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

 

 

 

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!

108 Days of Dance: Insights from the almost halfway point

 

IMG_7796[1]
108 Days of Dance

It’s day 47 of 108 Days of Dance, my own personal challenge to dance each day. For a few reasons: general enjoyment of dance and movement aka FUN!, also to up my practice game, to work on technique refinement as well as improvisation. I had intended to document at least once a week on my blog via video, and write my insights along the way. Yet here I am at almost halfway, having done the practice, foregoing the documentation. Begging the new cultural question, if it wasn’t posted online has it really happened?

This challenge for me has been a mostly solitary process, though much of my dancing is just the opposite: for and with other people. Filming oneself practicing is a strange thing. See, I practice to practice (and perform to perform)…I mean, I’m already looking at myself in the mirror which is in and of itself a type of performance. But enter the camera, recording for the purpose of sharing through social media, and another layer of awareness inserts itself into the process. Case in point: yesterday I posted a poorly-shot video of myself doing sun salutations to a favourite community radio show: Groove Concept Radio. Grainy and ill-framed, I wobbled sideways in my transition from downward dog to warrior…immediately my mind wandered to the edit, or maybe I should re-shoot that sequence? Instead, I left it as is. Yoga as any other form of dance/movement is imperfect, as we struggle through visceral experiences of this mortal coil (aka the meat suit) and the fluctuations of the mind. Not to mention the emotions that arise through movement, for better and worse!

So all of this is to say that I mostly prefer to be alone for my movement practice(s). Or at least with others who are focused internally yet also fully entrained in our collective experience (aka dance class).

In conclusion friends, I have in fact been dancing each and every day for this 108 Days of Dance. A few insights have been around the power of solitary practice, like the solitude of most creativity and innovation (at least the root of a new idea or creation, even if later collaborative, happens for most people in a solitary moment). During this time I have added a new class at Dragonfly to my schedule, tofu-ing (no beefing for this vegan!) up my home practice (mostly tribal fusion and cabaret styles) and weekly troupe rehearsals (shout out to my Serpentinis!). I guess what I’ve realized so far is that its not too far a stretch from my regular practice to dance each and every day. Though, it has created a new level of discipline, with the goal of maintaining a daily practice with this challenge, as I did with yoga in the wake of my teacher training a couple of years ago.

How about YOU? Do you prefer to practice movement alone or with others? How is it helpful (or not) to post your practice on social media?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainy day dance drills

Day 16 (earlier this week) was all about small isolations. Sharing dance drills footage is a little intimidating because, well, it just doesn’t look much like dance. But dance drills are a crucial element of well rounded practice and are not as free as dancing. Working with layering upper body movements over ongoing and well timed hip shimmy can make the lips purse and the brows furrow. Maybe a little angry dancer face happening in this clip…

How could you ever talk about dance without also talking about music?! The same day I filmed this little clip, I later on had the pleasure of seeing The Specials at the Danforth Music hall and though we were waaaaay in the back, we found room to dance in the aisles.

 

 

 

 

108 Days of Dance

IMG_5921On this lucky 13th day of 108 Days of Dance, I’ve decided to share my personal practice challenge with you all: to make dance a daily practice for 108 days, with the intention of upping my dance game.

My experience of 108 days of yoga after completing my 200- hour yoga teacher training in 2015, was such a profound experience that I am giving it a whirl with dance!

Dance has been an important and regular part of my life for many years now, and often longer term practice needs a boost, whether its a new class, a new teacher, a new challenge of sorts. I’ve decided my new challenge is 108 days of dance –so yes, dance every single day! Ideally, as with the yoga challenge, it is to be at least an hour per day. But more important than the time is the consistency, and as with any physical practice there is an adjustment period.

The first week was fine, fueled by the excitement of the challenge and opting to keep it to myself in the beginning. The second week was a little less pleasant in my body as its also the week I returned to commuting by bike. From a winter of walking and transit, I began two hours of cycling per day, in addition to the usual yoga and now the daily dose of dance. Counting toward this daily practice of course are the regular classes, troupe rehearsals, performances and nights out on the dance floor. I hope to change the timing of some of my practice as well to be able to do more yoga and/or dance in the morning before work. As a not-so-morning person, this may prove the most difficult part.

Each day of dance brings a unique focus and challenge: lastnight’s practice was specific to arm and hand isolations, with a soundtrack of Bach, while today was all about tribal fusion drills including chest figure eights over hip locks and traveling hip work. Other times I freestyle to classical Arabic music, ragtime, downtempo world electronic music, broken beat, vintage reggae or classic house.

Stay tuned for more updates on my 108 Days of Dance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cues and Tattoos 2017

 

logo_2017Another great trip to Seattle for Cues and Tattoos has come and gone! This was my 5th year attending Cues and Tattoos in Seattle. And the event celebrated their 10 year anniversary. Ten years of providing a well curated lineup of instructors on improvisational fusion bellydance! Serpentina North Ensemble has performed three times at the Serpent’s Muse stage –this year an homage to Prince with our improv number to Raspberry Beret! This was the year of the intensive: Zoe Jakes, Amy Sigil and Caroleena Nerricio-Bohlman all had two day intensives before the weekend of workshops. I arrived on Thursday for the workshops starting on the Friday and as usual the weekend was a wonderful whirlwind of dance.

 

For the second year in a row, all of Serpentina North Ensemble attended and between us all, we have a whole lot of new material to work into our improv sets. This was my itinerary:

Rachel Brice – ‘Shake it up and break it down’

Zoe Jakes – ‘The Divine Muse’

Moria Chappell – ‘Odissi Fusion’

Ashley Lopez – ‘Oddity: Unconventional time signatures and an odd choreography’

Donna Mejia – ‘Core-ography’

Mardi Love – ‘New Choreography’

Over three days I got to study with some of the dancers I greatly admire: Mardi Love, Donna Mejia, Ashley Lopez, Rachel Brice, Moria Chappell and Zoe Jakes. Rachel is a generous and grounded teachers and I enjoyed working on a bunch of different shimmies and putting them into combos. Zoe led us through some basics of Odissi and Balinese dance. Moria taught an Odissi fusion choreography and lectured on some of the origins of Odissi dance before and after it was codified into a national dance of India. Ashley led us through a fast moving choreography with a 13 count time signature that was a lot of fun, rolling, jumping and partner interaction. Donna schooled us in anatomy, core strength, breath and creating longevity in a dance/movement practice.

The last , but certainly not least, workshop of the weekend was the three hour Mardi Love choreography to a sweet little vintage jazz song. Mardi is cream of the crop in terms of tribal fusion dance aesthetic, and continues to be humble in her influence on the art form. Since seeing her dance live in San Francisco in 2009, she remains one of my most significant dance role models. I’m pretty sure I smiled through the entire workshop, despite my end-of-weekend fatigue and missing a few of the quick time isolations in the number.

The troupe got a chance to visit the Bruce Lee exhibit at the Wing Museum. Below was the only photo op.

IMG_6058
Recreation of the hall of mirrors in Enter the Dragon.

The Seattle weather was perfect, especially leaving the Toronto snowfall (though short-lived) behind. Parting ways after Cues and Tattoos, I made my way to San Francisco for a few days, where the temperature was higher.

IMG_6572
Post-class with Jill Parker

 

 

Though it was a non-dance trip, I managed to squeeze in a conditioning class with the one and only Jill Parker at ODC studios after a long day of hiking the Muir Woods.

Til we meet again west coast, its always a pleasure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Sunday! House of Shimmy returns to Bazaar of the Bizarre

House of Shimmy is coming back to the Bazaar of the Bizarre once again –this time for the circus side show edition. This Sunday, don’t miss it! There is no other artisan fair quite like it!

17757372_1419588671392764_2873572846224110770_n

From the event fb page:

Listen up and come and see this marvel!

Toronto-based House of Shimmy has a flare for animating spaces and stages with their unique flavour of fusion bellydance. Bound by no genre, House of Shimmy has cooked up some circusy weirdness for this Sunday! Performing at 2pm and 5pm

house-of-shimmy-dec-2016

The universal shimmy

Shimmies seem to be universal, a movement that spans across time and space to express music. I recently taught a bellydance workshop to a women’s group at a local community agency and once we moved into shimmy territory, a few women stepped into the circle to show off their shimmies…women from Uganda, from Somalia, from Ghana. As I left the workshop reflecting on the experience, I pondered the humble shimmy.

 shimmy – to move or shake your body from side to side: to vibrate or move very quickly from side to side (Miriam-Webster Dictionary)

In belly dance we practice many a shimmy, adopted and often adapted from various regional dances throughout Africa.  Whether shimmying the legs, hips, chest, shoulders or head, its a super relatable move. Even if people are all like, “I can’t dance”, once a shimmy enters the room, everyone is at least tempted to join in. Maybe even in jest they attempt a shimmy and find the naturalness of the movement. Shaking, it seems , is an innate human response to music.

It appears the ‘shimmy’ as a name for a dance move was first used in 1919 to describe a shaking type dance from the jazz era of the 1920’s. Like many dances from that era, the puritans that advocated prohibition had nothing good to say about such free and natural movements in public. In fact the shimmy was prohibited in many establishments in those days –a sentiment not unrelated to discourse of racialized bodies.

053f7055aba9851e1845db91b081ca9e
Diana Ross, 1979

Though the term was coined in the jazz clubs of America, with roots in black culture(s) , the movement it refers to is something that pours out of the body and is seen cross culturally in social dancing, ritualistic dancing (ie: a trance inducing repetitive movement), and internal arts such as tai chi and qigong. Shaking is even being used as a therapeutic tool as science begins to get a better grasp on what disrupts and regulates our nervous systems. Yes, it turns out that shaking is as natural as breathing and we are beginning to uncover its physiological functions in humans!

 

David Berceli pioneered the science around this after working with people in refugee camps in various places around the world affected by war. Researching the role of shaking in animals post fight or flight and the part this plays in the discharge the hormones involved in the fear response, revealed some new terrain for helping people work through traumatic experiences. There are ancient martial arts practices such as Waidangong and Qigong’s ‘Shaking the Tree,’ both of which facilitate shaking for health and vitality.  Of course, there is more to it than simply shimmying your troubles away, but there is a growing body of evidence around the therapeutic value of shaking. No wonder it feels so great!

When I am feeling stuck either physically, mentally or emotionally, I shimmy. True story. The times that a flow of practice isn’t coming –either in dance or yoga–, or I am feeling maybe like I’m gripping somewhere in my body or can’t see past my ego or anger in situation, the most common tools I use to break through stagnation, are breath and shaking/bouncing (the shaking  part usually needs to be somewhere solitary though!). And they are available to you too! No need to take my word for it, just try and see what happens in your body and the mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yawning on Purpose –and other adventures in movement.

cleanpandiculate.jpg

My word of the month: pandiculation. Do you know what it means? Its a truly delicious way to move. You’ve seen dogs and cats do it when they wake up and we do it too, often  unconsciously as we arise. Its the most natural movement and to bring it consciously and overtly into the start of a movement practice can really contribute to an ease of movement for anything that follows.

In my training over the years with Roula Said we have done a lot of intentional yawning as a way to release tension in the face and jaw before and during our movement. So learning this word, as it were in a Tensegrity workshop with Trudy Austin, who was a recent guest teacher at Karma Teachers Toronto, peaked my interest even more in bringing this element to my yoga and dance practice. When we pandiculate, the brain and therefore the muscles reacts differently than in a static stretch, allowing more length with less effort. Lucky for Toronto, Trudy will be back in the spring with a Tensegrity series teacher training!

troupe-in-frame-at-steampunk-naigara-2016

Serpentina North Ensemble enjoyed a flurry of shows this past fall, including the Grand Canadian Steampunk Exhibition and some Halloween shows. With no performances booked until the new year, we have some time to work on new combos in the studio, re-visiting some stuff we learned at Cues & Tattoos last spring to incorporate into our group improv.

 

A private corporate event I performed through Om Laila brought the opportunity to dance shamadan. We followed an incredible group of Chinese dragon dancers  and we had quite a spectacle of a procession ourselves with drumming by Roula Said, dancers with sword, isis wings and of course the shamadan. It was a truly fun gig! Some other Halloween party and gig photos…favourite costume has to be Shaila’s DIY jellyfish, love it!

As 2016 comes toward its end, I am re-visiting some of the movement experiences I’ve had over the past year and thinking of ways I have –and have yet to– integrate the material that spoke to me. For the things that did not come to fruition, its a good time to re-evaluate if they still belong on the ‘to do’ for 2017 or if just no longer fits.

I would be remiss not to mention the music world recently lost a serious light with the passing of Sharon Jones. Even with her killer voice, this woman was told by the music labels initially that she was too old, too fat and too black. Imagine she had believed them, oh my goddess! The world may not have heard that timeless voice! Luckily she didn’t take that shit and started her own label. I saw her perform with the Dap Kings maybe 15 years ago at Lula Lounge and my partner got to get up on stage to dance with her (she was known to pull people out of the crowd). It was a truly special night of live music that went down in history as one of our favourite dates! I regret to say I haven’t seen her perform since but have continued to listen to and treasure the music she put out into the world. Rest in peace, Miss Sharon Jones.

 

 

 

Equinox

 

equinoxThe energy of equinox infuses everything right now. Dance, life, work. It’s all intense. Losing myself in the process is a beautiful thing. When the ego/identity dissolves in favour of a creative process, that’s when I know I’m in the flow, as they say. By the way, creativity isn’t limited to dance, its in every interaction with others, every message we tell ourselves and every way we learn to survive an adapt in a tumultuous world. What good is grace in dance if you lose your shit the minute things go awry in your personal life. What good is rhythm in a choreography if you don’t move with the rhythms of life each day, through the years?

I used to really struggle to dance on days I didn’t feel energetic and motivated, but for the past few years, the beauty of dance discipline has shown itself to me. In the same way I don’t need to be happy to meditate or motivated to do yoga. When you get out of your own way, the process happens. Cultivating a sense of discipline, repetition, acceptance and equanimity can help this process along.

The fall session has begun for the super beginner Intro to Bellydance classes, every Wednesday night. Summoning all the newbies, to come out and learn some fundamental movements that can be applied to all styles and on the dancefloor! Absolutely no dance experience necessary, this is for all of you who come out to shows or see videos and wonder if your hips can ever move like that. Yes, they can! I’ll show you how! Drop-ins welcome and all genders welcome in my classes.

In Serpentina news, we have a busy fall season coming up, and tomorrow we make the drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake for the Grand Canadian Steampunk Exposition. This is our troupes second year performing and we look forward to this unique event.

postcard-front

Serpentina North Ensemble welcomes some new dancers to Snakebite, our new student troupe. We look forward to working with these dancers on growing the improvisational tribal style bellydance community here in Toronto. Orkideh of Serpentina North Ensemble will be teaching a workshop Oct 1st in Scarborough. Hey East-enders, you asked for it and  that green haired dame heard the call.

octworkshop_socialcard

There’s more, this is a hard working crew! Troupe member Kelly has recently become the first certified teacher of Tribal Grooves –a fitness program developed by Paulette of Gypsy Caravan, that is based on the group improv bellydance.  For people who want to experience the moves but don’t want to worry about sequences or choreography. Stay tuned for some upcoming classes.

On our YouTube channel is a new series of videos on tribal bellydance…here’s the first: What is Tribal Bellydance?