Lovely bloodflow: moontime movement

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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?

 

Music and Movement: January’s brew of wellness

imageIts been three months since I posted. Although my intention is to post monthly, sometimes life is too full and the words to capture it get pushed aside –sometimes like these times, life takes longer to percolate into documentation. Ponderings pass through day dreams, face to face conversations and journals, before ever making it out into the world. The darkness of December was filled with gatherings with the people I love. From winter solstice, to Christmas, Yule and New Year, the month was made up of the best kind of winter medicine: community. (Photo credit: Ken Dobb)

I don’t confine resolutions to new year but it’s a good time for intention-setting, goals, hopes and reflections. 2015 was a year of new material in movement, integrating elements of yoga, bellydance and overall functional movement.I have yet to digest it all, but certainly a foundation was added upon toward a dream I have of bridging a few different worlds I live in!

Some dance/movement highlights:

  • House of Shimmy – new choreography, new creative direction, some sweet costume pieces and a whole lot more to come! (Photo credit: PDV Photography)

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  • bellydance performance with Adham Shaikh at the Royal Ontario Museum

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  • Dancing to Nomadica live at their annual Yule party
  • teaching some workshops: vintage solo jazz and flapper bellydance fusion
  • Karma Teachers 200 hour certification
  • Daily yoga movement and meditation practice
  • joining a term of Om Laila’s vocal and percussion class

 

These are just some of the many many wonderful human beings I have met through dance over the years and continued to dance with in 2015…

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I am both immensely proud and humbled to have completed the Karma teachers 200 hour vinyasa yoga teacher certification this year (more on that in previous posts). Upon completion, as new graduates we were encouraged to work on 40 days of practice in order to maintain the momentum, and to support our growth as both teacher and practitioner. Setting some milestones for myself, I completed the 40 days of practice and went for more with what I called 40 days: the sequel. With the goal of 108 days of practice, I continued on past the sequel, aiming to complete the 108 before 2016. On December 29th I had my 108th day of practice and received a beautiful custom mala from one of my teachers at Karma Teachers. Below is my post to fellow karma teachers on day 108:

“Day 108 of 108 days of practice! Emerson says go for 1000, then 10 000. Thank you Emerson, Michael and the karma teacher community for the ever unfolding gift of guidance and transmission of lineage. This has been a memorable year in yoga and dance –which is, to say, self-discovery and unconditional love. Namaste”.

Part of me was worried that once I stopped counting, I might stop practicing. I fought the urge to continue counting, after all the point is to integrate a practice into daily living not keep a tally of days. I went through periods of feeling empowered by my new level of discipline, impressed with some improved strength and flexibility to feeling the pang of loneliness in solo contemplation and practice. Delving into mantra, meditation and asana, I felt the ache of sadness inseparable from heart-centered work and even boredom on some days. Uncertainty rears its head, as it inevitably will in any truly soul searching experience. Moving into a deeper devotion to movement, connecting with others through being more connected to myself and giving love and attention to the parts that need to be healed have created fertile ground ready for further cultivation. May 2016 be filled with authentic movement and expression for all of us.

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Spring is fast approaching, stay tuned for upcoming shows and events!

 

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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Curiouser and Curiouser.

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Welcome to the Freak Show.

In April, the Sugar Shakers added some flapper love to the festivities at the Circus Side Show edition of the Bazaar of the Bizarre. Checking out the handmade goods in between our sets, there are so many strange and wonderful makers of things at this bazaar.

In May, I had the pleasure of performing to a DJ set by Adham Shaikh at the Royal Ontario Museum for the Rock the Caravan edition of their regular Friday Night Live events. I wish I would have had time to check out some of the exhibits afterward, but by the time I finished they were herding people away from exhibits. It was a great concept, with international market place food, several floors of live music, drinks and access to some exhibits. My first time dancing with the dinosaurs was a blast and the crowd was atttentive and enthusiastic. I shared the stage with another Toronto-based dancer Ananda Franco, and considering we met only that night, I think we had some good chemistry on stage together. The show was truly a mulit-sensory experience, with live visuals mixed by Jax-a-Muse.

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In the charming coach house Om Laila studio, my studies with Roula continue. This term we have been working on big drama/intention/character with refined moves, intricate travelling hip work with layers of upper body movement. Jack and the bean stock spirals and ovary muscles, for those who speak the language of Roula Said. Digging deep into the foundational architecture of the movements that are bellydance. Lifetimes of material to learn, soaking in as much as I can…

A couple of events coming up, mostly of the flapper variety! Including a workshop at Dragonfly studio in July. I’m pretty excited to bring charleston to even more bellydancers…check the Upcoming Shows section for details.

And last but not least, the annual Great Gatsby Garden Party at the Spadina Museum, is less than two weeks away. This event has gained in popularity each summer and this year its exploded. The people demanded advance tickets and after an initial online scramble for the pocket-friendly admission fee, the event is SOLD OUT. In response, there will be another Gatsby themed event, guerilla styles, for those who didn’t get a ticket but still want to get down with a 20’s garden jam.

As summer solstice approaches Toronto is in full summertime mode. The city is vibrant this time of year, see you around town.

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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