Blog

Community art for pandemic times.

105503334_3495195677160800_6556791711345028258_n

From the beginning of 2020,  I have had the pleasure of being part of a small and mighty social circus called TTYL. Created by aerial powerhouse Angola Murdoch of Lookup Theatre, the social circus addresses issues around mental health and wellness through the circus arts. Over their decade in action, I have worked with them in passing over the years: once for a bellydance workshop and the next donating a performance to their fundraising event. I’ve also worked with Angola on another show she produced years back at Second City where I may have been the only performer with my feet on the ground!

Fast forward to early 2020 and I joined the team as co-facilitator with  Zita Nyarady, a multi-skilled theatre and circus artist. My role there is more about the social part than the circus part (though the group did teach me some new skills too!). Supporting the mental health of the artists as they learn new skills, crafts, co-create in community and build shows, has been a wonderful merging of my worlds. As both a movement artist and community mental health worker, I highly value the role of art in individual and community wellness and healing, and am so delighted to help facilitate that with TTYL.

In pre-COVID times, the group meets weekly to work together learning new circus arts and practicing on their chosen apparatus. The group is small and close, conversations around mental health and daily challenges are the norm and the amount of compassion and encouragement held collectively within the group is inspiring. The group had been building their next show and excited about all of the co-creations happening!

Once the pandemic hit, the group continued to meet remotely each week, and decided to move forward on a remote show –their first ever distance circus arts show! Of course there were some concessions to make without the access to all of their aerial apparatus!

But tonight we are SO excited to present the artists of TTYL in their first ever quarantine show,  Covisions.  See you at the circus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Quarantine with Love

20200510_150641

Coming this Sunday May 17th, our beloved local bellydance school Dragonflywill be hosting From Quarantine with Love. I am excited to be a part of this show as someone who studies with Zahira the and has taught at the old Dragonfly headquarters. It was just around this time last year that I was invited to teach Flapper Fusion Performance series toward the Spring Showcase.

There is nothing like a pandemic to remind us of the communal nature of dance. While I always enjoy practicing alone, these past 6 weeks have felt so different. Usually my solo practice happens in addition to classes, studio time, collaborations and shows. Without those components, solo practice just feels… different. I’m reminded how dependent and invigorated I am with other bodies to dance with.

That being said, there are some absolutely fantastic online classes happening right now and while I am not that much less busy these pandemic days, I have had some time to take classes with locals Zahira, and Melissa Gamal, and the much further than local fusion inspiration Mardi Love.

I’ve also delighted in the amazingly diverse lineup of dancers in Kami Liddle’s Lockdown Dance Party

I’ll do up another post on some of the amazing offerings from the bellydance community both locally and internationally, but for now lets talk about this show on Sunday:From Quarantine with Love has a killer lineup of Dragonfly faculty, local guest teachers and international stars Aziza and Oscar Flores. I’m looking forward to being a part of this show and I can say this is my first remote pandemic performance! In the spirit of uncertainty and vulnerability of the times, I decided to throw caution to the wind and dance for you all freestyle/improv.  Its a sassy upbeat number and as I turned my dining room into my stage (thanks to my wonderful partner for helping with camera stuff then staying well out of my way while I practiced!), I couldn’t help but feel the intimacy of inviting the audience into my home space to watch me dance.

Won’t you be my guest this Sunday? Would love to see you there!

96138312_4881170555242571_7389403430751567872_o

 

 

 

Honouring śavāsana

One day last week in my daily practice, I settled into the breath and movement without time restriction. I felt in the groove. Moving through a more active series of postures, I knew my body was up for a little sweat. In more recent months, I have been focused poses that offer an antidote to an escalated nervous system, seeking decompression rather than physical challenge. But that day I felt the time and space around me as I challenged myself *gently* to exert more energy.

Each day, as with any discipline, you don’t always feel that flow –and that’s ok. But this post isn’t really about doing more active yoga, its about the dance between activity and stillness.

http_%2f%2fwww1051077576014094616.png

Enter śavāsana, the sanskrit word meaning “corpse pose.” Normally a closing posture at in a yoga class, this can be one of the most challenging spaces to maintain awareness and focus because well we are just laying there. The body is presumably relaxed, supported by the ground and working on the inside to integrate the movements from the last hour of practice.

As far as I know, yoga is the only physical practice (though its part of a larger philosophical system of balancing the mind) that has a codified relaxation period built into its structure. But in this stillness, the the mind is challenged to not problem-solve or fall asleep. Often a teacher may cue the breath to help us stay anchored to the body in an alert way or suggest a visualization when thoughts or feelings arise (which they will), to acknowledge and let it pass.

So back to this experience of having time and space to practice, because this was the day I realized I’d been cheating myself of a proper śavāsana for at least a few months. It was a slow process, that started with shortening the time. My mind justified this in a whole lot of ways: I’m busy, I’m bored, I already meditated today. Sound familiar to anyone? In further reflecting on this, I came to understand the loss of savasana correlated with my experience of time as a 1000 tonne beast sitting on my shoulders. And I saw that clearly during this particular practice because I allowed myself to be a proper corpse at the end, stayed in awareness and non-doing, mind chatter on low. Not that it always feels so seamless.

We all have full lives of which time for practice can feel scarce. And I’m certainly of the mind that some corpse is better than no corpse. But particularly with self-directed practice, it can be easy for an important element of yoga like savasana to slide. Because its so passive (but not easy!), it may get cut in favour of the more active asana. Definitely for me, during times that feel hectic in life, that “dont just do something, sit there” is an apt sign post along the path of the contemplative practices.

So the next step, now that I have an awareness that I’d unconsciously relegated savasana to a second class pose, is to reintegrate it, bring it back to its rightful place.

I spend a lot of time alone doing yoga alone, in a daily home practice. For those of you who also practice solo, have you faced anything similar? What have you found to be the most challenging aspects of home/solo yoga practice?

Like reading about bodies and how to be nicer to them? You might like this post, too:

We Are (not) The Robots

Wintertime Wellness Workshops

I’m pleased to be a part of this fundraiser on Sat Dec 7th. All of the teachers/facilitators are volunteering and all proceeds will go directly to the family of a young woman whose life ended after a long struggle with alcohol addiction.

featured artistsI will be leading a gentle yoga classes suitable for all levels and I welcome all bodies to come practice (please let the organizers know if you require accommodations).

As December approaches, so to do the pressures of consumerism tighten. Perhaps there are family pressures or loneliness. Moving your body in a welcoming environment can be a way to move through these kinds of challenging emotions. These workshops are a great way to prepare your inner resources for the wintertime, would you like to join us?

eventbrite schedule

Flapper Fusion @ Dragonfly!

53385697_3521421111217529_967537139719864320_o

This Saturday, the Flapper Bellydance Fusion performance series started at Dragonfly Bellydance. The studio filled with flappers ready for action, I could feel the enthusiasm and focus of the group. I love connecting with other vintage dance lovers and am super looking forward to sharing this fusion choreography with this bunch. Oh there will be more reminders but for now just save the date: Sunday May 26th is the Dragonfly Spring Showcase where the flappers will be taking the stage alongside many other fabulous dancers from the studio. This event usually sells out, so get your tickets in advance. You’ve been warned.

 

 

Waves! Spirals! Shimmies…oh my!

Join me at Boomerang Pilates on October 21st for an exploration of deliciously wavy movement –aka Bellydance!
In this workshop you will learn some of the fundamental movements of bellydance –including the illusive SHIMMY –and learn how to string them together so it feels like you’re dancing. But don’t worry, this workshop is for everyone so no dance experience required, just curiousity and a desire to flow through some juicy new movements! *All genders welcome*
When: Sunday October 21st 12:30-2:30pm

Where: Boomerang Pilates

240 Roncesvalles Ave.

Cost: $40 in advance, $45 at the door (cash, check or etransfer)

Coupe de couer at Tribal Momentum

tribal momentum

The momentum is real in Montreal. It it was pretty awesome to have a little taste of the delicious fusion happenings in this city last weekend. I hadn’t been in years and the last bellydance-related thing i went to there was (Mardi Love) close to ten years ago!

Planning this trip with the troupe was exciting, particularly since this was the first year in a long while I didn’t go to Cues and Tattoos. We also hadn’t gone to a Canadian tribal festival and were excited to learn from the instructors and share what we do in the closing show. I was also in seventh heaven because BOTH Serpentina and House of Shimmy were all on a road trip together –half of my brain was eating up the info for group improv and the other half was focused on duet combos.

I’ve been following Cult of Yes online and love the dynamic of a creative duo that draws an audience into their individual characters and synergistic flow. So of course I signed up immediately for their Danger Zone workshop. It was a number that was to be performed a the closing show and I was feeling a little down that time didn’t allow me to get onstage for this. Serpentina North Ensemble was also in the show and it was cutting it too close getting ready between workshops and the show. Next time!

It’s always fun when the whole troupe travels together, we stayed at a great Air bnb, a short walk from the studio and show venue. We chilled on the balcony, talked dance, rehearsed and together digested the material from the workshops.

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We learned a Balkan inspired choreography from Inga Petermann the first day, and some new Unmata style ITS combos from Marina D. Ray. Day 2 was Layer Lasagna with Nawal Doucette and was so pleased with her organic organized teaching style with focus on clean technique and JUICE…I look forward to learning more from her at some point. Then we were onto the much anticipated Danger Zone with Cult of Yes! There was a strong Ontario contingent at the festival: Invoketress (Mary Wyga and Ishra), Stacie Noel, Revolve Bellydance and Heather Labonte and of course a few members of Serpentina’s student troupe, Snakebite!

tribal momentum group pic

The weekend wrapped up with a closing show and Serpentina shared a newer kathak fusion choreography, which we’ve showcased at Glitter in Hamilton and two Dragonfly events in Toronto. Bringing worlds together through fusion is one of our troupe specialties! We learned a saying from an audience member after our show: coupe de couer. Our movement, our expression had touched her heart she told us, pondering the right words to properly transmit the meaning from French. If ever a dancer touches my heart, I do my best to let them know. When people move you, let them know you are moved!

Thank you to the whole Tribal Momentum crew, I’m already looking forward to next year!

For the love of jazz. My current dance crush: Holla Jazz!

Sometimes dancers catch your attention in ways you can’t quite explain. I mean there are  a lot of great dancers out there and we have access online to take in a lot of amazing movement art and of course being in Toronto also means tons of live shows and events to witness it in person. But there’s something about this crew…

 

Lately I’ve been rather infatuated with Holla Jazz, a local group of dancers that are indexskilled in a variety of genres but gather in this group to showcase vernacular jazz. With social media being a way artists can connect with audiences and fans, I came across their page on facebook and my interest in solo jazz was re-ignited. I haven’t done a ton of solo jazz since my time in the flapper troupe Sugar Shakers but it holds a special place in my heart –and feet!

In March I attended a vernacular jazz workshop with Natasha Powell, the founding artistic director of Holla Jazz and had a really amazing time. She taught the group of eager movers some fun combos,  with focus on bringing our own flavour to the movements. After all, we’re talking social dance here –there is so much room for playfulness and to bring your own mood and authenticity to the dance.

Lucky for Toronto, Holla Jazz has a full length production Floor’d coming up later this month! I’ve had it in my calendar for a minute and then in early April, I won tickets to the show through Turnout Radio on 89.5 (if you haven’t tuned into this dance show on our last remaining community radio station, you should!). I was so excited when I called into the station to find out I’d won — and the day before my birthday, so it felt extra special…

https://www.instagram.com/p/BhJqePrgNGn/?taken-by=the_strange_dame

I’m super looking forward to the show, here is the choreographers statement for more info. Whatever genre of dance you’re into, this show is one not to miss, it runs April 25-28th. See you there!

images

 

 

Bazaar of the Bizarre –this Sunday!

Once again the highly anticipated, impeccably-curated Bazaar of the Bizarre runs this long weekend, on Sunday in the Parkdale area. Serpentina North Ensemble will be providing some dancing entertainment for bazaar-goers. We always enjoy performing at this event, animating the space alongside stilt-walkers, DJ’s and an array of ultra creative and skilled artisans from in and around Toronto. Have you seen the vendor list yet? You can follow the bazaar on Instagram and facebook to prepare your wallet for all the amazing things you’ll want to buy!

977e3ed174