Rainy day dance drills

Day 16 (earlier this week) was all about small isolations. Sharing dance drills footage is a little intimidating because, well, it just doesn’t look much like dance. But dance drills are a crucial element of well rounded practice and are not as free as dancing. Working with layering upper body movements over ongoing and well timed hip shimmy can make the lips purse and the brows furrow. Maybe a little angry dancer face happening in this clip…

How could you ever talk about dance without also talking about music?! The same day I filmed this little clip, I later on had the pleasure of seeing The Specials at the Danforth Music hall and though we were waaaaay in the back, we found room to dance in the aisles.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Two thousand and (lucky) 13

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Hello 2013, nice to be here.

NYE 2012 Sugar Shakers in Salamanca NY

With the holiday season and all, I had a bit of a break from rehearsals. I welcomed the rest from choreography and technique, to move into the quiet reflective space that winter brings. Lots of stretching, yoga, meditation –and yes sleeping in. The pleasure of discipline taking a backseat to the discipline of pleasure.

But there’s always time for a show. A few of us Sugar Shakers and guests entertained a crowd of over 600 for New Years Eve at the Seneca Casino events centre in Salamanca New York. It was a Roaring 20’s theme, with an extravagant set-up, including a photo set with an old Ford model-t. The dancers did some swing and Charleston, with everyone in fine form and threads. At the stroke of midnight hundreds of balloons and streamers were released from the ceiling while we danced. It was a late night after the show filled with much silliness and laughter –which I intend to extend into 2013.

My top three dance ‘a-ha’ moments ‘s of 2012:

Sometimes you need rest over rehearsal: you know when you’re busting your ass for a show or to get that one combo straight and its after work and rehearsal on a Wednesday night –and you’re just exhausted. While mind over matter is often called for in a dance discipline, sometimes the matter — that is to say your mortal coil — just needs some goddamn sleep. The body will tell you when you’re not letting it rest and if you don’t listen it will talk louder –I don’t wait til it screams its protest against my go go go inclinations, with twists and spasms.

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The importance of posture and alignment:

This year I have learned a lot about my posture, alignment and re-patterning my movement in ways that will enhance my dance as well as prevent injuries. For the first time I have worked with a physiotherapist, who has given my insight into deeply rooted patterns of holding and locomotion and has done myofascial release as well as re-patterning body and breath. On some days the body resists but overall I see more clearly where strengths, weaknesses and compensations lay and my body is relieved of stressful holding patterns. If anyone has an opportunity to go to a physiotherapist, go straight to Nam Do, she is a lovely person and a highly knowledgeable practitioner –guaranteed you will leave each session understanding your body a little better. This focus on fundamental movement patterns has already helped me in my dance goals around increased strength and flexibility and it will be an underlying awareness in all of my movement this year.

The beauty of dance friendships: Recently I’ve been reflecting on my dance friends and appreciating the nature of dance friendships. Usually, you come together through a teacher, studio or workshop and  the way paths cross and creative bonds form is really beautiful. The way we move together, hone our skills together, sweat, stumble and strive for our own personal best together. Sometimes we are so focused on ourselves in our journey and meeting our goals that we don’t always think of how lucky we are to dance with others. I can say in the past couple of years I feel tied into a dance community of very talented creative people and I can also say I’ve made some truly good friends through dance. Incredibly genuine, unique and fearless people dedicated to exploration of life through movement. Dancing ATS/ITS with Serpentina North Ensemble has been a particular growing experience as the group improv structure of the dance requires so many levels of communication. A strong bond is the wonderful result and with that synergy comes a particularly magic layer to movement.

Memorable dance moments of 2012:

  • Sugar Shakers competition at Followlogie in Montreal
  • Cues & Tattoos in Seattle (going back for more this March!)
  • Rachel Brice intensive in Toronto and the honour of performing in the gala show with Serpentina North Ensemble
  • Sugar Shakers road trips/out of town gigs
  • dancing at Funkabelly uptown, at the gorgeous Capitol Theatre as part of a trio to live music by Nomadica

Favourite radio shows of 2012 (actually of several years in a row):

tumblr_lm6xcrVy6a1qite7lo1_1280Yes folks radio is alive and well and has nothing to do with the mindless top 40 drivel. I’m talking community radio like 88.1 FM and 89.5 FM, truly grassroots forms of art and media. Personally my radio at home is always tuned into 89.5 and their programming is amazing, the variety of music, the genre and topic specific shows are a music nerds wet dream. My absolute favourites (music-wise) are:

The Minx sessions

Resistance on the Sound Dial

Higher Grounds

No Man’s Land

Global Rhythms

Funky Fridays

Amalgamation in Sound

For more vintage photos of women and their records check this out. Or this.

Now that I have reflected on the year, I am ready to move onto the next. New years resolutions are fine, but cultivating resolve year round can be a more sustainable path to reaching your goals. Here’s a full year of reaching beyond our comfort zones!

We’ve all managed to survive a stressful time of year (ironically still referred to as “the holidays”), bombarded by capitalist pressures (aka. the accumulation of stuff and things). I hope you have kept this in mind throughout: Never let the things you WANT make you forget about the things you HAVE.

Love and light.

Sandy