Friday, August 29, 2008

Birmingham ArtsFest

The Birmingham ArtsFest is an annual festival that features the best in arts and entertainment that the West Midlands have to offer. This festival was inspired by the UitMarkt festival in Amsterdam. It was first held in 1998 with the purpose of showcasing the local artists' work and brings international attention to these talents.

ArtsFest is collaboration between the Birmingham City Council and Audience Central, a research agency dedicated to promoting and improving people's participation in the West Midlands' arts scene. In 2005 however, the Birmingham City Council started organizing the festival on its own.

The celebrations primarily take place at Centenary Square but activities are also held at Victoria Square, Custard Factory, Brindleyplace and Chamberlain Square.

The 2007 festival highlights are the giant air sculpture and an Arts Village. The air sculpture, called the Luminarium is a gigantic construction of tunnels and domes that can be explored by visitors. The Visual Arts Village features a wide array of artistic creations ranging from print-making to sculpture.

Activities are varied depending on which cluster area you are visiting. The areas and their respective events for the 2007 festival are as follows:

Centenary Square - in Centenary Square, featured performances are:

  1. Painting on the Railings where local artists sold affordable artwork to visitors.
  2. Drum voice orchestra and kiss the ceiling accapella singers. This is where performances from African orchestra and an accapella group make the celebrations even more festive.
  3. Acrobatic arts performances
  4. The Birmingham St. Patrick's Festival
  5. Performance from the Birmingham Young Voices choir.

Chamberlain and Victoria Square Cluster - In this cluster you can witness the following:

  1. A comedy performance at the Custard Balti Comedy Club
  2. A singing workshop at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
  3. A dance performance showcasing an eclectic mix of dance styles presented by the Windsor Dance company.
  4. A drama performance and a presentation featuring a combination of World music and poetry.

Brindleyplace Cluster - The Brindley Place cluster events included:

  1. A children's street dance performance based on "High School Musical."
  2. A fun carnival workshop where visitors could learn mask-making and such similar activities.
  3. A family-oriented and hands-on activities centered on a carnival theme.
  4. A fashion show held at the Brindleyplace fountain.

Rep Cluster and CBSO Cluster - Activities in this area includes:

  1. A workshop on t-shirt printing and badge-making.
  2. A den-making activity where kids can make their own hideouts.
  3. A songwriting workshop, storytelling, poetry and musical activities for children.
  4. A Jazz-Latin performance
  5. The Make your Mark with Art event, where visitors are asked to help make artwork to raise funds for charity.

St. Martin's and Eastside Cluster - The St. Martin and Eastside cluster featured events such as:

  1. The revitalization of oral traditions through storytelling
  2. A steelpans musical performance backed by Caribbean dancers doing street dance.
  3. An exhibit of clay sculpture and a clay workshop.
  4. The Festival of Extreme Building where a display of experimental buildings were showcased.

A street theater festival was also another highlight of the 2007 ArtsFest where performances and activities ranging from walkabout characters to circus troupe shows were featured.

For accommodation in Birmingham please visit: For more options

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Ballroom Dancing - A Brief History

When you think of Ballroom dancing, you generally think of flowing gowns and dark tuxedos. You also think of beautiful, willowy, women and tall, dark, handsome men waltzing their way around the dance floor. However, ballroom dance is not just the Waltz, it is a lot more. From the elegant and stately waltz, a hot, sultry and sexy Tango or Paso Doble, or a good bit of lively fun like the Fox Trot, Jive or Quick Step, ballroom dancing is all of these.

Technically, ballroom dancing is defined as "Any of various, usually social dances in which couples perform set moves". However, the word "ball" (not the child's toy) comes from the Latin "ballare" meaning to dance and forms the base for the word ballroom (a room for dancing), ballet (a dance), and ballerina (a dancer).

Ballroom dancing was very popular among the gentry (or upper class) of England, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and didn't really catch on with the working class until the late 19th and early 20th century.

It wasn't until the early 1920's that competitive ballroom dancing began gaining popularity. As a result, the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (formerly known as The Imperial Society of Dance Teachers) formed a Ballroom Branch whose function was to standardize the ballroom dances.

Today, modern ballroom dancing revolves around five dances comprising: the Modern Waltz; the Viennese Waltz; the Slow Foxtrot; Tango; and the Quickstep.

Latin American ballroom is short for Latin and American - not a reference to Latin countries and its dances are the Samba; Rumba; Paso Doble; Cha-Cha; and the Jive.

The modern ballroom dances all involve a couple dancing in a closed hold and vary in tempo (beats per minute) and rhythm (structure). A closed hold involves 5 bodily points of contact between the couple. Three of these points involve the hands, the males left hand holding the females right, the females left hand on top of the males right upper arm (for the Tango the females hand would go behind his arm) and the males right hand on the females back resting on her left shoulder blade. The other two points of contact are the females left elbow resting on the males right elbow and the right side of the females chest touching the right side of the males chest. This dance posture provides a very elegant look as the couple floats across the dance floor and has its origins in the European royal courts.

There is some conjecture that the right side-to-right side contact of the closed hold may have originated from a time when men danced while wearing their swords, which were hung on their left sides. Additionally, this theory would also explain the counter clockwise movement around the dance floor as the man would've stood on the inside of the circle so he wouldn't inadvertently hit any of the people watching the dancers with his sword as he danced past.

The dancing posture for Latin American ballroom varies from dance to dance with some dances using the closed hold and others where the partners hold each other with only one hand.

Both Modern Ballroom and Latin American Ballroom has been standardized for teaching purposes and has a set, internationally recognized vocabulary, technique, rhythm and tempo.

About the Author

Charly Leetham has an abiding interest in Ballroom Dancing with both of her children undertaking Ballroom Dancing classes and performing exceptionally well.

Learn More About Ballroom Dancing.

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Randy Jackson America's Best Dance Crew Season 1

The Randy Jackson's America's Best Dance Crew, the hottest dancing competition in US, has declared its winner. Among the 12 competing crews, the JabbaWockeez crew emerged as the victorious group as they crushed Status Quo with their remarkable performance on the finale. The JabbaWockeeZ's members were Jeff Nguyen aka "Phi", 26, from Phoenix AZ; Ryan Shawn Paguio, 26, from San Diego, CA; Ben Chung aka B-Tek, 26, from Mission Hills, CA; Kevin Brewer, 31, from Sacrament, CA; Phil Tayag, 23, also from Sacramento, CA; and Chris Gatdula, 26, from Las Vegas, NV.

The two groups fought their last battle onstage, but still, the JabbaWockeeZ seemed to steal the heart of Americans when millions of their votes declared the group as the ultimate champion. Status Quo's members who are Joshua Green, 20; Ernest Phillips, 21, Jayjion Greer aka "Jin Lao", 18; Jamal Weaver, 20; and Dwayne Hines, 18 (all from Boston, MA) did not lose in vain. They had served one of the best performances in the history of dance competitions in the US.

During episode 7, the three remaining crews which are the JabbaWockeez, Status Quo, and the Kaba Modern had competed and gave their best moves. Status Quo performed the first act. The judges were impressed by the group's amazing stunts, but failed to make an impression with their lackluster choreography.

Episode 6 showed one of the most exhilarating performances on the show. The four remaining crews fought their way up from the dance floor and were required to perform hip hop dances with a mixture of Traditional Broadway acts. The most remarkable performance was done by Status Quo as they showed off their own version of "Hairspray."

The competing crews performed Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in Episode 5. This was done in honor of the artist that has become legendary with his dancing prowess and also to celebrate his album's twenty-fifth anniversary. "Thriller" sold over 45 million worldwide, and it is considered as one of the biggest selling albums of all time.

During Episode 4, the crews were made to dance while portraying their own characters based on movies. The audience and the judges were awed by the amazing performances they had witnessed.

During Episode 3, the crews were made to perform popular dances that possessed remarkable stunts.

The eight remaining crews, during Episode 2, were made to perform an act that is based on popular music video. They must have a unique interpretation that still jives with the video. The competition started with 12 groups (consisting of six members) showing off their hottest moves, they were: Full Out, The Movements, Automatic Response, Enigma Dance Crew, Femme 5, Iconic, Live in Color, Fysh n Chicks, BreakSk8, Kaba Modern, Status Quo, and the JabbaWockeeZ.

The show creator, Randy Jackson, has been in the music industry for more than twenty years. This music veteran and Grammy Award winning producer has started his career as a bass guitar player when he was just 13 years old. He got his big break when he joined the famous band Journey.

The first judge was JC Chavez who started his career as a member of a Mickey Mouse Club. He is also a former of a now disbanded NSync. Shayne Sparks, who is also a judge, is a professional dancer who was known for his jaw-dropping performance every time he was onstage. Lil' Mama, another judge of this popular dance competition show, is an hip hop artist who got her big break when her Lip Gloss hit the radio waves in 2007.

The show was hosted by Mario Lopez, Layla Kaleigh, and DJ Rashida. MTV is giving opportunity to people to show off their grooviest moves and style. If you are interested to join, create a profile and start uploading your videos. Just go to for further details. The casting for America's Best Dance Crew Season 2 is now ongoing.

Ant Onaf is a content producer in association with (, a online retailer of learn to dance DVD and learn to dance video sets.

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Restringing A Floyd Rose Tremolo System On The Guitar

How many people have used a Floyd Rose tremelo system on their guitar? They are common on Ibanez Guitar and Jacksons as well as many others. But restringing can be a nightmare for a newbie.

Satriani and Vai use these systems as well as many other resepected players.

The idea is that the bridge pivots on 2 pins which allows you to use the whammy bar in both directions. The bridge stays in position via a fine balance between the springs on the back of the guitar and the tension of the strings.

The first time I tried to string up one of these it was a disaster. As soon as you manage to get something in tune it puts a diferent string out. I spent many hours trying to succeed. Exxtremely time consuming and stressful!.

It now takes me about 10 minutes to totally restring a guitar and have it in perfect tune - and stays in perfect tune.

Here is how I now go about this. Hope it helps someone.

The first important step is to put an object or some item under the Floyd Rose bridge to stop is moving back once you have loosened the strings. I usually use a folded piece of card or even my empty string packet to do this.

Next remove all the strings and attach the new ones to the bridge. Tighten the strings so they feel almost fully tensioned.

Now take away whatever you had holding the bridge up. With any luck the bridge should now be sitting in pretty much it's usual place.

Check that none of the strings are excessively tensioned. IIf they are, remembering it is all about the balaance, there has to be another string that is excessively loose. Tighten up the loose one first then take the tension off the the tight string.

Now here is the most important part - before starting to tune you should stretch the strings. If you do not do this they be constantly going out of tune. To do this rest the palm of your hand on the string by the bridge. Put your index finger under the string and raise the string up. Hold for 5 seconds or so and release. It's important not to overstretch the string here so don't pull on it overly hard.

Go through each seperate string and carry this out . Once you have done this then you should bring your guitar pretty much in tune. This should be quite easy now. Don't accurately tune any of the strings, just get them all so they are within one or 2 notes of being tuned. You will find as you adjust some others will go out of tune. This is completely normal.

Once tyou have completed this you need to go though the stretching procedure once more on each of the strings.

Now tune your guitar so it is accurately in tune. Again, do not concentrate on one string. bring them all to pretty much in tune then tune them individually.

Finally one last stretch of the strings. Hopefully by now you will only have some of the stings ever so slightly out of tune. Tune those back up and and you are done. Perfect.

Olly is the founder of Olly's Guitar World - Supplier of Cheap Guitars and Instruments. Visit the easy to follow Guitar Lessons and come and join the community in the Guitar Forums

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