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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!

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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.

 

 

 

While the Toronto edition of the Halloween Bazaar of the Bizarre has come and gone, you can catch this unique artisan fair again in Hamilton tomorrow.

Serpentina North Ensemble will be doing two sets over the day and have cooked up some special costumes for the occasion.  Come by our merch booth and say hi! We have some new shirts printed up with our troupe image, designed by Marion Greene. You can check out more of her designs too, she’s also vending at the bazaar.

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Starting tomorrow, I will be teaching weekly at Karma Teachers Toronto. Each Thursday you can catch me there, teaching the evening class at 5:30pm. You can expect hatha and some vinyasa with a focus always on mindfulness, meditation and embodied movement.

All classes at Karma Teachers are by donation (free & PWYC). All of us teaching at Karma Teachers do so in the name of selfless service/karma yoga and we run on donations for those who can afford to donate. No one is turned away for lack of funds.

Come as you are. You don’t need to be flexible, you don’t need to be happy, you don’t need fancy gear. YOU, — in all your complexity, all your life experience — are welcome at Karma Teachers.

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.

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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.

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 WEEKS OF BELLYDANCE for beginners! Sept 7 – Oct 12

Introductory bellydance with Sandy Watters, designed for the absolute beginner. You asked for it west side, and I’m delivering the goods! No dance experience necessary.

Over this six week session, we will cover some fundamental bellydance movements of hips, chest and arms. These foundational movements are used in all styles of bellydance, we’re starting with basics!

Downtown west side location: 360 Dufferin st, Suite 101

Wed evenings Sept 7 – Oct 12
6 weeks $108 + HST
Drop in rate $20 + HST
SAVE per class when you sign up for the entire session!
Payment: cash or etransfer (watters.sandy@gmail.com)

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.