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Its been a couple of months at least since my last post. Most of my creative energy has been focused on dancing as one of the priestesses in the upcoming production of Inanna: the Goddess Ascent from the Underworld. This is definitely thee most involved performance I’ve been involved in –other than of course the production of life itself. Since last January I have been learning the choreographies, studying the music and more recently figuring out how to dance in the beautiful custom costumes that are unlike anything I’ve ever performed in. And rehearsals, many hours of rehearsals each week…! But alas Inanna: a Bellydance/Rock Spectacle is only one week away. Get your tickets here. One night only people!

With only Inanna on the mind, I have taken a hiatus from other projects in the past couple of months (Serpentina, Sugar Shakers, House of Shimmy) to be fully engaged with and consumed by this show. I know this music in my sleep, and to the live band and vocals dancing is a pleasure. I’ve become more comfortable with a veil, isis wings, cane and heels during this process and of course learning the melodic, sultry choreographies of Joanne Camilleri has been a new experience for me. Guaranteed you

Everyone is working so hard right now and I’m looking forward to the dress rehearsal where we will get to run the show in the beautifully designed costumes!

MADAME SANDY PREDICTS YOU WILL BE AT MOD CLUB ON WED NOV 19th FOR THE PREMIERE OF           INANNA… SEE *you* THERE!

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My Flapper/Bellydance Fusion classes will be part of the upcoming specialty classes at Om Laila studio! The first class is Saturday Sept 13th at 2pm. More info at  www.omlaila.com.

This Saturday specialty class will feature Flapper/Bellydance Fusion. During this 6 week session, Sandy will share with you her passion for vintage jazz and Charleston and explore ways in which it fuses with bellydance. Marrying boisterous flapper footwork with the sinewy spirals of bellydance to a speakeasy soundtrack of vintage jazz music and electroswing, its a swell way for any sassy jane to spend a Saturday!

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In order to understand the dance one must be still. And in order to be still, one must dance. (Rumi)

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(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.

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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.

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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.

zaar 2014 may cafe

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!

Info here.

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Hip Hip Hooray Cabaret –a new monthly belly dance and world fusion event. First one is this Saturday. Details here.

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Tiki Lani Lanai (tiki gods heavenly patio). Hosted by Toronto Vintage Society. I know you love this kind of kitsch as much as I do!

Details here

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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!

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Being barefoot is good for our health and good for our soul. Barefoot dancing rejuvenates the dancer in a way that dancing with shoes does not. There is a lot of talk these days about the benefits of being barefoot, commonly referred to as ‘earthing’ in a therapeutic context. If you don’t believe me, ask the internet. Even better, just take off your shoes and go for a walk…be your own expert!

Since I last posted, I have completed the first portion of teacher training with Roula Said at Om Laila in her wonderful  little studio that you can only get to through an enchanted little garden in the heart of downtown. Next I’ve moved into the practicum and have started with a small group of students who have so kindly been offering me feedback on my teaching. While I have taught some classes here and there over the years, I have never ventured into the world of teaching ongoing classes and its not specifically a goal of mine to ‘get into’ teaching. But over time more people ask me if I teach –often after a performance or during a conversation about dance –and I would like to develop these skills should opportunities arise. I have a particular interest in the therapeutic effects of dance, and am dreaming up ways to merge movement with some of my other interests in community-based healing work.

Being in teacher training with Roula Said is a special thing, we are the first group she has trained in her Seven Waves style and while all of us will have our own take on it and bring it differently into our practices, all of us are Om Laila devotees and there was no much love and engagement in this process, and though it was a small group, it was an attentive and inspiring one. And the practicum hours continue, as I reach out to groups and people who have stuck in my memory as expressing a love for dance or needing a movement practice of some sort as a way to remember fluidity in this hard world.

In other dance news, Serpentina has a new site and even some swag with the new logo. We have been selling the tank tops out and about, just message me if you want more info on that (various colours and only $15). Last weekend, Serpentina performed at the Lavish Project Gala Show, debuting our new kathak-inspired choreography. Under the guidance of Orkideh, our leader who has been studying kathak for years, we delved into fusions of bellydance and kathak –newer territory for those of us with minimal Indian dance background. The angles and mudras marry so beautifully to ATS, it was a lovely piece to work on with the troupe and as always so much fun to perform at the Darkside Studio.

at lavish project show 2014

Since January, I have been part of the production Inanna, created, directed and choreographed by the beautifully sultry Joanne Camilleri. We rehearse our asses off every Sunday and that is soon to ramp up as we move closer to show time. Stay tuned here for more info, this show promises to be like no other, a sort of modern, psychedelic multi-sensory adventure into the story of Inanna –the Sumerian Goddess of Love. Here are a few shots of the dancers from the past couple of months…a super cool crew to work with that’s for sure.

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Dancing is such a deeply fulfilling and exhausting thing. Pleasure and pain, can’t have one without the other.

 

imagesThe year I was born, A Taste of Honey released this record. Twenty years later, I discovered it in a dusty music shop and sixteen years later it remains a loved part of my vinyl collection. The years keep going and now I am another age, something I never shy away from. How could I with all that the passage of time has allowed me, all of the hours and hours of learning and practicing of movement that only time will allow? And all of the refining and seasoning still to come. Dance and movement training can’t be rushed and rather than looking at time missed, I look forward to the learning, opening, and realizations that fluid movement will bring –not just in a studio, but in life. With people, on the dancefloor at 2am or waiting for a bus. The fluidity of movement is never to be taken for granted or confined only to the studio and stage. I’ve recently returned from Cues & Tattoos in Seattle, an improvisational bellydance (as in ATS and ITS) festival with Serpentina North Ensemble (minus two troupe mates who were greatly missed…next year ladies, next year!). After last year studying with Rachel Brice, Mira Betz and Carolena Nericcio, the expectations were high (see my post about last years festival here). My first workshop was with Amy Sigil of Unmata, a three hour primer on her signature super fast style of ITS. This was my first time learning from Amy and her teaching style is truly impressive, in its clarity, repetition and building on the fundamentals of ITS. Without a basic foundation in ATS, people may have been left tripping over their own feet. Fortunately most people there had ATS if not ITS in their repertoire, allowing us to pick it up with some level of ease. Not only did Amy teach us the fundamentals of her dialect of improv group dance but we were ‘tested’ when put into smaller groups to assume the lead position for all the moves we learned. My personal favourite is her version of the Arabic Twist, which when combined with quarter and half turns makes for a high impact set of moves.

with Donna Mejia 2014Later that afternoon I took another three hour with Donna Mejia, ‘Le Funk Arabi’. I did not know much about Donna and I’m so happy to have learned from her this weekend. As an ethnomusicologist, Donna’s knowledge of music, social issues and cross cultural dialogue informs her fusions in a deep and respectful way. The music in this workshop was all underground arabic hip hop and to this soundtrack we learned some combos infused with house, hip hop and bellydance. Her workshop the next day was a whole other flavour, looking at improvisational dance, not in the ATS sense but as in movement experiences that involve, as Donna put it,  “the deliberate act of using the body over cognition.” Moving only slightly into the realm of contact improv, I can say that I felt the community of the room as more cohesive after this three hour session, due to I think the internal experience of tapping into our bodies and also connecting with others in an unstructured way. I couldn’t help but think, of the experience of a dancefloor in a social setting…mainly the kind of setting I have known a dancefloor to be: hours of music, mixed together into the longest song you can imagine. And all of the dynamics that happen as people move as a group, from intersection, repulsion, divergence, resonance –terms used in improv can also apply to the autonomous zone that is ‘the dancefloor.’  And that’s not even getting into issues of transcendence. I’ll save that for another entry.

I got to work on some floor moves with Ashley Lopez in her “Floortastic” workshop. Lately I’m a super keener on floorwork, knee pads now a part of my bag-o-dance gear as I better understand the mechanics of dancing on your knees and dream up ways to incorporate it into my practice. My last workshop of the weekend was with Calamity Sam, who focused on non-choreographed performance and tips and tricks for addressing common issues that arise when there is no choreography to cling to.

For the first time our ITS group Serpentina North Ensemble performed at the Cues and Tattoos, Serpents Muse. As the guidelines required at least 50% improv, we went with a choreographed entrance and moved into an upbeat improv set. It was awesome to finish our weekend up with a performance and for so many dancers. I think our biggest compliment had to be the woman who approached us just after our show, who said “I don’t bellydance, but watching your troupe made me want to.” While we train and practice and sweat over holding this still while hitting that beat with this part, etc…at the end of the day, if you make someone want to dance, that’s meaningful and deeply satisfying.

 

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On the plane home from Seattle I dreamt of the whole troupe being there next year and other adventures to come this summer. I schemed new things for my own practice and current collaborations. Although I don’t discount the local expertise to learn from and support here in Toronto, traveling for dance always brings its own unique set of insights and experiences. Ever unfolding.

 

 

 

 

 

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Although I told myself this winter would be low key and I would mostly be spent in a nourishing cocoon of books, ideas and ginger tea, 2014 has been filled with new collaborations, focused planning and steady practice. Also trudging through snow, sleet and last week several inches of rain to get to shows. Doing it for the love, if not always for the comfort!

In January, I began rehearsals with Inanna, a production created and directed by Joanne Camilleri. Dancing, film, live music, gorgeous costumes…I’m excited to be a part of this. Stay tuned, promo to come.

Another project House of Shimmy, kicked into high gear in January, with long time dance conspirator and friend Victoria. Although we have been doing shows together in some capacity for several years, we are finally have a name that reflects our love of bellydance, our inspiration from various dance cultures, and willingness to break traditions. House of Shimmy was so pleased to work with Random Order for their Black Lipstick Kiss album release at the Mod Club. (photo credit: Alexandra Gelis)

by Alexandra Gellis

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The end of February kickstarted a whirlwind of rehearsals and shows for Serpentina: Winter Mirage, The 4th Annual Dragonfly Majlis (an ‘East Meets West’ theme included variety of bellydance genres and some cultural/historical talks), and today the much anticipated TedX at York University today.

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Moonlight Mirage Feb 2014

Somehow Serpentina also managed to get to the ‘Kathak for Bellydancers’ workshop last weekend with Joanna DeSouza. All the dancers were hungry for more…her engaging style of transmitting the traditions of kathak with such skill and grace was really a wonderful experience. Rumour has it, there will be a part 2 of this workshop.

In only a few short weeks I will be in Seattle at Cues and Tattoos, until then some ‘downtime’ relatively speaking, of regular rehearsals. May we all keep the spirit nourished through this deep freeze. Perhaps some thoughtful and music for the deep contemplation and hibernation of this arctic vortex. Maybe you will enjoy these selections as much as I do…if not, go find something that makes your ears happy.

Alice Russel covering Cee-Lo’s Crazy

Yuna covering Nirvana’s Come As You Are

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Its pretty cool that wordpress does this annual review where you can see how people find your blog, where they are viewing from, etc. Having been a teen when the “world wide web” came into my livingroom, I’m still really fascinated with the possibilities of such far reaching communication for collaborations, understanding across diversity, political organizing and of course the lifeblood that keeps me from going under…music. And thus, dance. Here’s to using this mass scale communication tool for the benefit of all.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 970 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 16 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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