Auspicious Pixie

Can usually be found running around outdoors, dancing badly, or sitting in a cafe. I scribble about all three...


By Lara, Sep 4 2014 09:28PM

Me, not Alastair Humphreys. Or Colin Pyle. They did bigger stuff
Me, not Alastair Humphreys. Or Colin Pyle. They did bigger stuff

To add to my guest-blogging portfolio (ooo get me), I've started writing for It's great because it means I now get to warble on about travel, adventure and entrepreneurship. I know a bit about the travel part and Im working on the adventure and entrepreneurial bit, having met some very exciting people through Escape the City's Founding Membership project (more to follow on that).

In the mean time, check out my blog post here

and my write-up on Colin Pyle. Trailblazers, the pair of them.....

How to build a life around entrepreneurship and adventure

Last night, the Escape School welcomed serial starter-upper Colin Pyle to talk about his many business ventures and travelling adventures. Like so many Escape speakers, his bio is massively varied and has transpired out of spotting opportunities, throwing himself into interesting things and using a healthy dose of hustle on the way.

Pyle has always had an entrepreneurial spirit, starting a foreign exchange business straight out of college after training in finance. In the first three months Pyle didn’t close an account, but then the business grew and he was able to sell it on for a healthy wedge (luckily just before the crash). He was keen to point out that the realities of starting a business mean that “you will fail, but that shouldn’t put you off.”

After selling up, Pyle realised he “had a good chunk of cash but hadn’t lived” so forged a plan to motorbike around China with his brother. Failing to get sponsorship to fund the journey, “BMW were like, who the fuck are you guys”, the brothers ploughed on regardless, and filmed the trip as they went along. Their 65 day adventure was eventually picked up by the Travel Channel and earned them a Guinness World Record in the process.

Although he still hasn’t made the money back, Pyle wasn’t put off.

“Travel is entrepreneurial. I figured if I could smuggle a bike part into China via Canada and Tibet, I can deal with anything.”

I loved Pyle’s advice to “use the gaps”. When you have a break between jobs or are moving onto something else, use the time in between to do something else. You never know where it might take you.

Pyle ended up biking around India next. From India, he considered going back to work with the Travel Channel, but instead started working with language school Mandarin House. “It was a good business and a good market, but I wasn’t passionate about it.” After Mandarin House, Pyle started to consider what it was that drove him to start-ups. Several ventures followed – he set up Lingos, another online language site (where he still sits on the Board), and Silicon Real, a tech podcast, which had its 56th broadcast yesterday.

“I don’t make money on it, but its good fun and I enjoy doing it. I learn something new every week.”

To MBA, or not to MBA

The Esc audience were keen to know how valuable Pyle found his MBA course at Hult International Business School. “Well the president invested $50k into my business, so pretty valuable I guess.” Joking aside, Pyle explained that the true value of an MBA is being able to grow your network globally.” Speaking about his new coffee venture “I now have a group of guys on the ground in a number of countries.”

One of the questions people should ask is whether an MBA will give them something over and above what you could learn on the ground in a start-up over a couple of years. It’s a question of how valuable an MBA is, all things considered.

Cru Kafe

Pyle’s latest venture Cru Kafe started out when he and some friends saw a gap in the single serve coffee market for a more eco product. Pyle’s drivers are passion, lifestyle and scaleability.

“I like to start something that I can grow to be big. Taking an idea and turning it into a product a year later.”

But it’s not always easy. “It’s very tough…if you are afraid of competition then stay where you are.”

“Some people think of entrepreneurs as rock stars but I hate to glorify it. Starting a business means your highs are higher and your lows lower than those you experience in a day job, but I love it and I thrive off it. You want to get to the point where you can grow a bigger team of people that you can then rely on.”

Pyle’s advice for those of us thinking of leaving the city..

• Take baby steps, but take the first step. Try to do as much as you can while you have a secure pay cheque so that you can hit the ground running. Even though it may sound like Pyle didn’t follow his own advice “I was always planning” and thinking one step ahead. “It can be a fine line. Sometimes if you don’t jump, you’ll never do it.”

• What matters most is how you see yourself. Self-awareness is the most important quality that he sees in successful people. Find out as much as you can while you work – phase it down to 4 days and then 3. Talking about a friend who works for Cru, who has just gone down to a 4 day week so that she can focus more on DJ-ing, Pyle explained that it’s important to give people the opportunity to create their passion. Talking about his friend he said “she knows herself well enough to be great in that market” and it something he has encouraged. (I LOVE this. If more employers understood this, I think that employees would be so much more engaged in everything that they do, within work and outside of it.)

• Don’t be afraid to know that you don’t know what you are talking about. Pyle is currently negotiating with Harrods, but says that “I don’t know what I’m doing.” His solution? “Hire people who know more than you, who are smarter than you”.

• Collaboration is key. Work with someone keen to help you out. You can do it yourself, but it’s lonely.

• Don’t be afraid to ask people for help.

• Be ok with failure. Pyle “failed a thousand times”

• Don’t overplan as you can plan yourself out of stuff.

• Leverage the talents of people around you. Pyle likes saying that he got people ‘smarter than him’ to take stuff on. (I reckon he’s just being modest.)

• Have a ‘Today List’ instead of a to-do list. Maximise your hourly output and aim to get everything on your today list done in that day.

• Jump into anything – you’ll figure it out. Know that there is very little you can’t do.

By Lara, Mar 29 2014 05:00PM

9 miles to go...
9 miles to go...

So it’s been a whole month since I last posted something. I’ve been busy reviewing for LondonDance, trying out new trikes (well BMX bikes) at the Lee Valley Velo Park and rediscovering Roald Dahl in his hometown of Great Missenden. More of that later..

But first, I need to talk about running. The start of this year was all about doing a sub-4 marathon, but now it's about getting outside and discovering new places to run. I was getting a bit tired of road running in London and so in the spirit of my favourite events to date - the Wellington NZ X-Terra Trail Run Series - I decided to go on a mini-micro adventure out of town. I picked the Ridgeway National Trust trail, hopped on a train to Tring and within 40 mins was running off-road, squelching through mud, getting lost in forests, marvelling at Red Kites and having the most fun on my feet that I'd had in ages. It was such a good way to see a bit of the UK that I'd never seen before (bonkers considering the proximity of the Chilterns to London) and made my usually dull and noisy long run a great deal more interesting.

You just need a Camelbak, a Clif bar or 2 and a bank card and you're good to go!

I hit Princes Risborough train station after 18 miles of rolling muddy hills and numerous diversions but felt refreshed, renewed and ready for a giant plate of home-cooked gammon egg and chips in the local pub. The undulating trails and heavy dose of protein meant my legs recovered quickly and I felt a lot fresher for using more muscles than usual. My feet thanked me for the different landscape too. The run set me up very nicely for the Cranleigh 15/21 the following week and means I have promised myself I will run off-road more often..

By Lara, Feb 10 2014 11:14PM

My latest response to another marvellous menagerie from the house (or should that be The Place?), of Resolution!. With my penchant for Poirot I thought Tamar Daly's Trigger would be right up my street, but at the end of this era it was the Greek/Byzantine themes that made me feel at home.

Tamar Daly Trigger

Chloe Aliyanni Meteora

The 2012 Legacy Project The Legacy

The Legacy starts solemnly as a group of London 2012 performers explore their feelings after the greatest show’s end. Watching their huddle of raised hands against a backdrop of personal recollections reminded me of the joyful union of the Olympic cauldron. This project isn't about technical ability, but the commitment of its participants and the community it has created. Reprising their roles all 40 Legacy Project members proudly don their outfits (Industrial Revolution, Neon, even David Bowie) for a swing dance finale to help stave off the post Olympic/Paralympic blues. As a winning example of dance therapy it’s no wonder this lot “still wear their costumes in public”.

First after the gun, Tamar Daly and 14-year-old Oscar Morgan mark out their own theatre in police tape. "2 best friends are dead on the floor in a puddle of water". What happened? Daly’s delightful technique and Morgan’s cute enthusiasm assist us as they corpse their way through clues on the crime scene stage. Catching red herrings along the way, the pair finally help our deductions by shifting the tape into a Piscean outline. The answer to this puzzle "…they were the fish…the fishbowl fell onto the floor.” Although quirky and cute, without the repetitive c(l)ue cards, Trigger would have left me bemused.

Like Atlas, we first see Chloe Aliyanni and her reflection Gia Cicolani carrying the weight of celestial spheres on their shoulders. Thus Meteora starts heavily, arms raised in mirror image seemingly supporting the sky. Initially confounded by the movements of these mythical warriors, I was drawn in as the choreography grew stronger along with the use of light. The two move like twins from the Byzantine era. Looking upwards to their load, motifs of support are prevalent with the pair supine, supportive of each other and realistically suspended between spotlight and dark. They finish parallel, toes teetering over the floor, yet persuasively stoic. Aptly themed, Meteora is the strongest piece of the evening.

Lara Hayward

Originally posted on on 26 January 2014

Image by Laura Hemming-Lowe

By Lara, Jan 18 2014 09:37PM

After first night nerves for Resolution performers and first review nerves for us reviewers, The Place's annual randomfest is off to a flying start. Being (albeit a small) part of this thrilling festival made it all the more BOOM and I can't wait to ream off my next review. The hardest thing about reviewing Resolution!? Trying to cram three performances into 300 words. Here is my first go at that near-Herculean labour.

PINCH What are you trying to say

Katarse Ensemble Fuel

SpiroDance Just Breathe

In What are you trying to say, Isabelle Cressy and Hannah Kew ask each other the question that all artists ponder during the development process. Bounding off each other’s energy, Cressy tries ‘some things out’ by leaping around the stage like a feral ape and then screeching her way to orgasm in shoulder stand. Reflecting on the madness with Kew, they finally get into the flow of dynamic collaboration. A seriously funny take on a never-ending dilemma, the PINCH girls persuade us that joy and frustration are necessary steps on the path to success.

Fuel was billed as an intimate solo, but we never really got to know choreographer Rosanna Ribeiro. Slick movement sequences in monochrome showed her to be an impressive dancer, but the themes of vulnerability, oppression and fear were muddled and vying for attention. Perhaps unwittingly, the strongest moments came in the brief visual exchanges between Ribeiro and live musician Daniel Rico, showing real tenderness and a pair perfectly in sync. Whilst a snapshot of Fuel would look stunning, as a movement piece the delivery felt too cold.

In contrast, the opening of SpiroDance’s Just Breathe was musically and physically punchy with Lorraine Liu’s young dancers isolated in their passive/aggressive daily commute. Twitchy heads evoked computer malfunction and a society at full speed and going nowhere. The video backdrop brought moments of poignancy with dancers pausing to reflect on the nuttiness of rush hour, yet it was largely unnecessary as the movement spoke for itself. A meaningful change in pace at halfway (mid-life crisis?) allowed the dancers to ‘take a breath’ and slow down. The message in this playful finale? That mindfulness is better for you and more sociable too.

Lara Hayward

Bright sparks Hannah Kew and Isabelle Cressy aka PINCH threw some thought and no little combined energy into this company launch piece. They’re an immediately prepossessing pair with winning ways in terms of delivering both spoken text(including theatrical monologues sourced from Pinter and Hare) and unconventional movement. Their very active meditation on the nature of failure/success – fairly familiar subject matter, that, and not just for young artists – was both funny and sweet. Two to keep an eye on.

Attractively lithe and patently skilful, Rosana Ribeiro appears to have a lot going for her. So why, in her collaboration with the (highly capable) musician and one-man-band Daniel Rico, does she seem to want to play up perceived obstacles and limitations? We first see her, albeit dimly, cowering in a bikini against a blurry film backdrop set in a back garden. During much of the rest of Ribeiro’s solo she’s timorous, off-balance, floor-bound or reduced to executing snatches of show dance. What she fails to establish is who she is or, more crucially, why we might want to care about her opaque and putative plight. Like us, she’s left scrabbling at the air to little or no avail.

Dances that try to comment on the wearying speed and facelessness of contemporary society are a dime a dozen. I was thus initially put off by the film-supplemented clichés of SpiroDance’s work for a six-strong ensemble. But something started to happen as the touchingly dedicated young cast responded (even if too literally) to the voice-over text of spoken word artist of Christopher Samuel Tse. Damn if they didn’t eventually bring the material to life, so that by the time they and the piece itself turned playful and lyrical – in the breathing section – I was definitely ‘onside.’ The shift from pretentiousness to pleasure-giving was a welcome surprise.

Donald Hutera

Image by Paul Blackemore

Review originally posted on The Place’s Resolution! Review blog. Resolution! festival runs from Tue 14-Sat 15 Feb 2014.

By Lara, Jan 11 2014 02:48PM

Just before Christmas I received the very exciting news that I had been picked as one of the team to review new works being showcased at The Place's Resolution! Review 2014. Exciting, not just because it will allow me to see even more dance and practice my writing, but also because we will be mentored by professional dance critics including Graham Watts, Donald Hutera and Sanjoy Roy. The opening night is on 14 January 2014 and I have been counting down the days! In the meantime, here is my review of Hagit Yakira's latest beautiful work that got me the spot on the Resolution! team:

Hagit Yakira’s ‘…in the middle with you…’ is an honest, moving piece that invites the audience to consider elements of their own lives as they play out in the dance on stage.

Takushi Masimoto walks on in an arc, then spirals around his own axis to the floor. Lying sideways on the ground, his feet continue to spin as four others join him, treading their own cyclical paths, all running in circles to nowhere.

Later, using every inch of their bodies, the five ‘swim’ downstage, committed to reaching the edge before getting up and starting all over again. The repetitiveness of the sequence is exhausting and that is entirely the point. The dancers know they have to keep going, even though they may not know what they are striving for.

As in life, humour and discomfort punctuate the routine. Each dancer shares an intimate verbal snapshot. They play a giant game of Twister using discarded clothes as stepping-stones, ‘planking’ to ensure they stay in. The audience begins to sense who these dancers are – we are invited into their fold, their ‘middle’.

Marianna Camiloti’s solo is particularly breathtaking. Tiny yet strong, she spins incessantly, increasingly out of control, like a doll trapped in a typhoon. Resting only when she is caught and cradled by another dancer, it is a humble gesture of support in a whirlwind spell.

Momentum continues throughout the playful finale. One after the other, the dancers throw themselves into the unknown, safe only in the trust that they will be caught by the group.

By choreographing a piece that the audience wants to be part of, Yakira has shown that the monotony of life is not so bad when you have others to share it with.