, musicians and audience." It was -very- informative, and like every other class I got to attend, a whole lot of fun. The most important thing that was proven at the hafla from the class, is that the sound travels slower than you think. Because of this, the musicians have to sit together-- the drummers together, the other instruments together, and all of them side by side so that they can hear each other. Because no matter how good you are, if you're on the other side, you lose the timing of the rhythm and you'll throw everyone else off as well. It was also really nice to get to play with some new instruments I've never gotten to drum with before (: I love how it goes from being drumming circles to being MUSIC when you get other instruments involved and the drummers don't over-power them.

Then I got to take the most complicated dance class (for me) for the day: Three dances from Gresley. It was a lot of fun, but more complicated than I was able to remember for the ball at night. It -did- however have several moves that make me want to research some Russian and Eastern European dances that I learned in fall semester at Troy because I suspect they're medieval in origin.

Then it was time to teach my dance class. Renee helped me get my drums from the car and bring them in, then I got set up and took a bit of time to visit with some new friends and old friends I hadn't gotten to see in a LONG time before it was time for my class.

It had a nice turn out (: My class was called, "Drumming Rhythms to Encourage Dancing". The short description that I provided for the class was, "An introduction to a variety of drum rhythms, and variations of those rhythms, with an emphasis on drumming for dancers." We'd been in for about 30 minutes when I realized that almost everyone present was a new drummer. So I decided to switch from the original class to what I do in my beginning drumming class, to get them used to the strokes, how to practice, and how to learn the rhythms.

But in those 30 minutes of the original portion of the class, we discussed rhythm speed-- that slow rhythms are good for veil work, floor work, and sword work. That most dancers prefer medium slow speeds, though they also like variety: play it slow/fast, loud/soft. And that continuous fast playing is a great way to 1) leave all dancers shimmying because they can't move to do anything else, and 2) make the dancer leave.

I also got to share that it doesn't take all that long to learn how to drum-- using Amir Naoum's dvd, I taught myself how to play in 10 minutes a day over the course of year. And from the same video, I learned that a key difference to most SCA drumming and Arabic music is that the latter tends to follow one of two rules: either play the same thing 3 times with the fourth being different, or repeat four times, then change and repeat four times. It makes it more interesting for the dancers.

We also discussed the prevalence of Baladi "DoumbDoumb tekatet Doumb tekatet teka". 3 1/2 years ago, when I was a brand new drummer, I was guilty of this-- It's the -exact- same rhythm played over. and over. and over. and over. for anywhere between 20 minutes....and -hours-. And dancers don't like it. It's boring. As a matter of fact, in the last couple of years, one of the fastest ways to make all the dancers leave was to play Baladi. Or they would walk off the dance floor and sit.

But I also mentioned that having gone to pretty much every hafla I could get to in the same time, I'd noticed that there are some rhythms that -call- to dancers. And I guaranteed that there was one, called Serto, that would bring dancers to the floor every time because 1) it's so much fun to dance to, and 2) it's so much fun to PLAY.

Then it was time for dinner break, and then coming back for the ball and hafla. At the ball, the first dance was called, "Lauro". Even though Renee and I hadn't learned this one, Master Lorenzo let us all know anyone could join it and follow. Renee and I were both in dresses, but I volunteered to dance the 'man's' part. So just before we headed out to the floor, I remembered that I had pants on under my skirt-- so I hopped out of the skirt quick as a flash. Had the ladies beside us who were part of the conversation in giggles it tickled them so much (: But NOW, you could tell who the 'guy' was (; Then we got the dance the Bransle. Then I headed over to the hafla.

A special thank you to Martin Whiten for taking all the pictures (:

Well, at the hafla that night, one of the ladies in my class, as the dancers slipped out of the room because, although the music being played was very much enjoyable, it wasn't danceable, asked me if I could play the rhythm that calls the dancers.

And it was the next thing we played. I seriously wish I could have stopped drumming long enough to record it (: I swear to you, within 2 minutes of starting the rhythm, we had gone from a near empty room to one with almost 15 dancers on the floor. When it was done, I looked at her and said, "See? It works." (: And that's really where the title of this blog comes from, "If you play it, they will come".

Well, as the evening wore on (and there was some -exceptional- music created that night! Both by the professional long standing musicians that we were lucky enough to get play with, as well as natural talent picking up the drum for the first time!), it was getting close to the time for the event to end. Once again, the dancers had move elsewhere and we were at the visiting section of the night (: But we got back onto the discussion about Baladi, and how the same thing played over and over was a bane to dancers. Then I said, "But it doesn't HAVE to be." In class, I have a number of variations for playing each of the rhythms on my sheet. And even though Baladi is typically considered the "dull' rhythm-- it was on my list.

Seems counter to what I'd be saying, except that I was telling the class that what you do is you follow the arabic rhythm rule of repeat for four, then switch. Then, that evening at the end of the hafla, I pulled out my drum, just to illustrate what it sounds like if you play it that way (I hadn't gotten a chance to in class, because by then, we'd already switched over to basic drumming.) And the dancers came back. And danced (:

It was just SO cool!! The whole event, the whole weekend, the whole trip. I had a WONDERFUL time! It was the perfect, 'girl's weekend' (:

Renee and I

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