Once again the highly anticipated, impeccably-curated Bazaar of the Bizarre runs this long weekend, on Sunday in the Parkdale area. Serpentina North Ensemble will be providing some dancing entertainment for bazaar-goers. We always enjoy performing at this event, animating the space alongside stilt-walkers, DJ’s and an array of ultra creative and skilled artisans from in and around Toronto. Have you seen the vendor list yet? You can follow the bazaar on Instagram and facebook to prepare your wallet for all the amazing things you’ll want to buy!
I’ve used my fair share of glitter. I’ve glittered and over glittered for holiday parties, 90’s late night rave adventures, (after all, it had to last til the break of dawn at least), pride, concerts and in more recent years as an essential part of many dance performances. As a bellydancer, glitter is just part of the preparation –a sort of show girl must, if you will. After all, who doesn’t like to sparkle? Show folk of every gender joke about finding glitter days after shows often wedged into crevices they hadn’t intended. With December upon us, many people use glittered items as part of their festive decor. And kids love glitter, that added element of dazzle on any kindergarten craft project. I mean there’s scientific research on the evolutionary underpinnings to our love of sparkly things.
Who doesn’t like glitter, you ask? Well for one, the ocean and all of the life in its watery depths. Also the birds who starve to death because their stomachs are filled with teeny plastic particles like glitter. Glitter is made up of particles so tiny that, like microbeads (ban in Canada set to take effect mid 2018), in many cosmetic and body products, they pass through water systems into the digestive systems of plankton and up through the food chain as well as deeper into the ocean. This short National Geographic Video breaks down how this happens:
As someone who strives to live by her politics, these facts are unnerving to say the least. I don’t use feathers or fur in my costuming (or daily life) and am now choosing to switch to non-synthetic glitter aka ‘bio-glitter’. While the science is not yet clear on how much of the plastics showing up in the digestive systems of marine life can be attributed to glitter, I anticipate more specific research come, as the discussion has now been open about a ban vs. pressure to change industry standards (Lush Ltd has made a statement on their changes in glitter products)
As a long time vegan, its not just about products containing animals that sits at the heart of the vegan ethic –but a dedication to uphold the value of all life. Over two decades ago I opted out of participating in the system of factory farming as well as fast fashion of the consumer machine. There is no point of ‘arriving’ in this ethic, only a continuous curiosity, learning and adjusting of habits and lifestyle that promotes dignity not destruction of living beings and our natural world.
Performers take people into another world of their choosing –often filled with fantasy, illusion and mystique. I obviously love all of these aspects of performance. And glitter adds to the otherworldly beauty of a performance –or just a night out. Still, we have to live with ourselves, we have to be able to sleep at night. Once you know the ‘underbelly’ of something as whimsical as glitter, it just can’t be business as usual.
Stay tuned for glitter that everyone can live with, coming up in the new year through House of Shimmy.
Share your thoughts and continue the conversation in the comments area!
It’s day 47 of 108 Days of Dance, my own personal challenge to dance each day. For a few reasons: general enjoyment of dance and movement aka FUN!, also to up my practice game, to work on technique refinement as well as improvisation. I had intended to document at least once a week on my blog via video, and write my insights along the way. Yet here I am at almost halfway, having done the practice, foregoing the documentation. Begging the new cultural question, if it wasn’t posted online has it really happened?
This challenge for me has been a mostly solitary process, though much of my dancing is just the opposite: for and with other people. Filming oneself practicing is a strange thing. See, I practice to practice (and perform to perform)…I mean, I’m already looking at myself in the mirror which is in and of itself a type of performance. But enter the camera, recording for the purpose of sharing through social media, and another layer of awareness inserts itself into the process. Case in point: yesterday I posted a poorly-shot video of myself doing sun salutations to a favourite community radio show: Groove Concept Radio. Grainy and ill-framed, I wobbled sideways in my transition from downward dog to warrior…immediately my mind wandered to the edit, or maybe I should re-shoot that sequence? Instead, I left it as is. Yoga as any other form of dance/movement is imperfect, as we struggle through visceral experiences of this mortal coil (aka the meat suit) and the fluctuations of the mind. Not to mention the emotions that arise through movement, for better and worse!
So all of this is to say that I mostly prefer to be alone for my movement practice(s). Or at least with others who are focused internally yet also fully entrained in our collective experience (aka dance class).
In conclusion friends, I have in fact been dancing each and every day for this 108 Days of Dance. A few insights have been around the power of solitary practice, like the solitude of most creativity and innovation (at least the root of a new idea or creation, even if later collaborative, happens for most people in a solitary moment). During this time I have added a new class at Dragonfly to my schedule, tofu-ing (no beefing for this vegan!) up my home practice (mostly tribal fusion and cabaret styles) and weekly troupe rehearsals (shout out to my Serpentinis!). I guess what I’ve realized so far is that its not too far a stretch from my regular practice to dance each and every day. Though, it has created a new level of discipline, with the goal of maintaining a daily practice with this challenge, as I did with yoga in the wake of my teacher training a couple of years ago.
How about YOU? Do you prefer to practice movement alone or with others? How is it helpful (or not) to post your practice on social media?
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?