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.
Another 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The 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.
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.
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?
Its 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)
bellydance performance with Adham Shaikh at the Royal Ontario Museum
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…
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.
Spring is fast approaching, stay tuned for upcoming shows and events!
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 makes 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.
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!