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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

Sam Riggs – Portico Style Bollywood Fusion

Rachel Brice – Datura Vocabulary (Stellar Alchemy, intermediate)

Carouselle - Juice Joint Improv

Rachel Brice – How to be a Zillionaire

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.

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Zoe Jakes intensive

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Space needle through the trees at sunset? Or giant sky bunny staring down sky mushroom? You decide.

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Zoe Jakes workshop

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My new septum jewellery from Aprils Blissed –maker of beautiful things. I’m in love with the geometric pieces!

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I’m happier than I look in this photo, to be around flowers in full bloom.

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?

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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 imagemakes 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.

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Vitamin D party up in here.

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!

Since we last met…

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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.

I have also been preparing for this!

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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?

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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)

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 900 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 15 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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2015 is upon us and I sit in reflection on the past year. A significant part of my year was dance-related. Of course, as with all of our lives there are ups and downs, joy and pain and our dance practice takes place in the context of individual lives in a complicated world. Social media has a way of projecting a simplified and highly curated image, portrayed as an individual’s reality, into online communities, now such a big part of our ‘world.’

I’m not about posting every minute of my existence on social media (though I do enjoy staying connected online). I like to get to know people by asking them questions, by chance conversations and shared face-to-face experiences. That is most definitely how one finds out the details of my life.

That being said, I love writing about dance, almost as much as dancing. Translating a kinesthetic experience into words is fun for me. So if I do this with any level of skill, you will know some intimate details of my dance life through these posts.

2014 brought with it a variety of new dance experiences, most of which I have documented in previous posts. But some highlights:

1. The naming of a subsequently nameless duo with one of my favourite dance sisters and the longest standing collaboration in my dance journey this far. House of Shimmy became our name just before we danced with Random Order for their Black Lipstick Kiss release party at the beginning of 2014.

2. Being a priestess in the Ancient Rumblings production of Inanna at the Mod Club. It was the most elaborate dance project I’ve been involved with so far and was a truly valuable experience.

3. Completing the first ever Om Laila teacher training with Roula Said and beginning a foray into teaching other people bellydance. I did a flapper fusion series, which is close to my heart and I have put so much work into both bellydance AND charleston/vintage jazz over the past few years in order to fuse them, that it was a true labour of love to offer this series through Om Laila. Lesson learned: many people love to watch flapper fusion, few people want to know how to do it :) But those who do, man do they ever love it!

4. Performing with Serpentina North Ensemble at the Cues & Tattoos ATS/ITS weekend in Seattle. After attending the past few years, it was a treat to perfom on the Serpents Muse stage.

5. Dancing to Zephyr live (twice!) at the tail end of 2014. Beautiful live arabic music. I’m hungry for more!

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And in between all the ‘most memorable’ moments there are the day to day joys of dance that keep me going, keep me wanting more. Its incremental improvements, receiving guidance from and offering support to other dancers. Discipline and insecurity and pushing through discomfort. Being compelled to dance whether somoene is watching or not, and most of all its feeling music so intensely that listening just won’t cut it.

On a music tip, 2014 will always be remembered as the year I saw STEVIE WONDER live. Touching down in Toronto, with his Songs in the Key of Life tour, it was a truly once in a lifetime experience.  I will savour the experience of sitting 8 rows away from Stevie Wonder, with my love,  while Stevie performed an epic three hour show to an extraordinarily appreciative audience. Tears were shed, as we sat in awe.

These are the things I hope will continue into 2015, moving experiences big and small, mundane and extraordinary. I hope to keep a healthy body, solid in strength, unwavering in determination and flexible enough to bend, not break under life’s pressures. And music, always music, cause every life deserves a soundtrack. Happy 2015, I hope your soundtrack is as uplifting, melancholy, celebratory and complex as life itself.

Time has slowed down all of a sudden. Imagine that, just in time for December. Just in time for my body to say, “oh yea have a seat on that couch, drink some tea and read a book.”

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In dress rehearsal

The production of Inanna at Mod Club was a wonderful success, even with the surprize snow storm the day of the show. It was quite an experience to be on a stage with so many people: a full band, singer, other dancers and of course Inanna herself, played by Joanne Camilleri. The costumes by local designer Garnet Jones, were fantastic to perform in.

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Inanna: a Bellydance/Rock Spectacle. (me on the left)

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The buzz around the show is that people liked it and those who missed it wish it had run for more than one night. This has been an ongoing project of Ancient Rumblings so stay tuned, this is just the beginning for this production company. Being in the show makes it difficult to percieve how the show went from an audience perspective, so I look forward to viewing the production video.

In October I completed the ATS Modern Skills certification,  with Carolena Nericcio –the grandmother of American Tribal Style bellydance. We learned modern combos that have expanded out of the Fat Chance style of group improvised bellydance. Having studied ATS/ITS the past few years, I was reminded of how much I’ve learned since beginnging to explore tribal fusion and ATS, a few years into my bellydance journey, going to San Francisco to see what this was all about, attending my first SF Mecca Immersion. I did ok in the tribal fusion workshops but oh man did I feel over my head in the group improv stuff. In a workshop led by Carolena, I was one of maybe three dancers completely new to this practice and I stumbled my way through, still so excited to learn from this woman and knowing I didn’t travel all that way to half ass anything.  It was all so new, beginners mind was competely present.

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With the mother of ATS herself and Fat Chance dancer/teacher Mega

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Completion of ATS Modern Skills intensive with Carolena Nericcio!

And now maybe six years later, I have delved deeper into tribal fusion vocabulary, and enjoy exploring my own representation within music and movement. I have and continue to dance with Serpentina North Ensemble, and am engaged in the ATS/ITS community built in Toronto and beyond.

And now that the whirlwind  of autumn is done, a long awaited pause. An exhale in preparation for a new year. A nod to another year come and gone, and visioning what has yet to come in 2015.

 

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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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