I don’t have many pictures from what had been one of the most significant months of my life in recent times. The significance will no doubt continue to unfold beyond the current meaning it holds for me. The few pictures I have gathered from others, mean a whole lot to me. At the end of August, I graduated from the 200 hour yoga teacher training with Karma Teachers. We worked hard physically and emotionally together, under the guidance of two beautiful and skilled teachers. But the end of that month is just the beginning of a new chapter, that begins with planning ways to integrate this training into all aspects of my life. I have a few ideas: first and foremost, my own personal practice went through a major growth spurt this summer. Each day began with 20-30 mins of meditation and about a two hour asana practice. Currently I practice an hour of asana a day, as well as meditation (sitting, chanting, walking, mindfulness, etc.). I had been practicing solo for so many years and starting to practice with others was really quite powerful. It propelled me into discomfort zones both emotionally and physically, and I have come to know this group that ventured on this journey of self-discovery together, as my karma family.
Second, I am currently offering free and by donation yoga classes on request. It can be at a park, a community centre, a livingroom…I dont have a space but I will teach anyone who wants to practice. ESPECIALLY if you think you can’t, we will modify and show you that anyone can practice yoga.
Third, this experience will only enrich my dance, it cant be any other way. When somoene knows how to move with grace, intention and precision, this shows in dance and I strive for this in my movement. I love pushing the bodies limits incrementally and seeing where that leads. Daily consistent practice does amazing things.
Once September arrived, I was back in action with the troupe, and we had some super fun shows lined up for FanExpo in Rue Morgue’s horror section, the Toronto Veg Food Fair and the Grand Canadian Steampunk Exhibition. See more pics and follow the adventures of the Serpentina North Ensemble on our instagram page.
In April, the Sugar Shakers added some flapper love to the festivities at the Circus Side Show edition of the Bazaar of the Bizarre. Checking out the handmade goods in between our sets, there are so many strange and wonderful makers of things at this bazaar.
In May, I had the pleasure of performing to a DJ set by Adham Shaikh at the Royal Ontario Museum for the Rock the Caravan edition of their regular Friday Night Live events. I wish I would have had time to check out some of the exhibits afterward, but by the time I finished they were herding people away from exhibits. It was a great concept, with international market place food, several floors of live music, drinks and access to some exhibits. My first time dancing with the dinosaurs was a blast and the crowd was atttentive and enthusiastic. I shared the stage with another Toronto-based dancer Ananda Franco, and considering we met only that night, I think we had some good chemistry on stage together. The show was truly a mulit-sensory experience, with live visuals mixed by Jax-a-Muse.
In the charming coach house Om Laila studio, my studies with Roula continue. This term we have been working on big drama/intention/character with refined moves, intricate travelling hip work with layers of upper body movement. Jack and the bean stock spirals and ovary muscles, for those who speak the language of Roula Said. Digging deep into the foundational architecture of the movements that are bellydance. Lifetimes of material to learn, soaking in as much as I can…
A couple of events coming up, mostly of the flapper variety! Including a workshop at Dragonfly studio in July. I’m pretty excited to bring charleston to even more bellydancers…check the Upcoming Shows section for details.
And last but not least, the annual Great Gatsby Garden Party at the Spadina Museum, is less than two weeks away. This event has gained in popularity each summer and this year its exploded. The people demanded advance tickets and after an initial online scramble for the pocket-friendly admission fee, the event is SOLD OUT. In response, there will be another Gatsby themed event, guerilla styles, for those who didn’t get a ticket but still want to get down with a 20’s garden jam.
As summer solstice approaches Toronto is in full summertime mode. The city is vibrant this time of year, see you around town.
Although I intended to post each day from Cues & Tattoos, the days were super full, not so much downtime at all. And now its my last night here, and I left the air bnb we stayed in and moved along to City Hostel in Belltown. Laura and I went to the Highline Pub, as tradition dictates, and ate vegan pubfare (luckily there was a very special night called VHS Uber Alles and we watched terrible 1980’s infomercials and a budget horror movie). Laura left for the airport and as I stay another night, ruminating on all the new movements and combos. I’m sure a few new neural pathways were forged in the past five days.
This (!) was my schedule from Wed to Sun
Zoe Jakes Tribal Fusion Intensive – Framework for a Beautiful Spine (Wed & Thurs)
Zoe Jakes – Fleet Foxes: Strange Layers and Sleek Extension
Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman of Fat Chance Bellydance – Trick to Turns and Spins. (Here’s some video)
Between the workshops, the Serpents Muse stage, the instructors showcase, the afterparty, the vending area and sleep, the days flew by. I meant to take more pics but here’s what I’ve got so far between what I took and what I’ve found on the festival facebook page.
I have left the festival with a lot of new material to explore, its always such a whirlwind of information and tonight I will spend some time organizing the material so I can go over it on the trip home. I’m already looking forward to next year and Serpentina North plans to apply to perform at the Serpents Muse stage –it was nice to be remembered from our performance last year! So bellydancer friends, who’s in for the Toronto contingent next year?
Here we are in sunny Seattle for Cues and Tattoos 2015. That’s right, I said sunny. It was a balmy 19 degrees here today and Laura and I practically skipped along the hilly streets, giddy at the sight of every piece of greenery. Its our 4th year at Cues and Tattoos, and this year we came a couple days earlier for the Zoe Jakes intensive, which we just finished today.
Two half day sessions of ‘Framework for a Beautiful Spine’, gave us an intro to Zoe Jakes format, the foundation of what makes her style of movement distinct and unique. I had only every taken a workshop with Zoe once, in San Francisco in 2009 or 10. At that time I did not have enough tribal fusion repertoire to really get into it, but spent most of my time contorting my body into new positions and stumbling over my own feet…but had a blast in the process. Fast forward to this intensive: I enjoyed the challenges, understood the language and was able to move through it with a degree of confidence and engagement that I left with an understanding both that my body can do cool things and I need to focus on strengthening other areas of my body for new patterning.
Before class today we sat outside in the Seattle Centre, around this big metallic water fountain that plays downtempo beats and funk. Why don’t we have something like this in Toronto? There were people and dogs everywhere, sun beaming down as we savoured the feel of the grass beneath us.
We did some pretty intense arm work, layering hip shimmies and omis over diagnonal walking patterns, cross turns and pivoting turns. We did hand and arm conditioning, psoas stretches, cobra arms and Balinese hands. By the end of today we all learned the combo and drilled the hell out of it. My takehome from this: I need to practice omi’s my ‘wrong’ (left) way…once I start moving with them on my weaker side, it all goes to shit. Also to continue to explore that little place between my shoulders that needs to strengthen, have more shoulder mobility and arm fluidity. And last but not least, travelling quickly with a hip shimmy without defaulting to thigh shimmy of 3/4 shimmy.
Tomorrow I have another workshop with Zoe in the morning and some bollywood fusion with Sam Riggs of Portico in the afternoon. Its an early start so its an early night here at our airbnb home-for-now. Wish the rest of Serpentina North Ensemble was here with us!
Oh yes March is upon us, and summertime can’t get here fast enough –this winter is relentless and merciless. I have had a few shows to focus on here and there throughout the dreariest months. Turns out, this city knows a few things about winter survival: music, movement and celebration are just what we need to pull through.
Jan and Feb have been mostly spent planning and practicing. Being back in class at Om Laila and learning advanced technique has been wonderful. Working on new moves with Serpentina and continuing to build our repertoire alongside the original electronic music of Jim Boz continues to be fun and rewarding.
This day of specialty workshops, on Sat March 14th, is hosted by myself and Orkideh of Serpentina North. I will be bringing back the flapper fusion workshop for those interested in vintage fusion. Many people are intrigued by this fusion and ask me a lot of questions about it…while its not common, there are other people doing it. Not so much here in Toronto but worldwide, yes, its a thing! So here’s a little background on how I got into this unique fusion. Some years back, maybe 2009 or 2010, I was inspired by videos I saw of Rosanna McGuire, a local bellydancer also known as Cleoflaptra (wicked name!) in her flapper fusion persona and was instantly drawn to Unfortunately for me, by the time I found out about her she had moved to San Fransisco. Yet I randomly ran into her in a lineup for a show when I was visiting for SF Mecca Immersion and we discovered many mutual friends and some subcultural connections.
Here she is at Funkabelly in 2010:
When she returned to Toronto, I took some of her workshops and felt serious about this fusion business so began taking the ‘Shake that Sugar Flapper’ classes with Sugar Shakers, to get some charleston and vintage solo jazz under my dance belt. I worked my ass off in those classes, determined to join the Sugar Shakers and that I did. It was different posture, new footwork, and completely unique energy and esthetic from bellydance, but I had already seen the possibilites for fusion…where the two worlds meet. And I was hungry for more.
The flapper stuff in Toronto grew out of the lindy hop community and most of the other women who do vintage jazz and charleston also do lindy hop. Then there was me, always the one who doesn’t quite fit. I tend to come into my interests from places off the beaten path. So a bellydancer walks into a lindy hop jam…
Many of the Sugar Shakers shows were at lindy hop events, where typically there’s a lindy hop dancefloor after the performances. Its super fun — Only thing was I couldn’t…um…partner dance. So I stepped on toes, gave disclaimers when being asked to dance and eventually took some classes. After performing a while with Sugar Shakers, I usually felt a bit silly explaining my lack of lindy hop skills. But what the hell, they were all beginners once, I told myself. And I had fun.
Now that I am venturing into teaching bellydance here and there, I am further exploring my interest in flapper fusion to share with others of the vintage curious or conneseur variety. My upcoming workshop will explore the fusion of flapper and bellydance, with attention to technique as well as fun moves to bust out on a jazz or electroswing dance floor. Toronto has a booming electroswing community and with this a resurgence of fancy footwork from the bygone speakeasy era. And there is so many interesting ways to fuse with bellydance. Thanks Rosanna, to introducing me to this fusion and inspiring me to delve deeper into the crossroads of these dances!
Shaila and I backstage after dancing with Zephyr live at the Free Times cafe in January. Did you know this lovely creature teaches bellydance classes at Om Laila on Saturdays?
House of Shimmy performed at Hip Hip Hooray, Cabaret this past Saturday, and busted out a new number merging improv and choreography. We work dilligently in the shadows, dreaming and scheming. And though are shows are few and far between, when we dance, you remember. Stay tuned for more. (photos by PDV Photography)
In order to understand the dance one must be still. And in order to be still, one must dance. (Rumi)
(Andre M. photography)
My favourite kind of sweat happens on a dance floor. My second favourite kind of sweat is in a dance studio. Working on a choreography or drilling moves and combos in a workshop. Sweat makes you feel like you’re really working on something, taking effort, pushing limits. On the late night dance floor, the experience is often more transcendent, cleansing and desperate. That point in the night where you no longer have a choice… a process has been put in motion and it simply must carry through for reasons not entirely understood by the mind. But the body, yes.
The summer has been eventful, and the nice whether so savoured that I rarely want to sit at the computer long enough to write a post. Sugar Shakers performed at one of our favourite annual gigs: the Spadina Museum’s Great Gatsby Garden Party. We had a super enthusiastic crowd for our Charleston lesson, everyone dressed to the nine as usual.
Toronto was the home to World Pride this past June and I was proud to perform once again with Serpentina at one of the local stages on the Sunday, as part of the annual ‘Bellydancers with Pride’ show. Here are the three of us who performed, donning our new harem pants. On the Thursday of Pride week, Serpentina was also a part of the Dorothy’s Walk west end pride celebration put on by Lakeshore LGBTQ, where we performed as part of a variety show. A few shots of us sweating our bindis off in the blazing hot sun.
Recently I had the pleasure of being part of the audience for the Om Laila Steamy Summer Celebration at May Cafe. . With that special blend of dance, zylls and arabic singing, like only Om Laila does it. Featuring a number of local dancers and live music by Nomadica, the night couldn’t have ended better. A zaar, led by Roula. Oh man it had been a while but when the audience was invited to throw down, I kicked off my shoes and took off my rings (learned that lesson the hard way –so long delicate amber ring!) and got lost in the rhythm, hair shaking like life depended on it. Catharsis.
Updates on my current projects coming really very soon…til then, here are some things about town this weekend. Not all related to shows, just some neat stuff for summer(ish) city living.
Serpentina North Ensemble with live electronic set by Jim Boz and guitar by Justin of Amy’s Arms. This Friday at Neutral!
Brunch at Lipstick & Dynamite. The new go-to place, its kitschy/vintage decor, good people and a new Sat/Sun brunch menu…perfect for a relaxing afternoon after a night on the town. Oh and pinball. Vegan-friendly menu, yes!
With the holiday season and all, I had a bit of a break from rehearsals. I welcomed the rest from choreography and technique, to move into the quiet reflective space that winter brings. Lots of stretching, yoga, meditation –and yes sleeping in. The pleasure of discipline taking a backseat to the discipline of pleasure.
But there’s always time for a show. A few of us Sugar Shakers and guests entertained a crowd of over 600 for New Years Eve at the Seneca Casino events centre in Salamanca New York. It was a Roaring 20’s theme, with an extravagant set-up, including a photo set with an old Ford model-t. The dancers did some swing and Charleston, with everyone in fine form and threads. At the stroke of midnight hundreds of balloons and streamers were released from the ceiling while we danced. It was a late night after the show filled with much silliness and laughter –which I intend to extend into 2013.
My top three dance ‘a-ha’ moments ‘s of 2012:
Sometimes you need rest over rehearsal: you know when you’re busting your ass for a show or to get that one combo straight and its after work and rehearsal on a Wednesday night –and you’re just exhausted. While mind over matter is often called for in a dance discipline, sometimes the matter — that is to say your mortal coil — just needs some goddamn sleep. The body will tell you when you’re not letting it rest and if you don’t listen it will talk louder –I don’t wait til it screams its protest against my go go go inclinations, with twists and spasms.
The importance of posture and alignment:
This year I have learned a lot about my posture, alignment and re-patterning my movement in ways that will enhance my dance as well as prevent injuries. For the first time I have worked with a physiotherapist, who has given my insight into deeply rooted patterns of holding and locomotion and has done myofascial release as well as re-patterning body and breath. On some days the body resists but overall I see more clearly where strengths, weaknesses and compensations lay and my body is relieved of stressful holding patterns. If anyone has an opportunity to go to a physiotherapist, go straight to Nam Do, she is a lovely person and a highly knowledgeable practitioner –guaranteed you will leave each session understanding your body a little better. This focus on fundamental movement patterns has already helped me in my dance goals around increased strength and flexibility and it will be an underlying awareness in all of my movement this year.
The beauty of dance friendships: Recently I’ve been reflecting on my dance friends and appreciating the nature of dance friendships. Usually, you come together through a teacher, studio or workshop and the way paths cross and creative bonds form is really beautiful. The way we move together, hone our skills together, sweat, stumble and strive for our own personal best together. Sometimes we are so focused on ourselves in our journey and meeting our goals that we don’t always think of how lucky we are to dance with others. I can say in the past couple of years I feel tied into a dance community of very talented creative people and I can also say I’ve made some truly good friends through dance. Incredibly genuine, unique and fearless people dedicated to exploration of life through movement. Dancing ATS/ITS with Serpentina North Ensemble has been a particular growing experience as the group improv structure of the dance requires so many levels of communication. A strong bond is the wonderful result and with that synergy comes a particularly magic layer to movement.
Memorable dance moments of 2012:
Sugar Shakers competition at Followlogie in Montreal
Cues & Tattoos in Seattle (going back for more this March!)
Rachel Brice intensive in Toronto and the honour of performing in the gala show with Serpentina North Ensemble
Sugar Shakers road trips/out of town gigs
dancing at Funkabelly uptown, at the gorgeous Capitol Theatre as part of a trio to live music by Nomadica
Favourite radio shows of 2012 (actually of several years in a row):
Yes folks radio is alive and well and has nothing to do with the mindless top 40 drivel. I’m talking community radio like 88.1 FM and 89.5 FM, truly grassroots forms of art and media. Personally my radio at home is always tuned into 89.5 and their programming is amazing, the variety of music, the genre and topic specific shows are a music nerds wet dream. My absolute favourites (music-wise) are:
For more vintage photos of women and their records check this out. Or this.
Now that I have reflected on the year, I am ready to move onto the next. New years resolutions are fine, but cultivating resolve year round can be a more sustainable path to reaching your goals. Here’s a full year of reaching beyond our comfort zones!
We’ve all managed to survive a stressful time of year (ironically still referred to as “the holidays”), bombarded by capitalist pressures (aka. the accumulation of stuff and things). I hope you have kept this in mind throughout: Never let the things you WANT make you forget about the things you HAVE.