The New Zealand Academy of Highland and National Dancing

Highland Dance Company of New Zealand Germany Trip - day 10 - 3rd Feb 2014

We are well & truly back into the swing of the travelling Musikparade roadshow with a late night after last nights show in Leipzig as we traveled to today's venue, Magdeburg. There are some new acts in the show this weekend, so rehearsals are a bit slow-going as they fit into the production - thankfully we seem to fall into place pretty seamlessly at each change of venue. (The boys don't seem to mind helping the Polish cheerleaders learn the ropes!)

Today we haven't seen anything except for the inside of the Magdeburg arena as today was a 2-show day. With each venue we are astounded by the size of each stadium, the number of people who brave the winter snow to come and see us, & the slick moves of the production team. Given there are 400+ performers changing venues each day, it is a real feat for them to set up, pack down and get all the sound and light cues right every night! They certainly are the unseen stars of the show.

Our item is improving every night, we have now done 7 performances not counting the rehearsals each day. Julie and Robyn have been recording us each night which allows us to fix our spacing and lines and aim for that perfect run!
Sara and Kate

Highland Dance Company of NZ Germany trip - Day 12 - 2nd Feb 2014

FInal Blog :
Well, we are at Singapore half way home and reflecting on an amazing Germany experience for the Dance Company. Our two weeks seem to have flown by as we packed in 8 performances in 7 different cities in huge and impressive arenas to an overall audience of over 25,000 people and between weekends managed to fit in 3 days of sightseeing (and, of course a spot of shopping) in Berlin..

We really did feel like a touring Company with packing up every morning to board our bus , arriving at the next arena in time for a rehearsal and re-spacing at the venue before enjoying a dining hall meal with the other 400 performers prior to the show. After each show it would be pack up the costumes again (we had this down to a very slick system) and then back on the bus to travel to the next city , usually arriving around 1am which meant a normal bedtime of 2am by the time we sorted check-in and room allocation. As you can imagine it has been an exhausting schedule but everyone has coped incredibly well and still laughing and having fun by the last day.

Our last show was a Sunday afternoon performance in Oberhausen. We watched with pride as the dancers, the pipe band and Crystel delivered a final flawless performance. There was much photo taking with other groups as good byes were exchanged at the end before we left for our hotel in Bochum where we had a great evening full of hilarity as Jayden and Leighton presented the "Schnitzel Awards".

Niamh and Jayden said goodbye to the team at the end of the night..... With Niamh due to train to Brussells the next morning to stay with her many relatives abroad, and she will arrive back home in time for the university year late February. It was a sad goodbye to Jayden, as he officially announced his retirement from dancing as he embarks on a 2 year OE commencing in London. Jayden has been such a valuable team member, and has been in the dance company from its inception in 2011. We will all miss Jayden's bright happy personality, and we sincerely thank him for all his hard work, dedication and passion he has given to dancing in the company, and we wish him all the very best for his career in this next exciting chapter for him!

The invitation to Musikparade was initiated by Crystel Benton through her contacts with Andrea D'Erme who is an agent for performers in Europe. It has been a fun-filled experience having Crystel join us for the tour. She has been extremely helpful with her prior knowledge of Germany and the Musikparade and has kept the team entertained with her backstage antics as well as delivering stunningly beautiful renditions of Pokarekare Ana each performance which has added a special extra dimension to our item.

On leaving our hotel in Bochum at midday on the 3rd February ready for a 3 hour drive to Frankfurt Airport, the company and pipeband presented Andrea with a gift and all then performed a Waiata to him, which he was clearly moved by. Andrea was extremely complimentary of our whole group's performances during the tour, commenting on our professionalism, and very high dance and musical quality. He especially loved the creativity of our item telling "a story" linking our New Zealand culture and heritage to our forefathers from Scotland.

Working with Andrea and the Musikparade team has been a valuable promotional and networking opportunity for the Dance Company with introductions to several event promoters and agents which we are hopeful will open up further European opportunities for the Dance Company in the future.

Keep checking the website for the next few days as we add more photos to the gallery and we will also add a link to a video of a performance once we are home and able to upload.

A big thank you from the Company to our management team and Executive members for your support and assistance in preparation for this trip.

Julie and Robyn

Highland Dance Company of NZ Germany Trip - Day 9 - 1st Feb 2014

Today started out as per usual with an early start, buffet breakfast and a long bus trip dotted with games of Mafia, which escalated in both creativity and in madness. Our last day of sight-seeing was definitely a rewarding one. The picturesque city of Dresden was rebuilt from the ashes of World War II and is said to be the most beautiful of all of Germany's cities.

Dresden is just so different to the rest of Germany. It is picturesque and has the air of perfection. in the centre of town is the Frauenkirche, a Protestant church. Photos are not permitted inside the church but no photo could really capture the atmosphere that the beauty of the alter created. The colour scheme of mint green, pastel pink, blue and yellow were set off by the gold plated statues and lettering. those of us who caught the midday church service agree that the Lords Prayer is the first time we've heard German sound loving and soft. We attempted to sing the German hymn, managing to pronounce 99% of it wrong.. But our mistakes were drowned out by the beautiful organists music.

The rest of Dresden was also beautiful; the cobbled streets and stone bridges and archways could have come to life from any 14th century fairy story! We've all been wondering how anyone could hope to wear high heels on such roads!

While the more religious members of the team managed to catch a church service, the rest of us explored the city with cameras at the ready. Four of us even managed to find an ice skating rink where Sam and Sarah Gluyas strutted their stuff on the ice as Danielle and Lewis clung onto the rails for grim death - not our most co-ordinated of moments. Shirana and Jayden also managed to get in on the action with a series of slides next to the rink where they got some awesome footage for the video of this trip (spoiler alert!) Then, true to our nature, after a rather exhilarating experience we turned to the nearest shopping mall and shopped up quite a storm with the majority of the team finding a few christmas decorations for next year which were hand crafted in Dresden itself. Unfortunately we missed the Christmas market which is said to be spectacular, but a certain shop next to the Hilton Hotel was home a variety of handcrafted wooden and glass decorations which are sure to be a hit back home.

Another amazing day over, we once again piled back on the bus (many of us sleeping the entire way) and arrived back just in time for dinner. Having shopped up quite a storm, many of us then tried a variety of ways to creatively rearrange our suitcases while debating how many layers of clothing it is justifiable to wear at one time - I bet many of us are glad for the 30 kg baggage allowance on Singapore airlines! After packing our bags the best we could, we managed to catch an early night in preparation for the parade starting again tomorrow.

Gut Nacht
Niamh and Danni

Highland Dance Company of NZ Germany Trip - Day 7 - 31st Jan 2014

The Highland Dance company awoke to a delicious buffet breakfast that included the usual range as well as the added bonus of hot chocolates. With full tummies and our minds set for today's activities, we ventured out into the bitter cold of Berlin only to find that we just missed our bus. Fortunately for the team the buses ran every 20mins so we were soon back on track. From here we caught a train to meet our tour guides for the Concentration Camp Tour. To our disappointment we missed the Hogwarts express of 9 3/4 but settled for the double decker train on platform 8.

Three trains and two buses later, we arrived at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Our exceptional tour guides explained to us the history behind this camp and incites into how horrifying life at the camp was. Sachsenhausen was set up for mainly political prisoners however was soon used to house Jews and many others. After the WW2 it was also used by the Soviets. It is said that over 200000 men were imprisoned here under the nazi regime.

For us, this experience/ visit can be summed up by one word; Chilling.

Firstly, just walking and being in such a place as this really shakes you to the core. It really contextualises what we have read about in books. actually seeing their conditions and facilities was very shocking.

Secondly, we were exposed to the real cold of Berlin for the first time. With a tempeture of about -5 and a freezing wind, we were struggling to stay warm. For many of us it was the first time we had been in such freezing conditions. On reflection we were also ill prepared and it was decided more layers and better shoes would be needed to endure the weather here in Berlin.
However we found that the cold conditions helped us to grasp one aspect of how horrid it would have been for the men here.

Upon returning to Berlin we headed straight to the mall for some much needed retail therapy to lift our sprits and escape from the cold. Show and tell later, confirmed that many purchases were made. Coats, scarfs and Zara featured heavily.

After eating dinner in the food court, we started our trek home. The first hiccup on the way was when our train stopped at a station for an uncharacteristically long time. We obviously sat in our carriage which had been disconnected as only the front half of the train was continuing on. thankfully we were informed in time. The next issue we faced is that it turns out the the map with the walking route from the station back to hotel lead through a park with was covered in snow as well as the astrics marking the hotel was no where near where the hotel actually is located. in short, we got lost. having walked down a dead end to a rest home, waving down a car for directions and calling the reception twice, finally a hour and a half later we found our way home to the hotel. I have never been more thankful for heating.

Sarah and Nicole

Highland Dance Company of NZ Germany Trip - Day 8 - 31st Jan 2014

Checkpoint Charlie Bike tour and Beer hall day

Today we saw Beyoncé and my life is complete.

Just kidding. But we did see Ban-Ki Moon (the UN Secretary General for those of you who have never heard of the name (probably most of you)) walking into the Aldon Hotel, the famous one out of which Michael Jackson dangled his baby.

This was seen amongst many other famous Berlin sights during the bike tour that most of the now-footless-from-frostbite dancers took with Fat Tyre Bike Tours, or a bus tour that the Mums, the Directors, and Sarah G and Shirana took to try to survive the cold, but to no avail.

With a high of -7 degrees, it was almost impossible to keep even a finger warm, but we enthusiastically mounted our bikes and took off to see one of the most amazing cities in Europe. We soon learned that even though the buildings looked as old as Sara, these were only rebuilt versions of the originals after around 80% of the city was bombed in the War. Checkpoint Charlie, parts of the Berlin Wall still standing, the Imperial Palace, Hitler's Bunker, the Jewish Memorial, Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag Building, Museum Island and the site of the Nazi book burning were some of the things that impressed us, along with our tour guide's great knowledge of the city's history.

It seemed that we had had enough of old things by mid afternoon, and needed some new things so we headed to KaDeWe, the biggest mall in Europe housing some of the best brands, including the only Topshop and Topman in Germany. Even though we only had an hour there we managed to help out the German retail economy a little and thaw our frozen noses and fingers.

For dinner we met up with the band and went to a traditional German beer hall named HofBraü Haus to have some local delicacies such as pork knuckle and a stein.

Now that we knew how far the hotel was from the train station we were not keen to have to walk home again, so taxis were ordered and everyone was soon in bed in anticipation for what else Germany would bring us.

Lewis Gibson

Highland Dance Company of NZ Germany trip - Day 6 - 28th Jan 2014

We are on a 7 hour road trip to Berlin, the first day of our break between performing both weekends.
The first weekend of Musikparade with 4 performances in 4 different cities has been an amazing experience for us all.

The company has rallied around Shirana after such devastating bad luck for her at the opening show, and she is still very much a part of the team and now chief hair dresser and make up artist!

The response to our item from the Musikparade producers and German public has been extremely complimentary, with very positive remarks on the quality of our dancers and their professionalism and discipline.
Our item is the first of the overseas guest performances, where we enter the arena marching within the ranks of the Celtic Pipe Band, with very effective lighting and smoke effects.

After taking our position in the centre of the Arena, at the end of the march on tune, there is a moments silence before the haunting Karanga, performed by Sara, wearing our beautiful new company Korowai, which was recently donated by Sara and Kate. Sara then passes over the Korowai to Crystel Benton, who has joined us from the Netherlands to perform with us. Many of you will remember Crystel, a Highland dancer originally from Blenheim and who studied music at Otago and is now making a career as a professional opera singer in Europe.
Crystel gives a spine tingling rendition of Pokare Ana, joined by the pipe band in the 2nd and 3rd verse, whilst Sara and Kate dance in the long skirts with lights.

Following this Maori segment, the band moves into their 4 minute medley as our dancers perform choreography adapted from NZ Dancing Feet showcasing their technical prowess with interesting formations and patterning.
After taking the applause at the end of the medley,the band plays a verse and chorus of the popular German folk song Wooden Heart, as the dancers strike into an encore to an overwhelming response from the audience.
We have been blown away by the size of the arenas we have been performing in, with crowds of between 4000-7000 each night.

The overall visual appeal of our Red Hot costumes combined with the Band in their Braveheart tartan and red shirts and Crystel in her stunning red evening gown, is very effective.
The daily schedule is demanding , but we are very proud how everyone is coping. Team spirits are positive and bright with much laughter, and also enjoying getting to know the band members.
We are performing with a smaller company this tour, but are confident we are still making a big impact!
Remember to check our photos in the Gallery.... We will keep sending them through in the next week.
Julie and Robyn

Highland Dance Company of NZ Germany Trip - day 5 - 27th Jan 2014

Today was the last performance of the first leg of our tour. We were back in Russelsheim last night to stay at the same hotel as the first night, this meant the return of the all you can eat buffet for breakfast which we were happy about. However the rookie mistake of sitting next to Kate Wills - who dictates who writes the blog - consigned the dynamic duo of Sam and Angus to recording the teams activities for the day.

Our performance was in Frankfurt at the Festhalle Arena. This was only a short drive from the hotel so the company was afforded a bit of a sleep in which was much appreciated. We had the first rehearsal slot so were able to get that out of the way after the laser show had finished being set up.

Many members of the Company had hoped to get some shopping in at a nearby mall between the rehearsal and the show. However, unfortunately most shops are closed on a Sunday in Germany so we had to settle for coffee instead. The coffee drinkers in the company have found it frustrating not being able to get a decent flat white.

After this we were back to the arena for lunch and to prepare for the afternoon show. In the build up to the show the company engaged in some team building via the card game mafia. We have since learned that Kate does not only like games, but will ruthlessly crush anyone who stands between her and victory.

After a strong performance by the team we all stood to take our bow and receive the adoring crowds applause. All of us that is, except for Sarah Gluyas, who decided she urgently needed to be somewhere and left the rest of the team behind on stage.

On the way back to the hotel we were dropped off by the bus driver Stephan at a Chinese buffet for dinner, which was greatly enjoyed by the team. We now all retire to bed, excited for a few days off in Berlin. Stand by for cliched tourist stories about our adventures in the German capital.
Sam and Angus

Highland Dance Company of NZ Germany trip - day 3 - 26th Jan 2014

Highland Dance Company of NZ Germany trip - day 3 Day three bring on the drama.
After a night full of spooning due to an administration error at the hotel, the day started with some bad news. There was no buffet for breakfast. The bad news just kept getting worse when Shirana’s sprained ankle X-ray showed fractured bone. She showed a lot of strength getting through a performance on a broken foot last night, such a trooper! The team rehearsed in the morning and had some free time to walk to the Cologne Dom (An extremely large cathedral that survived World War Two bombings) and the home to the bones of the three Magi (the three wise men). Fun fact for the day, the Cathedral is as old as Sara Simmons. Running back to be on time for the finale rehearsal, the team stopped by at a bakery to taste the amazing treats Germany has to offer. The team loves the Chococroissants! After tonight’s performance, described as breathtaking, the team analyzed the ipad recording to see who had the biggest parallels. It was a very close call between Leighton and Jayden. Andrea the co-ordinator (or scarfman) was very complimentary of the dance company going so far to say he was proud of us and this was the best Muiskparade in 10 years. Tomorrow we have a well-deserved sleep in and then travel to Wetzler for another performance. Julie has enforced a “stretch before dinner” policy to ensure no further injuries, the boys might be going hungry. To finish tonight’sblog here is an interesting fact regarding one of our team members, Kate Wills doesn’t like games.
From the land of sausage and windmills,
Jayden and Leighton 

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