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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fierce as Equinox

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imageI don’t have many pictures from what had been one of the most significant months of my life in recent times. The significance will no doubt continue to unfold beyond the current meaning it holds for me. The few pictures I have gathered from others, mean a whole lot to me. At the end of August, I graduated from the 200 hour yoga teacher training with Karma Teachers. We worked hard physically and emotionally together, under the guidance of two beautiful and skilled teachers. But the end of that month is just the beginning of a new chapter, that begins with planning ways to integrate this training into all aspects of my life. I have a few ideas: first and foremost, my own personal practice went through a major growth spurt this summer. Each day began with 20-30 mins of meditation and about a two hour asana practice. Currently I practice an hour of asana a day, as well as meditation (sitting, chanting, walking, mindfulness, etc.). I had been practicing solo for so many years and starting to practice with others was really quite powerful. It propelled me into discomfort zones both emotionally and physically, and I have come to know this group that ventured on this journey of self-discovery together, as my karma family.

Second, I am currently offering free and by donation yoga classes on request. It can be at a park, a community centre, a livingroom…I dont have a space but I will teach anyone who wants to practice. ESPECIALLY if you think you can’t, we will modify and show you that anyone can practice yoga.

Third, this experience will only enrich my dance, it cant be any other way. When somoene knows how to move with grace, intention and precision, this shows in dance and I strive for this in my movement. I love pushing the bodies limits incrementally and seeing where that leads. Daily consistent practice does amazing things.

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Once September arrived, I was back in action with the troupe, and we had some super fun shows lined up for FanExpo in Rue Morgue’s horror section, the Toronto Veg Food Fair and the Grand Canadian Steampunk Exhibition.  See more pics and follow the adventures of the Serpentina North Ensemble on our instagram page.

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Day 5 and still we dance at Cues & Tattoos. Til next time, Seattle!

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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?

Blogging from Cues & Tattoos 2015

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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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A Taste of [vegan] Honey…

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.