Saturday, February 28, 2009

a dutch interlude

On a train again and so much has happened in such a short time its hard to keep track. We have just left Avignon, having dashed away from the Provence region in a high speed train. Through the window fields of lavender and vineyards lie in wait for when they will burst into colour and activity. In the distance small villages cluster below ancient stony fortresses that seem hewn from the very hillsides upon which they perch.
Within a half hour we have covered two thirds of the distance of this journey in half the time that it will take us to get from Valence, where we change to an older, statelier, slower train that will amble towards Alps country and to our destination Grenoble.
Avignon is a walled city that is home to the Palais Du Papes – a giant catholic castle that took forty years and three popes to build – which was the papal seat from 1309 – 1377. There is a massive gold statue of Mary standing sentry high up on top of the huge building gazing perplexedly at the mess of shops and bustling cobbled narrow streets teeming with slutty Italian teenage tourists in gaudy shiny puffy jackets. Dani and I took a lovely lazy stroll in the sun in the Gardens above the Palais and surveyed the River Rhone and the Pont d’Avignon standing unfinished in the middle of it’s waters. The bridge has been immortalized in an old song that everyone here sings at the drop of a hat. The night before Dani had suffered at the hands of some terrible stomach bug that had her throwing up and mewling in pain for much of the night. It was a long hard night and it took us along time to emerge from our hotel room the following day to discover the sunniest and warmest day of the tour yet. So I piggy-backed Dani up for some of the way up to the gardens and once there we sat on the old stone walls, her head in my lap and we basked in the afternoon sun.
The show in Avignon felt really good. In the beginning of the show I stand behind the four long white screens that hang suspended from the bars, dressed in a black suit with a woolen balaclava pulled over my head. This makes visibility somewhat problematic as I peer into the half light of the pre-set lighting through the weave of the wool. I am then supposed to manipulate the screens by pulling on two pairs of strings in either hand for two screens. It normally goes off without incident but on this night I was disorientated and found as I started tugging on the strings to make the screens ‘breathe’ that I had one string form the left hand screen and one from the right in my left hand and only one string in my right hand. There were a few moments of panic as I stumbled around back stage like a blind drunk tangling myself up in strings and trying not to trip over the floor lights. Eventually I managed to figure it all out in time for my entrance. The surge of adrenalin served to make me feel really present and the performance was aided by this heightened state of awareness. I was reminded of the Bruce Springsteen blog that my good friend Duncan sent me recently in which the ‘Boss’ recounts his recent Superbowl performance. He talks about sometimes purposefully playing the wrong chord to make himself more present , more in the moment, more there - if he feels he is not giving it his all. Very inspiring to read about a legend like that who still has the kind of passion for performance that he does. I guess that’s what makes him a legend. Thanks Dunc.
Prior to Avignon, Dani and I had taken leave of the company in Lille after a few relatively boring days in suburban Roubaix and headed off to visit my friend Bram, his lady Rosa and their 8 month old baby girl Lena. I met Bram in 2002 (I think) whilst shooting a Dutch feature film in Cape Town for a couple of months. The movie was very kak, it must be said. However, we (the actors) got to do some very exciting things during shooting – like ride go-karts through the city and on the unfinished highway near the waterfront, climb the last pitch of Jacobs ladder on table mountain with its terrifying sheer drop all the way down to Camps Bay and its ascent to the backside of the cable car, swing from bridges – and all manner of crazy thrill-seeking activities. The film was also, incidentally, the breeding ground for the Most Amazing Show as Louw and I were cast (alongside KerenTahor and our dear departed friend Brett Goldin) as the South African members of the thrill seeking adventure gang that did all these stupid but fun activities. Some of my fondest memories from the shoot are driving back, with Louw and Bram in the front of the huge pick up truck that Bram (as Art director) had sourced for the film, to Cape Town after a long days shooting. These drives were a heady mix of hilarity and exhaustion. Warmed by the glow of new friendships igniting we would fan the flames of this burgeoning fire by setting a new gold standard in ‘kakpraat’. Bram was a surly bastard at the best of times who walked around with a dark cloud brewing above his head. He was unlucky in love and seemed always to be in a reckless kind of self-destruct mode, but through all this shone an amazing capacity for love and a shockingly insightful and refreshing honesty. Louw has kept in contact with him over the years and on one of his visits back to SA, Bram even built much of Louw and Janine’s kitchen. A kitchen, I must add, which they put to splendid and delicious use.
I hadn’t seen much of Bram in the intervening years and im not sure what prompted me to contact him but I will be forever grateful that I did. We changed trains at Amsterdam Centraal and got off at Haarlem about twenty minutes by train outside the Dutch capital. As Bram walked across the road to meet us I recognized him immediately, the same lanky lope of those skinny limbs, the shock of dark curly hair and the steely yet soft eyes, but it was like I was looking at a different person. There was no cloud. His face was clear of worry and his whole being radiated a kind of peace and love that had not had the opportunity to blossom before. We drove back to their place and he told us in his gruff deep voice of how this incredible woman and their amazing baby had changed his life forever.
They stay in a village called Hillegom on the coast. Their house is on an old abandoned mental hospital estate and their house was where the craziest of the crazies were kept. No. Really. Rosa is an art director of high repute and their guest rooms bare testament to this. Each room is themed and decked out with strange beds and wonderful furniture and cool stuff sourced for films. It’s a massive sprawling house filled with a great energy and warmth. Upon meeting Rosa and Lena its easy to understand Bram’s personal revolution. Rosa is a generous, intelligent, interesting, interested, warm, gracious, beautiful woman. She opened up her heart and her home to us, cooked up a mouthwatering storm and those post dinner conversations over a bottle of wine or a beer were so honest, so easy and so much fun. Lena was a little under the weather with her first cold or flu (not sure which) but nonetheless she was an absolute delight. It is an unfortunate truth that some children are more beautiful than others and Lena is one of the most beautiful babies I have ever seen. With a blaze of light orange hair, exquisite porcelain features, an extraordinary musical talent and a smile that would light up the corners of the coldest heart she kept us well entertained and in awe of her. She is one of those babies that ‘skrik vir niks’ and doesn’t let anything or anyone get in her way.
On our first day there after a glorious sleep in on the best bed ever and Brams delicious breakfast pancakes made especially in Dani’s honor the big man took us into Amsterdam for a day trip. He showed us around his old neighborhood in the centre of the centre of the centre (as he puts it) , where he still owns an apartment that he rents out to a friend and took us on a tour of the notorious red light district and its many ‘coffee shops.’ We took an eye popping shuffle through a narrow alleyway of lust with the ladies in their lacy underwear chatting away on their cellphones and tucking into late lunches of greasy slap chips and burgers. Dani, who has taken to filming everything with her little digital camera nearly got bliksemmed by one of the ladies of the night (or in this case one of the ladies of the afternoon) who stepped out of her glass cubicle and flowered all manner of colorful suggestions down on Dani with regard to exactly what she could do with her camera. We did some shopping , checked out the canals and bought some new music in the coolest little music store I have ever been in. On our drive back we drove into the setting sun, talked about the collapse of the capitalist economy and listened to our new music. As the sun sank into a fiery orange, red, purple, yellow supernova we fell silent and bathed in the transient glow of this one magic moment stretching out into eternity. I was again struck by the bare trees like spider veins bleeding into the sky but never more so than on this drive for the blood was there to see – its crimson life force spreading across the horizon.
The following day I left Dani cuddled in bed and went for a walk in the estate. The property is huge, forested and populated with a cornucopia of birds, little dams and yes, a river runs through it. As I stood there in the tangle of graying grass i watched as a cold soft breeze, breathing in whispers through the threadbare branches of the trees, urged a school of fallen copper leaves in a slow tumble across the overgrown park into the still pond. In the distance the low hum of traffic mumbled half heard suggestions of a gossiping metropolis. Wow, lank poetic. But that’s how it honestly felt in the moment. I decided to ignore the city and its ‘skinnering’ and went to wake Dani. We took Bram and Rosa’s bikes out for a ride and cycled to the beach. The wind howled and rain spat half heartedly down on us as we explored the little hamlet. We returned to the estate and continued to explore the grounds on our bikes. We drove along the river and down paths that took us through forests of eerie thin trees glowing in a sickly green from the moss wrapped around their trunks. In the winter this estate is the perfect location for a horror movie. I loved it.
We managed to squeeze in another day trip to Amsterdam – just Dani and I and we walked through the streets, did some shopping , checked out the theatre institute and Dani went to the Van Gogh museum. We didn’t have enough money for the both of us so Dani went in to see the ‘Van Gogh and the colors of the night’ exhibition as I took a stroll through the park and watched a man hit a tennis ball for his dog on the public ice rink. It was a beautiful day and the trip to the Netherlands to visit the wonderful Bram, Rosa and Lena was drawing to an end.
Thank you, thank you, thank you dear friends for your generosity and love in sharing your home and lives with us for that wonderful weekend. It was a very special experience for us.
We are in Grenoble now and it is lovely. The Alps rise up in snow streaked splendor all around us and the centre of town sprawls in a Haussman-esque elegance. We even took a cable car (France’s oldest) up to the Bastille high above the city yesterday and marveled at the view. Awesome. Although I did feel a little like my dad when he took us up the cable car in Cape Town when I was a kid. My knuckles were white as I gripped onto the handles inside our little glass egg dangling in the sky.
Going to rehearse now and set up for the show tonight. Much love

Sunday, February 15, 2009

strasbourg and beyond

We arrived in Strasbourg in the evening and after dropping off our bags in our rooms we (Neli, Stacey, Dani and I) decided to go for a walk and explore the old city at night. As we four strolled through a cross hatching of small cobbled streets with 14th-16th century buildings leaning over us at precarious angles, we chattered both in conversation and cold as Dani frequently wondered out loud where the next crepe was going to come from. In the middle of our meanderings we turned a corner and were confronted with an architectural marvel that quite literally made me produce an audible sharp intake of breath. The colossal Gothic masterpiece that is the Cathedral Notre Dame in Strasbourg sliced into the sky with vertiginous inducing grandeur. It’s impossibly intricate lacy façade lit eerily at night gave it a fragile ghostly feel as it loomed above us mere mortals, awing us into submission. It was quite honestly, one of the most beautiful sights I have ever witnessed. We stood transfixed, as Stacy occasionally shook her craning head and said in wonder, ‘Inconceivable’ – a word she would repeat frequently throughout our stay in Strasbourg every time we past this monument to the impossible in pink limestone.
Strasbourg is a sprawling metropolis, home to the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and is undoubtedly the cultural and intellectual capital of the Alsace region. Germany is but a stones throw away and it’s ties to the country are reflected through the architecture, street names and a history of push and pull conquests from the late 19th century Franco-Prussian wars to the Second World War. Despite its size however, the centre of Strasbourg retains a charm and beauty that makes you feel like you are wondering around lost in a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. This is due, in no small part, to the fact that the centre is literally an island surrounded by canals and much of its architecture managed to survive the carnage of WW2. Dani and I took advantage of the buffet breakfasts at our cosy hotel and filled our flask with tea and stuffed our pockets full with baguettes crammed with cheese and salami and took to the canals with glee. We soaked in the atmosphere sipping on our tea, chomping on our baguettes as we lazily looked about at the tanners houses which lean over the canal and into each other at odd angles. We fed the swans and watched the tour boat navigate the sluices. I found it all very calming and fell deeply in love with this town very quickly.
We explored the interior of the cathedral and Steve will be glad to note that I began to differentiate between the characteristics of Gothic and Romanesque architecture. The façade of the exterior is a dead give-away. The gothic style of this cathedral favors the intricate, detailed smorgasbord of sculptural detail that adorns the façade. What is particularly interesting about the building is that construction began in 1015, continued for four centuries and as a result displays examples of both Romanesque and Gothic styles. The eastern sections are essentially Romanesque but what is most striking about the building is its evolution into a gothic masterpiece with its flying buttresses, pointed arches, ribbed vaults and the incredibly impressive façade. Inside, one feels as if you are aboard a great ship sailing toward the infinite and you can almost feel the pull on your soul urging you toward exaltation and the glory of spiritual endeavor. The stain glass windows, the beautifully sculpted pulpit, the sculptural narrative of Jesus’ betrayal at the mount of Olives in the north crossing and the pillar of angels in the south crossing all combine to further the viewers submission to awe. As a healthy skeptic of all organized religion it has been a fascinating journey through all these cathedrals throughout France and an intriguing insight into the power of art and architecture to win over souls for the benefit of the church. It is also interesting to witness, through these impressive structures, the kind of wealth and power they wielded for centuries.
Dani and I managed to circumnavigate the entire island on one of our walks. It gave me a great sense of the size and geography of the city and Strasbourg has been the only place so far where I have taken the lead in terms of navigation. Everywhere else I have dutifully and appreciatively followed Dani’s instinct as she has asserted her control over most of France whilst brandishing all manner of maps in her fists. Without her I would have been lost and desperately alone for most of this tour. We experienced a boon on our Sunday stroll as we discovered that all museums were free on the first Sunday of the month. This was just one of those Sundays and we set off on a museum marathon in haste. We took in the Museum de Beaux Arts, the archeological museum (which was awesome – massive – full to brimming with Roman sculpture and artifacts as well as a fascinating exhibition on the evolution of burial practices from earliest history till today in the Alsace region) as well as the Contemporary Art Museum. The Contemporary art stuff was a real let down. Just so much of the lazy smugness of modern artists – placing a brick in the corner or hanging a jacket on the wall and calling it art just doesn’t cut it for me. Give me virtuosity over cleverness any day. Although, there was some cool stuff to be found here – particularly these really dark biblical works by some Strasbourgian artist whose name I forget. His subject matter was all the really heavy stories from the bible- the crucifixion, Lucifer and his hordes fall from grace, the Christians eaten by ravenous lions in the Roman Dens – and his paintings allowed only thin shafts of light to illuminate the horrific narratives unfolding on his canvases.
Another highlight from Strasbourg has got to be the night we broke into the opera. I discovered the massive national Strasbourg theatre one evening when Danni and I were frantically trying to track down a laundry. We allowed the distraction to pull us away from this tiresome task and we discovered that a show was on that night that I had spotted in pamphlets throughout our tour of France so far and which had peaked our interest. The price of admission wasn’t too heavy and we decided to do it. The show was showing at another theatre further away, it was apparently sold out but the guy assured me that if we arrived early we would be able to get tickets due to inevitable cancellations. We got directions and headed back to our restaurant to get a bite to eat at our favorite little restaurant for some cheap good food in a quaint comfortable atmosphere for the budget conscience foot-sore and walking weary tourist. Stacey decided to join us and after a quick bite and a beer we set off for the theatre. Upon arrival we set up camp in the Pina Bausch-esque foyer and waited for the cancellations to happen. And we waited. Nothing. Packed to the rafters, the show went on without us and we sat dejected sipping on our beers as we wondered what to do next. After another beer we were rewarded with the selfish victory of the slighted theatre patron as audience member after audience member came filing out of the apparently very kak show. Buoyed by the fact that we had not missed much we traipsed off on our merry route home. By chance, we walked past the Strasbourg opera house during the last interval of the show. On a whim we determined to steal our way into the performance. And so with a brazen veneer of pompousness we strode in as if we owned the place, sneakily avoiding ushers and like a stream trying to find the point of weakness we flowed tier by tier to the cheap seats high above the hoi-polloi way down below. We took our seats in an inconspicuous corner with practically no view of the stage and stole furtive glances toward any over-zealous ushers who may try to thwart our cunning plan at the eleventh hour. We spotted three empty seats directly opposite the stage right up against the balcony and as the lights began to dim we scampered over and plopped ourselves in the red velvet as we giggled excitedly at our daring derring-do. And so it was that we sat down for the final act of Wagner’s Siegfried. Now the problem with sneaking into an Opera is that you then actually have to watch it. Siegfried turned out to be a bit of a whiner really, with Brunhilde having to coax him out of sulky tears with plentiful appeals to his abounding heroic manly hood before he promised to get off his arse and do something. Much gesturing and splendidly comic over-acting. The experience really was quite special though (despite my sarcasm), the building was phenomenal in its ornate gaudiness and the view we had of the stage was awesome. From our perch we could see everything – the orchestra in its entirety (which alone was fascinating to watch), the impressive scale of the stage design and lighting as well as the whole audience – and just the mere act of sneaking in gave me enough thrills to make it a memorable adventure.
During our one performance here, a friend of Neli’s from Berlin came to see the show. She loved it and is now trying really hard to get it to Berlin sometime – which would be cool.
We are back in Toulouse now, it’s been a week (or more) since Strasbourg and we have even completed the Bordeaux leg of the tour in the interim. It was a short stopover in the wine capital of France and a smelly hotel room and stomach cramps dampened my experience of the city.
We head to Lille high up in the north tomorrow and after that Dani and I take our leave of the company to go and explore Amsterdam and visit an old crazy Dutch friend.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

dijon to strasbourg

ah finally the machine works again - we are back in toulouse but here is what i wrote on the train to strasbourg - will post strasbourg experiences shortly.

On the small six carriage train from Dijon to Bescancon we bypass a patchwork of dormant fields. A dry forest of trees crowd each other like emperor penguins as if to ward off the cold and now closer to my left a tangle of trees wrap themselves around each other and surround a small dam. It’s hard to imagine what all these trees would look like with leaves.
As we pull into our first stop at Genlis, Dani takes a look around and exclaims; “It’s just like Bloemfontein” though I think that even Bloem locals would be irked by this unfavorable comparison. The sun is bright today and there is a glow in our carriage that heats us up quite considerably. Its nice and toasty in here and looks almost summery out there. Although there are clues which unveil the lie to that fantasy – little semi-frozen pools here and there, the ever present bare trees, an old couple out for a stroll so heavily wrapped up in layer upon layer of warm woolies that they look quite comic in their mid Michelin man waddle.
There is a young kid on board (11-12) traveling alone who, having forlornly waved goodbye to his mom at the station, has now taken to this solo-adventure with a terrible fervor. He has set up camp on one of the fold up seats in the small portal between carriages where we have stored our quite considerable cache of luggage. He abandoned this boring, polite adult world to create his own universe, having promptly set about re-arranging our stuff. He has industriously (if somewhat messily) moved parts of our set (three boxes packed to brimming with props and lights and a long rectangular mess of screens and poles all wrapped and taped up in cardboard boxes) to clear a space to sit. Now he listens to kak French rap music (loudly) and joins in the choruses enthusiastically apparently blissfully unaware of how tuneless his accompaniment actually is. If it weren’t so funny it would be annoying, but the ride is only an hour long before we change trains and head to Strasbourg. Much to the delight of my macabre aesthetic sensibilities we keep passing gangs of crows flapping menacingly above the frostbitten fields or standing ghoulish sentry like bouncers to the spirit world amidst the branches of gnarled trees contorted in frozen spasm. All in all they amount to more than a murder. A massacre of crows. If most birds alight on a branch, do crows adark? Intermittently our train even glides straight trough a forest filling my windows on the world with a surround view of these fantastic gnarlybone trees I cant stop talking about. Forgive me, for a fantasy reader such as myself, they are a wonderful canvas and my mind cannot help but splatter narratives across it.
Dijon was great. The older central part of town, only a five minute walk from the hotel is a collection of picturesque cobbled streets, quaint villagey houses, grand centuries old buildings and beautiful churches and cathedrals. We enjoyed a lazy walk through these beautiful narrow streets - we visited the palace of the dukes and even delighted in a taste test of a myriad of Mustard flavors in the self proclaimed Temple of Mustard. On our stroll we stumbled upon the Notre Dame Church (not to be confused with the cathedral in Paris). We were lured down a little back alley and whilst enjoying the view of the building from around the back we stopped off at an awesome little café for crepes (Dani has developed an alarming addiction for Pancakes with Nutella) and warm drinks and marveled at the odd collection of curios (strange puppets and very cool sculptures of fairy tale figures – dragons and gargoyles, drunk knights and slutty fairies). Our curiosity sated, our bellies warm and full, and the monkey on Dani’s back tamed for the time being, we set off again around the church. The front façade was fantastic – two tiers towering above us lined with three rows of gargoyles grinning down at us with a scary glee and torsos of men stretching out of the wall looking around at odd angles with strange manic expressions on their faces. The whole thing had a slightly crazy vibe about it. I loved it. Once inside we lit some candles and were awed by the beautiful stained glass windows and imposing organ. Steam escaped from our mouths as we walked around the icy stone interior and I think you would have to be truly devout to sit through an entire service here. The tendency to awe subjects into religious piety through the power of architecture, art and sculpture was a common weapon in the arsenal of the church for centuries and walking through these hallowed spaces centuries later it is still a truly humbling experience.
The theatre we played in here was great – a more traditional space (really big) compared to the ones we have played in so far and the auditorium rose in a steep inclined wall of scarlet seats. The show was a bit iffy. We were a little off timing wise and I had forgotten to set one of my props which led to a little creative improvisation. Still, the show is in much better shape than when we started and it was good to play in another French theatre. I have also really been enjoying the physical routine we do as a warm up before rehearsals and before the show. A nice mix of dancey type stretches, strengthening the core and increasing suppleness and balance in my hips. It has been good to have a new constant physical regime that we have been doing since December. It has been a welcome change to the stress and over-exertion of the Strictly days. Major muscle fatigue had kicked in by the end of that. I was cramping a lot and pretty much in constant pain. The routine that this show has employed has been the perfect antidote to the boot camp that was Strictly. My right hip is still in a little pain but the stretching seems to alleviate that. My flexibility has increased and I continue to work on my core strength and I feel like my rehabilitation since shattering my knee cap is almost complete. This makes me happy.
We change trains at Becancon with me carrying much of the 80kg set from platform to platform. Getting on the train was a frantic affair with a mild panic fluttering through the ranks as the whistle blew, with half of our stuff still on the platform. We managed to hustle on board though and embark on what is undoubtedly the highlight of our train expeditions thus far. We pull off and into the most robust countryside we have encountered. A broad river snakes its way alongside and beyond that the green river bank dotted with trees suggests summertime idyll. The bank then gives way to clusters of trees that in turn allow a bold white rockface to jut dramatically in to the sky. Atop, along it’s ridge a spiny back with a tree sprouting from each rocky vertebrae. Also all along the journey, cascading hills filled with trees that seem to retain a hint of their summertime lushness. Though they are bare now the quality is not the same as the trees that haunt the flatter regions – these ones somehow seem more alive. We are near the Swiss border now and all round the ground rises to meet the sky and the rivers are frozen. We pass by and through many pretty little villages each one with its own beautiful church as its centre piece. For a time I am cured of my homesickness and longing for African landscapes by these glorious sites. We are nearing Strasbourg now and off in the distance, high on the crest of the hill in the orange glow of the sunset I notice the outline of a castle. What an undertaking to build such a structure in a place so remote. But I guess back in those days it paid to see your enemy coming. This has been a truly great ride and I look forward to Strasbourg with eager anticipation.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


i am experiencing the most infuriating technical difficulties both with my own computer and the communal computer at the hotel _ i have so much more to report on and have written lengthy entries detailing these events but cannot, as yet,for some unfathomable reason post any of it on the blog; its complicated and irritating.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Slow train to Dijon

On the train. There is a woman hacking away to my right and behind me; - you can almost hear the mucus and rotting throat tissue peeling off the inside of her esophagus as these violent peristaltic spasms gratingly interject into our muted carriage soundtrack – half heard cellphone conversations from a couple of seats away, the persistent whistle of the train in motion, the rhythmic clank of the wheels on the track – HACK! HACK! – the sub-aquatic warble of Dani’s headphones gently leaking out of her ears next to me – HACK! HACK! PHLEGMATIC HACK!!
Outside the countryside rolls gently by in charcoal shades of grey, green, brown and blue. The hues of winter, the bare trees like so many spider veins bleeding into the body of the sky and the hack of the die hard smoker.
We are in 2nd class now, gone are the heady days of boozy trips to the bar carriage and lounging expansively in our luxurious dvd viewing booths in 1st class. Now we huddle around the hack, trying not to make eye contact with each other. Except for Dani and I we check it all out with the curiosity of outsiders. It’s a bit stinky and dirty in here and the two women directly across from us try hard not to notice the petite South African woman (my wife) feverishly wiping down the stained surfaces with a plethora of wet wipes that she seems to magic inexhaustibly out of the ether. The train was delayed at the point of departure in Toulouse and the frustration of the mad scramble to get into the train with our gargantuan suitcases is eclipsed only by the irritation of having to wait 45 minutes before beginning our tediously slow roll out of the grimy station and through the decaying poorer outskirts of Toulouse.
It is a slow train to Dijon – the entire journey will take us between 8 and 9 hours. Our first stop brings us back to Carcassone. The station and the ‘new’ city clamor style -lessly below the walled medieval city which Dani and I walked through in blissful awe a few weeks before. Perched condescendingly above us on its regal throne of rock and history, the Fortress City seems to sneer down at all this graceless noise as we glide through and onward toward Narbonne.
The countryside seems to be changing gradually now as the rolling hills have, in places, broken the shackles of those smooth shy shapes and begin to jut out in craggier, higher and bolder statements. More trees too – forests of them, fully leaved and darkly green in dogged defiance of the wintry climate graying the rest of the landscape.
Dani has passed one of the earphones to me and Dolly Parton’s plaintive plea to Jolene not to take her man just because she can greets my lonely ears. How weak and powerless we the ugly are (explains Dolly – she of the amazing ever-expanding boobs) in the face of the cruelty and wiles of conscious less beauty. Ag shame Dolly. Great song though.
As we wait to pull out of Narbonne Station I reflect on last nights fantastic adventure. After three great shows in Toulouse to packed houses, gushing praise and many curtain calls (though this seems the norm in France – a show is not a show unless you have been called back at least 3 or 4 times) we were rewarded with a deep sleep in on Sunday. When I finally spilled out of bed at about 1, I rushed downstairs to do some washing before Phillipe (lighting designer) came to collect me to go and watch the Toulouse versus Bath Heineken Cup Match. The game was a messy affair, played in freezing temperatures under a relentless downpour of fat rain and big hail. Though the beer in the pub and the fact that much of the best rugby was being played by South Africans – Daan Human and Sean Sowerby for Toulouse and Butch James for Bath – kept me happy throughout the slippery 3-3 draw. We were joined by Roberto an American architect who, along with his French girlfriend Marie, had come to watch the show (twice!) on Saturday. I enjoyed explaining the rules of the game to him between gulps of draught and proud exclamations of “He’s South African”. Later that evening Phillipe took us all (we had at this stage been joined by Dani, Marie, Stacey and a couple of other people including Pethso our tour manager and his boyfriend) to one of his favorite restaurants. One of his favorites largely because of it being an all you can eat type of establishment and so we ate till our bellies were swelling full and our eyes were heavy with sleep. Sated, we decided at the behest of Marie and Roberto to cycle home through the cobbled backstreets of Toulouse in the rain. How wonderful it was. ‘I feel like I’m twelve again!’ I yelled happily as we pedaled 3 sometimes 4 abreast, flanking each other and then in v formation but mostly just joyously pell-mell like a pubescent bmx gang, knuckles frozen but grins spreading warmth to our ailing extremities. And so it was that we took a nighttime cycle tour of the cathedral of St. Sernin, a huge Romanesque gothic cathedral built many hundreds of years back in honor of the martyr saint who was pulled naked and bleeding, tethered to a bull, through the streets of Toulouse. My uncle Steve had urged me to check it out in a comment on my previous blog- and I thought of you Steve as I sat on the saddle of my bike peering up at the impressive structure looming into the cold, dark and wet Toulouse night sky as the bells chimed their haunting consonance. Dani had been to visit the building before on one of her daytime jaunts into the city and she told me that it boasts an organ so grand that it boggles the mind and goggles the eye. I look forward to a return visit. All in all it was a great ride and truly the best way to explore a city in Europe must be by bicycle.
Roberto and Marie are lovely people and we look forward to returning to Toulouse and joining them on more bicycle adventures, home cooking (Marie is apparently a great cook) and a tour of their favorite haunts.
Die son trek nou water hier – as we ride along side the ocean toward Montpellier. The shadows lengthen and the light has taken on that magical golden quality that will have filmmakers setting up for an entire day just for an opportunity to shoot for an hour in this transient glow. That light splashes into our carriage now, bathing it in the warmth of another days death to be buried in night and resurrected again tomorrow. And on and on. So it goes. An appreciative nod to the great American master Kurt Vonnegut. Oh, and even the hacking lady has been deposited off noiselessly at one of the stops during my reverie.
It’s the following morning now in our little hotel in Dijon - nice bed, kak breakfast. We changed trains in Lyon last night for the final leg here and Dani and I threw caution to the wind and went and sat with the rest of the crew in 1st class. Oh the luxury. Dani is having a bath and soon we will take an icy stroll through this provincial town and home of mustard. Laters.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

the bones below and the art above

We are back in Toulouse now after a wonderful couple of days off in Paris. Dani and I stayed in a tiny little hotel near the Louvre and just a block away from the decidedly swankier hotel we stayed in circa 2007 when we were young and foolish. Our room, a cozy little hovel with a curiously stained duvet and a great view of the Bank of France on the Rue Petit Croix Champs (sic?), awaited us at the end of a gargantuan effort of heaving our very heavy suitcases up four flights of the steep and narrow staircase in the quaint Hotel Du Rouen.
I mentioned in a previous blog that we were on our way to the Catacombs and though we did finally reach the ossuary beneath the streets of Paris housing the bones of millions of Parisians lying in an endless (if somewhat cramped) slumber, it was not to be on that day. On our trip to Paris in 2007, the Catacombs were one of the sights on our checklist – but it seemed as if we were jinxed. Every time we tried to get there, it was to no avail – whether it was the closing times or getting lost and stuck in the rain – we just couldn’t get there. We promised ourselves that if we were lucky enough to return to this amazing city we would give it another bash. However, this time around, it appeared as if Paris’ dead were still conspiring against us. Every time we mentioned our impending trip to the graveyard beneath the streets some strange obstacle would present itself and our plans would be upended. The night before we decided that perhaps we should just skip it entirely and immediately (and I mean immediately – the phone rang as we spoke) the path was cleared. And so we came to an unspoken resolution not to mention (out loud) our intended visit. We spoke of going for a walk, followed by melodramatic winking and nudging and began our trek to the dead.
It worked. I think the ghosts of Paris are a modest lot (despite their raucous and flamboyant lives) and didn’t want us to make too much of a fanfare, and once we had grown subtle, they opened their arms to us. The consecrated ossuary in the Catacombs is a narrow passageway deep under the streets of Paris where your stroll is accompanied on either side by the bones of millions of Parisians stacked to the ceiling in starkly beautiful aesthetic patterns. I found it a deeply humbling experience. Death is everywhere and as natural as life… and here - in these dark subterranean lanes where the silence of history is louder than you can imagine, where the bones of the famous (great architects, artists, poets, academics) lie in anonymity on top of, amongst and unrecognizable from the bones of paupers, beggars and the diseased – you really feel the pull of the tide, the endless cycle of coming and going and the wonderful simplicity of it all. I was struck by the condensation and in particular of a drop of water hanging in transience from the brow of a skull embedded in the wall of bones. I am like this drop of water, I thought, waiting to fall – and then I will become another bone in the wall. And that’s ok.
In our remaining days in Paris we took in the Rodin Museum and the Pompidou Centre on consecutive days – and what a cool juxtaposition that offered us. The Rodin Museum is a sanctity of classic beauty in which the genius of the great master is dizzying whereas the Pompidou with its daring architectural statement is a raucous yawp and a torrential downfall of contemporary imagery. Highlights from both: Rodins’ Gates of Hell – wow – the scope, the detail, the immensity. Ron Arad at the Pompidou – a crazy, genius working in a laboratory of architecture and design. Daniel Cordier’s collection was phenomenal – he is a collector extraordinaire whose exhibition blurs the line between art and objects delightfully. Pollock and Rothko. And so much more - we were overwhelmed by over 60 000 works of art that flowed over us like a river. It was totally rad. We also had an amazing meal prepared by a tiny old woman at La Cambodge – a very cool Cambodian restaurant where they squeezed tables in somewhat like the bones at the Catacombs. We did ‘Picasso and The Masters’ at the Grand Palais on our final day in Paris and I was blown away by his virtuosity in studies he did as a thirteen year old student as well as his in-depth dialogue with the work of the masters he followed throughout his life. The more I see of his stuff up close the more I like his vibe and get what he was trying to do. He was no hack – he could pull off the classical stuff, he could do pointillism better than Seurat and his cronies – but he chose to try and find what wasn’t shown, what hadn’t been done.
On the train back to Toulouse the fatigue of the art tourist, that had plagued me so heavily in the Rodin Museum where I stumbled like a drunk from room to room and groped inelegantly for any available chair to collapse in and just look, gripped me once again. I plonked my head against the window and watched as the landscape bustled by. It seemed to me as if I had been placed in a stationery viewing booth and beyond the glass a great and intricate diorama rotated endlessly by offering up a smorgasbord of model villages, fields, towns and cities. I noticed also the reflection of my own tired but happy eyes and the face of my beautiful wife chomping away at her sandwich. We stocked up on goodies from Paul (Dani’s favorite deli) before the trip and ate our full before falling asleep. Why does the person you love always order the food you would rather be eating? This is one of life’s mysteries I guess.
So now we are in Toulouse, we rehearse briefly tomorrow and perform till the weekend before heading to Dijon and then Strasbourg, after which we will return to Toulouse. Dani and I plan a trip to Barcelona which is very exciting.
A quick note to Mem’s friend Helen – you worry too much about me, I am very happy – I have been a performer for over a decade now and a traveler for precious little of that time, and so if I speak more of my adventures off stage than on – it is because they are so foreign (and exciting) to me – I promise to give you more insight to my onstage antics. I guess I am glad that for once I am involved in a show that I have not over invested both emotionally and financially in and I can give my all but not to the detriment of my experience of the world around me. And too Anne - thanks. glad you are enjoying it.
Love to all at home – especially you Mem – I walked through the streets of Paris (and below) with you by my side and continue to do so through the rest of my adventure.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

the more i learn the more i want to learn

that's what Dani said to me as we strolled in awe through the Petit Palais today. The Little Palace. The obvious obnoxious snobbery of calling a building this majestic 'little' is tempered only by the fact that it is true. Petit Palais is dwarfed by the Grand Palais which sits across the road - ave Winston Churchill (there is a bronze statue of Churchill striding mid war effort - the sculptor having captured his pugnacious doggedness perfectly - it brought a tear to my eye actually - i am busy reading Fugitive Pieces so WW2 is particularly resonant for me at the moment). The Grand is like an overprotective big brother who doesnt want the shine to be taken away from himself. Indeed the Grand Palais is just that - grand - with it's imperious glass dome roof, looming edifice resplendent with massive columns and epic chariot and horse statues perched precariously above you, teasing gravity, craning your neck and challenging the heavens.
Step inside the Petit however and you will be greeted by sights that will make any schoolyard bully weep for his own frailty in the face of all that has come before him. The place is awash with history manifested through paintings, jewelery, ancient artifacts, sculpture, and architecture. The pamphlet says the space is designed to create a visual dialogue and to reveal the influences and innovations provided by major artistic movements from Greece to the First World War. Undoubtedly it does this but more than anything else, it makes you feel small - but not in a bad way. It is overwhelmingly inspiring, every corner revealing a treasure. It was a veritable cornucopia of amazing radness and to list them all would be folly. I would like to mention two things though - one was a statue of a man (i cannot remember the sculptor) who was in so much turmoil and anguish it hurt to look at him - at his feet writhed the naked bodies of children/teenagers? while he tore at his eyes as if to gouge out the vision of the world as he saw it, his feet clenched on top of each other, his toes recoiled in bilious terror. It moved in front of me and it scared the living crap out of me. The other was a French sculptor by the name of Jean Carries who must have been a major influence of the movie Pans Labyrinth - his work was of a delightfully darkly fabled nature, a style of which i am very fond - demon toads, fauns, maniacs grinning from inside nightmare fairy tales - all good fairy tales should have the quality of nightmares of course.I would love to describe more but i have run out of adjectives.
It was all too short before i had to dash across town to get to the show. We had our second performance and we get closer to wrangling the unruly beast that is this show. Not there yet - and who knows we may never be - but we soldier on. It will be nice to sit with the show for a while and find the rhythms and discover the path of least resistance. You can look at pics of the show at the following link

and also pics of our adventures in paris on my facebook profile.
A message to Daniel - i love you so much my heart wants to pop out of my chest - enjoy big school with your big shoes and all your brand new big teeth. You rock dude. See you soon.

of trains from the groin to the heart.

The train journey to Paris began in the late afternoon with the mist already hanging like a thick blanket caught in mid sweep over this ghostly bed of bare spindly trees and empty fields lying in wait for the thaw. It descended in slow motion, inch by inch, as we sped passed many quaint and decidedly French villages on the main artery from what is possibly France's groin (Toulouse) to it's heart - Paris. Beside us a small river whose name i do not know kept pace for much of the journey as we swayed and rocked in our cocoon on rails. I love trains. Who doesnt? As the sun sank the moon rose , full and bleeding in the sunset, draped magnificently in a gown of mist.
Our seats were luxurious and comfortable and frequent trips to the bar for snacks and beers (and even a dvd) kept us well oiled and cosy throughout the latter part of the (six hour?) trip. At one point a couple sat across the aisle from us with their very new baby - very cute - with head a bobble on his wobbly neck and eyes a goggle at the big life around and ahead of him. We seem to attract babies, Dani and I, there is one across the hall from us in our apartment hotel here in Paris that gurgles and coos, cries and giggles. I think of Kai and Ethan when i see or hear babies and i miss them terribly and marvel at my love for them.
Paris is... well it's Paris. Magnificent and sprawling, graceful and elegant in it's age, robust in it's character and bustling on the cusp of the ever changing here and now. We are staying in (it must be said) quite an ugly part of this achingly beautiful city and i have spent most of my time in rehearsal in the bowels of the National Centre for Dance - a huge brown grey monstrosity of modern architecture as Dani gallivants about town. She brings me tales of her adventures - the Louvre (where she spent a good deal of time watching people watch the Mona Lisa), Notre Dame - she partook in mass - complete with communion and the entire glorious edifice awash with the echo of beautiful voice in song , the Picasso Museum (where she learned that she didnt have to love everything the great master did and therefore allowing herself to love what she does even more. The other night we walked in a semi circle after dinner in Marais toward Pont Neuf station. Drunk with the sights we stumbled in awe past Notre Dame bathed in light, towering above us - smacking our gobs and blowing our minds. Even Phillipe, our French lighting designer so over all things French had to admit in his thick French accent that 'This, she is beautiful.'
Today we venture out in to the city together - me and Dani - i only have to be at rehearsals at 3 - and so i am chomping at the bit. Catacombs here we come.
We will post some pics soon - probably tonight, there are many.
Love to all at home.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

a new year

it's been a while since i did this and so much (and so little) has changed. i haven't written anything since Mary and I clinched the title in spectacular fashion in a thrilling season finale. Still now, i don't feel i can give a full account of the how, why's and what's. I guess the long and the short of it is that we won. We did three dances - our tango (for which we scored another four 10's) , our jive (three 10s and a 9) and a freestyle vibe (another gobsmacking four 10's). I don't feel ready to go into the whole rundown in detail, except to say that it felt a little like a cheesy hollywood sports/dance movie where the scores are unbelievable, the crowd is on their feet and even the judges are in tears. This all actually happened.
But right now, what's really interesting to me is how quickly life has moved on. I have decided to continue writing this blog - even though the only person who reads it is my gran - in fact that's probably why i'm doing it - always nice to know you have a friendly audience. I contemplated changing the name of the blog - but for now it stays as Strictly Come Blogging - because in truth, without the show, the blog would never have happened. However the subject matter is about to change drastically.
And so - on with the present. I am in France, rehearsing and preparing for a contemporary dance theatre piece that has been commissioned by a choreographic institute in Toulouse and that will tour France for the next two months. The choreographer - someone who i have worked with before (years ago on a very strange play directed by a mad alcoholic French woman) didnt want to work with dancers and so collected a rather strange and delightful group of people to help her create the piece. As is so often the case with a collaborative process such as this one - where there is very little overriding vision and therefore just way too many options - the creative process becomes riddled with frustration, peppered with moments of inspiration, seasoned with a fair share of hair pulling and stirred up with a generous helping of eye rolling and raucous belly laughter.
Currently we are based in Toulouse and we play to our first audience on Friday before premiering in Paris. All pretty daunting for a piece that does not yet have an ending. But these are merely details. What is really important right now is the vast amount of dog shit that litters the streets of this , one of the fastest growing cities in France. It's everywhere. In truth, i cannot tell you what the Toulouse skyline looks like. It is too dangerous to look up. Dani and i are contemplating creating a photo essay chronicling the myriad different specimens we encounter daily. Please forgive our vulgarity - it is a coping mechanism more than anything else.
Up until now, my days have been filled with rehearsals and more rehearsals with sporadic and all too brief sojourns into the city and its sights. Today however was a day off and we took the opportunity to get out of town entirely. Upon the advice of Pethso - our production manager on the French side, Dani and I ventured south to the fortified and walled Medievel Town of Carcassone. Like the pamphlet says , this marvel bears witness to 2600 years of history wherein Gauls, Romans, Visigoths, Saracens and Franks have all left their mark. The whole experience was truly magical.
After video skyping home this morning - giving us a much needed visual reference of loved ones and my rapidly growing and quite unbelievably amazing nephews - we set off in the snow. It was my first time and as a 32 year old man i felt a giddy child like glee as i caught my first snowflake on my tongue, stupidly surprised somehow of how cold it was, as we two tightly wrapped intrepid adventureers set off across town - dodging poo that was rapidly becoming cunningly disguised as snow poos- toward the train station. The train turned out to be a bus - because our French sucks - and in a desperate sprint to the station i managed to trip and face plant myself in front of one of the busses pulling out of the station. There i was lying spreadeagled on the pavement about to be squashed by the very efficient French public transport system. The bus driver, thankfully, was awake to my bumbling buffoonery and applied brakes swiftly before admonishing me with dashing Gaelic eyebrows as i scrambled off and away to our bus. The bus ride was cool. Dani asleep on my lap, me listening to a fine collection of tunes on her ipod as we glided along narrow roads through gently cascading fields of naked vines sparsely populated by leaveless trees stretching their bony fingers up to tickle the sad grey face of the brittle sky. It was all very Tim Burton - just more french. And then through quaint little villages where the grace and beauty of old, old, old buildings nestle uncomfortably with the garish, squat ugliness of the new. And every now and again - these unspeakably beautiful statues of either Mary or Jesus in tiny squares with bare trees which taunt you with their timeless and fragile elegance.
And so we arrived - and walked in the gently falling snow through a walled city that i thought only existed in very tales. Me and my wife. Totally rad.
We are back now in our tiny little room in Toulouse, my wine is spent and the snow continues to dance lightly in the street lamp outside my window. I am tired and happy and long to crawl into bed.
And so ...

Friday, January 2, 2009

nosferatu and a tango

The build up to this weeks semi-final was wrought with fatigue, tension and stress. Our rehearsals were a worrying mix of short , powerful bursts of positive progress and then draining sessions of frustrating drudgery. Mary struggled with choreography, spending many hours doubting her efforts, while I struggled with exhaustion, stomach cramps and a generally depressed grumpy vibe. However, our desire to come back strong in reply to Tess and Grants phenomenal performances in the previous week could not be quelled. We wanted it bad.
Our main strategy throughout the week of rehearsals was to concentrate on getting the technique right and specifically to address my posture and strength from the core. I worked really hard on creating a solid base in my core and thereby dance from the centre, through the floor and avoid the flailing lack of control I tend to exhibit from time to time. We had a really tough session on the Wednesday. We were racing against time, having only barely finished the choreography to both dances as the tension in the build up to the epic two couple elimination in the semi finals loomed. In fact, our Tango was without an intro or an outro. The pressure was on. May had wanted to do a couple more hours that night in reply to the five hours we had already done that day and the countless more in the preceding rehearsals and I was having none of it. I was gatvol, tired, and full of kak. I figured that we were pushing ourselves too far and that if we didn’t have it by now that night it would prove to be fruitless and may just take the oomph out of our drive for the big day following. Mary, bless her, sensed that I was reaching some sort of breaking point and decided that we should just fly into the remaining hours of the afternoon rehearsal and leave it at that. We decided to soldier on, take a break in the evening, and then treat the Thursday as a rehearsal, going hard at it during the day and drive straight on through into the performance.
Thursday felt like what I imagine the Comrades marathon must feel like. It was tough. Our first foray onto the ballroom floor was (as always) nothing short of disastrous. It always takes a while for me to re-orientate myself to the dimensions of the floor and it’s atmosphere which is way different to the rehearsal floors we work on. The Tango, especially gave me problems. We just couldn’t get through the entire routine and we were still without an intro. We kept at it though, with a dogged determination, and the sweat flowed freely in makeshift rehearsal rooms in the empty shell of a building that is the Carlton Hotel.
By late that afternoon, my energy was down and I had been blown away by what I had seen of Grant and Tessa’s Tango and Paso Doble. They seemed flawless and are always so well prepared on that Thursday morning. There were real moments of doubt throughout the day when I felt like we just didn’t have what it took to outscore them, or Cindy and Jonathan for that matter.
However, it must be said that I love the two routines that Mary had come up with for the night and I felt a deep affinity for the nature of both the Tango and the Paso Doble. I did truly believe that if I didn’t cock them up we could also have a winner on our hands. I went into a very focused zone in the two hours before the show and just spent as much time as possible visualizing the routines on the floor and practicing them over and over wherever I could find a space.
Tess and Grant scored very highly for their first dance, I can’t remember exactly what because I was trying very hard to focus on what we were doing but I do remember that it was way over our highest score in the competition so far. As we walked out onto that floor I squeezed Mary’s hand really hard and she told me after that when she felt that she knew we were going to do something special. The actual routine is a blur, I remember this constant voice in my head saying things like; ‘keep you elbows up, drop your shoulders, push down through your supporting leg, lift your chin, drop your shoulders, hold your core, heel – toe, focus, contra, don’t break your frame etc’
The feedback from the judges was amazing – I cant remember exactly what they said, I just remember that it was rad.
And then the scores. Four tens for the Tango and three tens and a nine for the Paso –giving us a total score of 79 out of 80. The mind boggles.
Needless to say we are through to the finals. I am still a little bit in shock, totally exhausted and happier than a pig in poo.
See you guys in the finals.


Where to begin? Perhaps with the big drama of the moment. Garth and Hayley are back in it, resurrected from the dead – he’s like a flippen vampire this guy – what do we have to do to get rid of him – cut off his head and drive a stake through his heart?!
In all seriousness, I’m glad to have the big guy back – he’s quite inspirational to have around and his philosophical outlook on life is uplifting and rad – I look forward to our lunchtime conversations about life , the universe and bodybuilding.
Thursday was a real tester for Mary and I. I had to be rushed off to the physio in the morning as my body seems to think these last two weeks are just a bridge too far. My legs are holding on by a slender thread and I did those routines on the night strapped up more tightly than a Mummy at an athletics meeting. We got through it all, only to be called spastic by Mr. Tact himself, Tyrone. It’s the first time I’ve been in the firing line and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me. Rationally one has to accept that it’s just a tv show and one shouldn’t take those comments personally, but the reality is that it’s been a tough 15 or so weeks, putting your private life (and personal relationships) on hold so that you can spend all your time sweating it out on the dance floor and then go out on national television dressed like a loon and make yourself completely vulnerable so that some guy with a ponytail can call you a spaz. Nice.
However, after I’d cried myself a river, I built a bridge and got over it. It did help a little bit telling Tyrone in the break that I thought his ponytail was cutting off the circulation to his brain. I hope he can take a joke, otherwise who knows what he’s going to call me this week. All the bitterness and sensitivity aside, I actually really dig Tyrone, I like his brutal honesty and his whole tough nut demeanor. It makes for great tv and most of the time his comments are constructive and they do give you something to work on going forward. I think the judges also have a tough job and it can’t be easy telling it how you see it and then half the country wants to moer you because of it.
I have managed to decipher the ‘spastic’ comment with the help of some interpreters and am working hard in the week ahead on posture and core strength. Basically what Tyrone is looking for is to dance more from my centre and through the floor and not so much through the outer extremities – no flapping about like a spaz. So that’s where we are at now – surging ahead with the Paso and the Tango and trying hard not to let the debilitating gastro stomach cramp vibes that had me lying in the foetal postion moaning like a depressed drunk last night get in the way of a triumphant return to the –floor.
Sorry this missive from strictly land is so short but time is at a premium and latin shoes wait for no man. Thanks for the support.

v- waltz

We are down to the business end of the competition now and the pressure builds with each passing day.
Last weeks episode was probably the most nerve wracking so far for myself (except maybe for the very first show) as the difference in quality between the couples remaining is minimal and chances of going to a dance off rise dramatically each time we lose a couple.
Also, in my humble opinion, there was very little between everyone’s Viennese Waltz’s on the day and it certainly felt like the playing fields had been leveled somewhat. To add to my anxiety, myself and Mary could hardly make it through a full version of our choreography in rehearsals whilst every other couple seemed to just glide through their dance. The Viennese Waltz is a peculiar old bird, the steps themselves are relatively simple with only a couple of variations, but the endless oscillation in multiples of seven as you circle the dance floor, leading with the right foot (the regular) and then with the left (the reverse) as you swivel in the opposite direction with a couple of pivots thrown in for good measure when you’re back into the regular cycle and then end it all off with a contra check after a particularly dizzying bout of flackeroles (sic?) , is enough to send you into vomiting spree to rival the worst of my varsity daze. Basically , it’s pretty disorientating and keeping count is vital to getting through the thing. Oh and then there’s the whole top line thing – keeping your shoulders down, your elbows up and your head to the left as the burn digs deep into your right shoulder/neck area. Needless to say, Mary and I were mentally preparing ourselves for a dance off throughout the never ending ordeal that is a Thursday at the Carlton centre.
However, when it came to the crunch we squashed our butterflies dead and got on with the job at hand – coming out with a very respectable 29 points and a second position overall on the night. Sweet relief.
Sadly, it was the end of the road for the man himself Gugu ‘Blogzilla Zorro’ Zulu, who quite frankly seemed a little relieved that it was all over. I’m sure the rest of you bloggers will miss his blog as much as I will. Taurus, if you’re out there man, drop us a line, tell us how you’re doing – give us one last run down of the night as you saw it – please, we miss you already.
I was lucky enough to run into Gugz at the Bond premiere in Sandton and he looked totally exhausted. It was a scary reminder of the kind of toll this constant dancing is taking on us guys. We kind of soldier on in denial cos we have to but I can imagine that when it’s all over for me as well I am going to crash and burn in spectacular fashion.
The week ahead sees a real step up in terms of intensity as we now tackle two dances per show. For us it’s the Cha Cha and the Rhumba and Mary and I are planning to step up to the plate and deliver on all fronts. Mary had a bit of a scare after the tribute to Miriam Makeba as she pulled a muscle after doing one of her crazy maneuvers – I had to carry her to the physio backstage who plied her with painkillers and cream that was supposed to help but burnt like hell in the process. Luckily she is back on the horse and going strong. I’m sure she would have carried on, even if she had had to amputate the leg. She probably would have come in with the offending limb in hand and beat me with it.
Alright, time to go, thanks once again for the support y’all. Keep on keeping it on.


Our Samba comeback was a success, but as is the nature with this unrelenting and unforgiving competition, there is no time to rest on one’s laurels. Oh no, in fact after Thursday night’s shock elimination of the majestic Hlubi and the phenomenal Khutso, itas straight into training on Friday for a full day of group gumboot dancing. Ja, you heard me, Gumboot dancing.
We have spent the weekend trying to perfect a complicated percussive rubiks cube of a gumboot routine in a cloud of sweaty exhaustion. The task was particularly daunting for the whiteys as there is nothing more embarrassing to watch than white people doing gumboot dancing badly. Although, after the weekends mayhem, I think I may be blacker than Gugu. We all seem to have got the knack of it by now though and it should be a jol come Thursday night.
The fatigue and exhaustion really has set in big time. At the moment it’s just pure will power that’s getting me through. I fall asleep wherever I am; waiting for the robot to turn green, sitting on the couch, even on the loo. I am a walking zombie. The only person who doesn’t seem to be affected is Cindy Nel, who seems to be getting more energetic every day and is throwing herself at everything with such zeal that one wonders if she is human at all. Expect big things from her in the coming weeks as her strength of character is really starting to shine through.
Mary and I are obviously stoked with our Samba, and our plan to get back o the winners podium was rewarded by a massive 4 point lead over the rest of the field. However, it must be said that I was deeply shocked by the fact that Hlubi and Tessa ended up in the dance off. In my opinion both of these ladies have been star performers throughout And I feel that the show has lost a great asset in Hlubi. Scariest of all, is that they both scored very highly on the night and yet somehow still ended up in the bottom two. The mind boggles and it seems that there are no end to the surprises in this particular lucky packet.
For my own part, all I can say is that I am glad that I am still in the running and I don’t want to be going anywhere soon. I feel like I still have much to offer out on that dance floor and am particularly looking forward to the drama of the Paso Doble and the Tango. So please, keep voting, keep us in the competition and we will do our best to keep you entertained.