Tai Chi Lalita is an annual gathering held at Lalita Centre in the Spanish mountains near Acebo.
Organised by Enrique Alario the event is well-considered by the European tai chi community for offering quality workshops, in a relaxed atmosphere, within beautiful, natural surroundings.
This year the teachers: Nathan Menaged – USA, Mario Napoli – Italy, Rob Volke, Holland & Ronnie Robinson – Scotland offered workshops on tai chi walking stick, tai chi sword, push hands and da lui.
We arrived in the village of Acebo, a sleepy little place with a number of café bars and a lovely piazza. The weather was hot and dry and as we made our way from the village to the Lalita site, we could feel the atmosphere at once tranquil and charged with mountain energy. There are small rivers running through various parts of the land and sweet spring water is freely available.
The first evening we met for dinner in the central dining hall. Throughout our stay, the vegetarian food on offer was exceptional and original. For the dedicated meat eaters, there is always the option of a short journey into Acebo (about a 30 minute walk from Lalita) and the finest chuletas – baby lamb chops, grilled to perfection.
Numbers of attendees were down from previous years, perhaps a commentary on the difficult economic situation that people all over are experiencing, but enough to make for a great occasion. Visitors came from Germany, UK, USA, France, Italy and Holland. There were some people participating in the different workshops on offer before the festival proper, so new arrivals met an environment of work in progress.
The schedule for the festival was taped to the dining room door. For the early risers, chi kung with Simon Carey-Morgan at 8 am, an event much enjoyed by the attendees. Breakfast at 9 and at 10.30, a choice of two sessions. Ronnie Robinson led an investigation into the principles of push hands, and Nathan Menaged taught the cane form ‘Dragon Stirs the Water’, which focused on the mechanics of body alignments and principles of motion. At 12, we paused for a rest and drinks and then the next two sessions offered a choice between Rob Volke, teaching the subtleties of sinking and its application in the push hands, and work with Mario Napoli teaching the way of fencing with tai chi sword. Then lunch, and a very welcome 3 hour break for siesta, river swimming and socialising. At 5.30 an opportunity to play push hands with a lot of different people, coming from a variety of training backgrounds and levels of
experience. The whole session was a joyous learning experience and the good humour that permeated the whole event reflected well on the whole relaxed style that characterises Lalita.
I have not been to many festivals, but amongst those here were serious festival goers. Their opinion of Lalita suggests to me that this annual event is exceptional, starting with the amazing beauty of the setting with forests of pine trees, oaks and extraordinary smells and sights, the rivers and a canopy of stars at night to rival anything found in the Greek islands. Then the most perfect tai chi host in the person of Enrique Alario, a long time practitioner of tai chi and with the good sense to create an ambiance in which the best and softest side of people emerged.
There is a Tibetan-inspired temple on the grounds where one could retreat to for quiet meditation. So the mix of teachers, the people the event attracts and the beautiful nature was the perfect blend for the success of the whole event.
Yet the fun element did not detract from the very valuable insights afforded by those teaching. Always open to questions, it was obvious to me that each of us could engage in the lessons at whatever level we might happen to be. Some of us were new to the forms being taught, the sparring and the ways the principles were communicated. There was no doubt that the skill of the teachers and the manner of their teaching was sufficient for all, no matter their level. It is one of the great things about this place, is that all were welcome, or as Nathan was fond of saying –“everyone brings something to the table”.
Evenings, after dinner, we sat around in the semi dark, stars overhead and a balmy temperature. The stories flowed and such were the characters present that the laughter rang out late into the night. The first night we were here, a concert of classical guitar was provided in the ‘Round Room’. The artist was
Luis, who comes to Lalita every year and the musicianship was of a very high order, so much so that the hour and a half that he played went by in a flash. We were watching the essence of tai chi being expressed in the fingers as they flowed up and down the fret board.
The second night, Enrique and the staff at Lalita hosted the best party I have been to since the last one I attended here in Lalita two years before. A mixture of live music and a selection of dance music inspired by a great DJ, and the place was rocking! Merriment continued for me until just after 3 am, when I made my way back to my sleeping quarters with the party still going strong. Somewhere in the dark, I came across a push hands marathon between Lionel and Tall Paul, who had already been at it for some time and who continued for some time more.
The morning after, I don’t know how many takers there were for the early morning chi kung, but by 10 in the morning, most of us had surfaced and the last round of teaching sessions was underway. The patience of the teachers was evident in that they were willing to repeat the lessons and give individual correction and encouragement to all. My experience is that even after such short lived exposure to the ideas and the exercises that they presented to us, enough of a flavour was imparted to enable us to practise what we had learned, and to know what we were looking for if inspired to continue the study.
So, as far as festivals go, Lalita is up there with the best. The teachers it attracts, the organisation and the environment in which it is set, together with the great people who come to participate, make it an experience I would want to repeat. – Viva Espana!