I love Toronto, this city is live when the sun comes out and people start to shake off the cold. No shortage of creative things to take in, and I’ve been taking full advantage.
Early March brought the Combo Royale CD release party, the local vintage jazz party makers. Their new album “Slaugheterhouse Stomp” has been on heavy rotation around my house. The same night was the first of Darkside Studio’s Fireside Chats, this one on costuming ideas for tribal fusion dancers.
In mid-March Junko Mizuno came to Toronto to show her new series, Venus Cake. I have been a fan of her work for years, having fallen in love with her early characters Fumi and Shiori action figures around the time she put out Hell Babies, a book with a quilted cover featuring awesome images of female characters that reminded me of a sexy, psychedelic and earthy version of the 70’s Dolly-Pops that I spent so many hours with as a kid. I got her to autograph and old journal of her artwork from 2006, which I will now frame alongside a print from one of her old series that a friend surprized me with.
Last month I had an oppotunity to attend a workshop “Unusual Movements to Unusual Music” by local dancer Laura Atma, as a part of the Alternative Bellydance Series at Dragonfly Studio. The time passed quickly as we learned some of Laura’s signature moves and learned a piece of her recent choreography –a piece created in collaboration with friend and dancer Maddie Bolek, for a Cirqlar event.
The end of March brought the long-awaited Cues and Tattoos in Seattle –my first ATS-focused bellydance conference. This is its 5th year running and apparently now bigger than ever. I went with two other members of Serpentina North Ensemble and we had our first workshop Friday morning with Kami Liddle –ATS remixed, variations on ATS combos that can be used for solo or group numbers. Later that afternoon was a workshop by Kajira Djoumanha of Blacksheep Bellydance , where we learned some of their signature combos. The next day was another Kami workshop where we learned faster combos of pops and hits. Then in the afternoon was a workshop on isolations with Steven Eggers, where we did some really interesting drills by mixing up the combos to work in opposites and unfamiliar patterns. Finally on Sunday (the days flew by!) was a Guedra blessing dance taught by Kajira. Its a really beautiful ritual dance of the “blue people” (they use an oil based indigo dye to colour most of their clothes, which rubs off on their skin, giving them a blue tinge) of the Tuareg Berbers, performed by women to offer blessings to groups and individuals. Accompanied by chanting and drumming, like many ritual dances, the whole environment along with internal focus induces a trance-state in the dancer. Dancing for meditation, cleansing/exorcism or blessings, is an area of interest for me and Kajira is so knowledgeable about Guedra, it was a pleasure to learn from her. My last workshop was with members of Troupe Hypnotica, the creators of Cues & Tattoos, where we worked on polishing details for performing ATS improv. I had a lot of fun in that one, especially since being newer to ATS I haven’t done improv much outside of my own troupe. Although there wasn’t much extra time, I managed to get to Mighty-o Vegan Donuts to bring some goodies I promised to bring back for friends. Laura, Sarah and I (3 out of 5 of us in Serpentina) had really nice dinners and silly times travelling around together. The marketplace was super –I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of incredible jewelry, and we managed to get bustles for an upcoming show. I\m looking forward to next year and hoping our whole troupe can go together.
Back from Seattle, I had only a few days until my birthday, which happened to fall on the long weekend. Lots of birthday love, lots of catching up with people I hadn’t seen in a while, over awesome food. Then, of course, back to the grind but also back to all my regular classes: Om Laila, Serpentina and Sugar Shakers. With the inspiration of the last few weeks, motivation and creativity are running high.
Lastnight I went to Uno, presented by La Carnita, to see work by illustrator and fellow Sugar Shaker, Jacqui Oakley, alongside such international street art talent as Mike Giant, Sam Flores and locals Skam and Rcade. Set in a building on industrial grounds that have been re-purposed for urban agriculture (really amazing projects there), now called Evergreen Brickworks, it was a perfect setting to showcase an international line-up of cutting-edge artists.
Late April is filled with shows so be sure to take a look at the Upcoming Shows section. One of the most exciting events will be in early June, where Serpentina will be performing alongside other local bellydancers in the InFusion Gala show featuring Rachel Brice. It is during the weekend of her intensive (which I’m taking) so it will be a full –and no doubt fullfilling –few days. Rachel doesn’t perform in Toronto often, so you don’t want to miss this one!
Stay tuned for more transmissions from the sistership…