Written on 26/01/2014 (sorry it’s taken a few days to post!)
Sweaty boot camp and African booty dance…
It’s incredible; 24 hours ago we were shaking, boogying and basically having an awesome time performing in the PWB/PeWiBo cultural fusion cabaret show! Even more amazing is that a week ago we were 8 performers on a beach with a bunch of toys and definitely no show.
The journey we have all taken from then to now has been a roller coaster of sweaty training, sewing costumes, making fire toys and promoting the show. We turned our beautiful patio in the Save the Children complex into a training space with mats, cool beverages and lots and lots of circus toys. This happened after it became apparent the beach is no place to create a show…too much sand in the pants for successfully completing any sort of acro move! We spent the mornings training just us 4; Tim, Livi and I creating a trio comedy juggling piece, Emma working on her jazz and contemporary dances, plus lots of playing, stretching and the odd sit-up if the mood took us!
In the afternoons we were joined by Brima, Morlai, Mummy and Tessay, 4 national performers from the cultural dance troupe. It was so special to spend this time together, not only could we swap ideas, training methods, routines and styles but it really helped us bond as a team and that training time seemed to become really important to everyone as the week went on. Because of that the quality of our work got higher and we all got a real buzz from training and working together.
Amongst training we also took a few trips to the local Universal Radio station, thanks to our keen promo organiser Emma and her bubbly, outgoing approach to life which led the big boss (an oversized character of a man who swaggered about ordering around his minions) to invite us onto the show. We were guests during the news on Tuesday morning in-between lots of Bob Marley tunes and angry sounding interviews with various people, then the next day got an hour long slot which allowed us to basically answer the same questions multiple times in as many different ways as possible! We had a competition to win 2 free tickets for the show (the winner did come along but sadly on his own and slightly drunk, but hey he seemed pleased to be there!) and we had over 60 texts asking a variety of seemingly random questions. The best one was ‘I don’t believe it; I think it’s a myth. Please tell me is it really true white man can dance with fire?’ to which Emma expertly answered in a suspenseful tone ‘I can exclusively reveal, here on Universal radio that white men CAN in fact dance with fire!’ Upon being asked for a closing statement I shamelessly blurted out ‘I love Universal radio, really I wish I could listen to it all the time, even in the UK!’ Ok, I’ll admit it, I’ll say anything for a bit of free publicity 🙂
For me the real gem of the week was performing at the American School. We were invited by a friend and teacher there to perform a few tricks and hand out flyers in their assembly as a lead up to the show. The warm welcome and positive reaction of the children was incredible and gave us the boost we needed after training so hard all week that the show might in fact actually be a success! A thought I at least hadn’t allowed myself the luxury of thinking during the whirlwind of boot camp. It was hot and we were very sweaty (sorry, common theme occurring!) but the delighted children still swarmed us…questions to Tim about his INCREDIBLE contact ball, awe at Livi’s hoop skills and very funky stripy jacket and a particularly cute boy too shy to look us in the eye so instead very timidly reading questions from his schoolbook…ADORABLE! The best for me though was in regards to mine and Emma’s ‘Puppet dance’ in which I manipulate her like she’s on strings. Firstly the children find it hilarious that she can’t stand up right then a tiny blonde girl toddled up to us and very seriously asked if there were real strings on Emma. Of course she said yes and proceeded to be dragged around the playground by her ‘strings’ and as the little girls new favourite toy 🙂 I love children’s endless imagination and was so glad we had managed to tap into at least one child’s sense of play.
It’s show time!
Saturday arrived and with 2 cars packed full to the brim we trundled along to the British Council. Usually I don’t like car journeys but here I love having the window open, the breeze in my face, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of this still very confusing yet wonderful place. Sadly this car had air con so I had to shut the window and take the opportunity to have a little nap instead ;P
The space at the British Council was great, a big plywood stage (with only 2 or 3 holes in it to gaffer over!) a huge auditorium to seat 150 people, lots of room backstage and a handy yard round the back to pre-dip the fire toys.
The shows were incredibly fun! It was AWESOME to see how the national guys come alive the minute they hit that stage. A lot of lessons were taught in that matinee performance…them to us about style, performance and how it should be done and us to them about backstage etiquette, not just randomly walking through the back curtain and never spraying aerosol next to the lit fire toys! A real treat was when all 8 of us performed a jazz routine Emma had choreographed. Now I’m no stranger to jazz but this was not an easy routine. Very fast and a million miles away in style from African dance, everyone trained and trained and trained until it was perfect and boy was it worth it on the night!
I am in awe of the National’s energy, style, commitment and passion; at one point I was sat backstage and couldn’t help smiling to myself about the absurdity of the situation…Africa, cultural dance and costumes, very loud drumming, big cabaret show, MASSIVE fire finale, all in 31°C heat. Yeah no problem!!
After a hearty supper of rice and beans the evening performance went like a dream. We had lots of positive feedback and even big guys like the head of UNICEF were watching! In total we raised over £1000 but it sounds much more impressive to say 6,000,000 leones J We are now in a great financial position to head out on our tour, but more than that we have bonded as a team and feel ready to get out there and spread some PeWiBo PWB African Circus loving to the children of Sierra Leone!
Much red wine, flapjacks and chocolate muffins later (thanks Clare!) we went to bed exhausted but very very happy 🙂
Written by Kay-T