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Summer

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This August heatwave encompasses every movement, makes sure I slow down, insists I drink buckets of water.The summertime vibe is in full effect, this city is live with art and music. Free stuff, waterfront stuff, dance floor stuff, all the stuff…!

Spring and summer have been more about practice than than performance. Lifetimes of stuff to learn and practice.

Reaching back a couple months, I completed the Lavender Intensive at the Darkside

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Thanks Audra!

Studio, a week of intensive study is always an inspiring challenge to body and mind. Not only was the week packed with content, but the feedback from Audra was from throughout the week as well as the testing day, was so detailed and informative, I just can’t recommend this enough for any belly dancer with a particular interest in or practice of tribal fusion for defining and refining technique and musicality. I’m a long way off from having the material from the intensive down but I have a ton of material to work with. These few months later, I am revisiting the course content, as I carve out more space in my life for studio time for solo goals and projects.

 

In June, I attended a day of workshops with the Magyar beauty Katalyn Schafer of Hungary, hosted by Toronto’s own Ya Amar. This woman is a powerhouse, of the most elegant variety.  The choreography she taught us (modern bellydance and some jazz fusion) were truly challenging between the floor work freezes, spins and strong extended legs. I was invigorated by the big movements, taking up a lot of space in every direction…we all agreed she must come back, we want more!

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I am on the tail end of the Bellydance Summer School course offered by Zahira at Dragonfly. A ten week long course on belly dance history, I have looked forward to this each and every week: learning of the Cengis and Kocek, Salome, Badia Masabni, the Golden Age of belly dance to Bal Anat and Reda troupe. So much to take in, tracing this history and  how this art form shimmied its way to North America. What we have learned in this class from Zahira –whose extensive knowledge on the subject is rather mind-blowing, I might add –is fascinating, enriching and essential to those of us studying any style of belly dance. Dancers, keep your fingers crossed that Dragonfly runs this class again one day!

 

 

Our altar

Jimmy 2003-2016

Most of my posts are about dance and movement. Behind all movement and art, there is inspiration. Jimmy the dog was part of my life inspiration. A lesson in unconditional love for the past twelve years –this lesson lasts a lifetime and is ever unfolding. Its been over a month since he passed from this world and up until his very last moment he taught us strength, dedication and equanimity.

On June 10th he left us, and it was a few days before I could bring myself to post something. I  finally did:

Rest in Peace, Jimmy the dog. Twelve years ago we rescued this low rider of a dog and what a journey it’s been with him in our family. He went by many names: Jimmy, Jimbyman, Yimmy, Jimmyjam, Mr Man, Finchyman, Fulek (‘ears’ in Hungarian), Jimmychanga, and later in life Zen Master Wing. He once was the alpha of a 4 dog pack, brother to lady dog Mila(grosa) and always sweet talked us into sharing a little taste of his favourite things (apples, doubles and samosas!). He was a love-bringer and a professional funky mandog.

I started writing this post just after my trip, but April turned to May and so here it is now. Enjoy!

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The first leg of my west coast adventure has come and gone in a beautiful whirlwind. The troupe arrived in Portland and hit some vintage shops, Powell’s bookstore, vegan sundae’s at Maple Parlour, and jewelry-ogling at Robot Piercing. We took a private session with one of our dance mom’s Paulette of Gypsy Caravan, to refine some of the combos we had been working with and learn some new orbits for formation changes. We had a show at the middle eastern restaurant Huda’s, where we danced to live music by a band called Arabesque. An intimate two level venue was packed with people and we barely had room to spin in front of the band. But the music was great and we were well received within the lineup of local dancers.

 

Cues & Tattoos had an excellent lineup of teachers, as  they do every year. I took two workshops with Mardi Love, one zylls-based, a12928118_10156866415065455_3589473420074058839_nnd the other on super slow sinewy movement. This was the second chance I’ve had to take classes with her –the first being a few years back in Montreal. I saw her perform live in San Francisco maybe 7 years ago and I was mes.mer.ized. More so than the usual trance inducing qualities of bellydance, Ms. Love was a dance muse like nothing I’d ever seen. She is a great teacher and a beautiful sunny person to learn from!

 

 

 

 

The other instructor I was really looking forward to and who delivered the goods was Elizabeth Strong –also a performer I saw live in San Fran that same show (she performed in a duet with Mira Betz). Her knowledge, skill, technique, presence is a lot of what I work toward in my dance and I had waited a long time to learn something directly from her. I did her Upper Egypt Survey workshop, and we learned a short choreography that 12998525_10156866414995455_2926868386425572998_ncombined moves from various regional dances and technique from her teacher Katarina Burda (who Zoe Jakes also learned from and acknowledged in her workshop). Using finger cymbals as the percussive instruments they are in this choreography was so much fun. As I later told my troupe mates, that workshop was one of two over the weekend that made me sweat through to my underwear –something I of course welcome in a workshop. I mean I came to work hard, right?

The other sweat session happened during the last workshop of the weekend. After drilling, performing, walking all the places for days, I attended Zoe Jakes ‘Balkan Party.’ And that it was! Three hours of learning and running a short Balkan choreography on carpet and without mirrors. The upbeat energy of the music and choreo kept us moving and we ended with a nice cool down and a talk on knowing your dance lineage.

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Happily tired & sweaty, some troupe mates and I with Zoe Jakes

 

 

 

 

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After our performance at the Serpents Muse, see VIDEO section for footage.

The whole troupe went to the Luciterra workshop where we learned some of their unique signature combos. I had previously taken a workshop in Toronto with Laura Jane of Luciterra and was super into it and excited to learn more. Their energy, creativity and synergy onstage (at the performer showcase), really took the festival by storm and as I headed to Vancouver from Seattle I was hoping to squeeze in another class. In the end I wasn’t able to, but have some really interesting material to work with!

There are many more stories from this trip, but the last one that has nothing to do with the festival, but  must be told is this: I wanted a photo with the Monorail Man at the entrance of the monorail in Seattle Centre where the festival was held. So I asked Elana to get a photo, like the robot was looming over me, the damsel in distress…So as I’m posing and directing how I want the photo, the robot lets out this super loud terrifying buzz. In flight mode, I leap over the red velvet ropes away from the robot predator. And thanks to Elana’s quick photographic reflexes,  its all  captured. Later I found out the robot buzzes like that –loud –when the next monorail is approaching. No comfort in that knowledge.

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Posed (minus the Faygo spill — must have been juggalos on the loose)

 

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Getting the hell outta dodge.

        

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight, Serpentina North Ensemble will be performing to a live set by JMBZ, and we dance the whole set starting at 10pm. This is part of three days of events for Canadian Music Week. More event info here.

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Then! The long-awaited, much anticipated weekend of workshops with Aziza! I’m excited to finally learn from her and equally as excited to have been asked to dance in the gala show on Saturday night. I will be dancing an original Roula Said choreography, moving into some emotional terrain with Oum Kalthoum. The weekend is hosted by the lovely women of Dragonfly Bellydance, you can find show details and tickets here.

Not long after this beautiful whirlwind of a weekend, I will be in the Darkside studio’s dance program’s Lavender Intensive.

May is promising to keep me on my toes and with the fresh energy of spring, I don’t mind that at all! Keeping this transmission short and sweet, over and out…

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This long weekend has been all about getting grounded and staying limber for what promises to be the trip of the year (the only trip, really), as I prepare to for a brief but full west coast adventure. Each year Serpentina North Ensemble gives the f-u to Toronto’s end of March chill for the lush and balmy-in-comparison land of Seattle for the Cues & Tattoos festival (last years post here).  This will be my 4th year attending, and its special for a few reasons. First and foremost, the whole troupe is coming, which has never happened! All of us will perform on the Serpents Muse stage on the Sunday of the festival and of course take the fabulous workshops available over the weekend. Also, this years festival logo (shown below) was designed by Toronto’s very own artist/designer/illustrator Marion Green,  who also created our troupe logo. She will be joining us for the festival too, look out for the purple hair and bangs and tell her how much you love your hoodie/tank top/festival swag!

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Before Seattle, some of us will hit Portland for a show and we’ll take that opportunity to get a private troupe session with Paulette of Gypsy Caravan. Its been a couple of years since I’ve been to Portland so hoping to fit in Powell’s bookstore, Voodoo Donuts (vegan cock & balls donut, its a real thing) and *fingers crossed* a class at Datura.

From there, its a short bus ride to our hostel in Seattle and we rest up for the weekend ahead. The lineup is killer this year (as every year, really) at the festival. I’ve signed up for workshops with Mardi Love (both of hers, cause any chance I get to study with her is so valuable), Zoe Jakes, Sharon Kihara, Luciterra and Elizabeth Strong –who I saw for the first time on a small stage in San Fransisco in 2009 and am excited to finally learn from this wealth of dance knowledge and skill.

After Seattle, the troupe parts ways and I get on the train to Vancouver, to see more of the west coast and my Karma Teachers family. It will be my first time at the Karma Teachers mothership: the studio that offers all free and by donation yoga classes, and the teachers who trained me last summer in Toronto for my 200 hour yoga teacher training.  I will be celebrating my birthday in Vancouver and I’m excited to spend it staying with dear friends, exploring new vegan eats and yoga yoga yoga…

I’ve had the luxury of some downtime before hitting the road tomorrow and this prompted me to think about self care (taking care of the bod pod, as my dance sister Shaila would say) before and during dance intensives or series of workshops. I’ve been sleeping 7-9 hours a night, skipping out on any late night adventures in favour of preparing the body for this all dance and yoga trip. Plenty of plant-based foods, water, adaptogen herbs (like ashwaganda/withania), good old vitamin D and daily yoga is the recipe that helps me feel optimal for the brain and body capacity required for intensives. And since this lady is an introvert (albeit a very social one), I have had enough alone time these past few days to get grounded before the whirlwind of people. It is super fun traveling with the troupe. We get more hangout time than usual, eat together, dance together, meet new people together.

Stay tuned for posts from the west coast adventure!

 

 

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[Artist unknown]

Moontime, menses, Aunt Flo. Once a month (give or take) all our movements feel different as we bleed. Women with movement/dance/yoga practices often modify our practices during these times, whether we realize it or not.  Depending on each woman’s particular experience –pre, during and post– there are usually movements or stretches that feel so right and others  that just aren’t happening.

Have you ever tried a headstand during moontime? When I do, its like my hips beg to be closer to the earth and most they definitely want to remain right side up. Hip opening movements bring release and relief, but going upside down feels somehow just wrong to me. Sure, I can will my way through most of my usual movements when I’m practicing yoga or dance drills. Yet, if I take the time to tune into the language of the body, before allowing the mind to command it into motion –into what I think ‘should’ happen today –I will hear what it needs to feel rejuvenated, balanced and respected. In yoga we hear that we are not just our bodies, not just our minds. During our periods, we can feel particularly  embodied in our experiences and that is not anything to run from –that body wisdom communicates important things through sensation, vibration, flow, tension and rhythm. Speaking of listening the primal language of the body, bellydance can be so satisfying during moontime! The weight of the hips can be set in motion to stretch  out the lower back. Exploring shapes through space, connecting with the juiciness of slow intentional ryhythmic movement, can transform some of the less pleasant bodily sensations we sometimes associate with menstruation. The spirals, waves and figure eights that create the foundation of bellydance, were designed by and for the female form, after all! And as such, they might even feel and look extra luscious, when the red rivers a flowin’.

imageIn modern times, with renewed interest in menstrual rites and the revisiting concepts and practices like the’ red tent’ (sacred spaces for women during menstruation), there is still a blaring absence of traditions that honour the sacred blood and the wonders of the female body. Rather than seeing our periods as some strange passenger to be endured through our regular routines, we can choose to reframe and reclaim our experiences of menstruation by developing our very own period practice. Might I suggest a theme song…

Our moontime practice could include modifying routines before we bleed, to prepare the body by focusing more on hips and legs, as well as during to address issues that arise throughout the body –whether physical or emotional. Maybe there’s a particular song, asana, mantra or dance move that feels particularly delicious…well, that could lead  be part of the ritual. Sure, you may still need to to bust through rehearsal or class but the power of ritual is strong (The word ‘ritual’ comes from ‘rtu’ which is Sanskrit for menses, in honour of the beauty of this life nourishing blood). When the body is heard and respected rather than repressed and belittled, it might just reciprocate with greater ease of movement, whatever that is for each of us. Try some of this and this for the body and a little of that for the soul.

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Do you modify your dance or yoga practice during moontime? Here is another bloggers perspective on mentruation and yoga. Feel free to post some comments, it’s never really a class topic, you know?

 

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Last weekend I attended the opening in Hamilton for a fabric art piece I had a small part in. Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted is a project created by Heather Bain and Ken Moffat, based on interviews with Arturo Vega (aka the 5th Ramone), the man responsible for the logo art/design behind the legendary band. With their  interest in queer histories and punk subcultures alike, the team set out to document the life of Vega and the idea of a punk rock quilt was born. Seventeen artists contributed a square based on audio and visual interview material and the final product was a patchwork interpretation that showcased a diversity of mostly Toronto-based artists. Several other artists who showed their work along the same theme alongside the quilt.

The Hamilton opening at Hammer City Records followed the Toronto showing at Videofag a few months back where the artists gathered for the first time to see the completed installation. Here’s a video of Heather and Ken talking about their project.

 

My square was a collaboration with Jumbo, who developed the concept based on his favourite Ramones tune and incorporated elements of Arturo Vega’s graphic style during that era (arrows, baseball bats, geometric shapes…). After checking out the interview material, some statements jumped out at me and we ended up running with this ‘moment of panic’ theme that kept coming up. I used a gel medium for the print, and some needlework (embroidery) to make up this fabric collage that was made out of symbolism that we either pulled from the interview content or was related to the Ramones. It was cool to see our square incorporated into the final piece and take in the diversity of styles and images that were used.

I had hoped to make it out to see some of the other places along the art crawl strip but it was bitter cold and I was having too much fun in that little back alley record room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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