For the love of jazz. My current dance crush: Holla Jazz!

Sometimes dancers catch your attention in ways you can’t quite explain. I mean there are  a lot of great dancers out there and we have access online to take in a lot of amazing movement art and of course being in Toronto also means tons of live shows and events to witness it in person. But there’s something about this crew…

 

Lately I’ve been rather infatuated with Holla Jazz, a local group of dancers that are indexskilled in a variety of genres but gather in this group to showcase vernacular jazz. With social media being a way artists can connect with audiences and fans, I came across their page on facebook and my interest in solo jazz was re-ignited. I haven’t done a ton of solo jazz since my time in the flapper troupe Sugar Shakers but it holds a special place in my heart –and feet!

In March I attended a vernacular jazz workshop with Natasha Powell, the founding artistic director of Holla Jazz and had a really amazing time. She taught the group of eager movers some fun combos,  with focus on bringing our own flavour to the movements. After all, we’re talking social dance here –there is so much room for playfulness and to bring your own mood and authenticity to the dance.

Lucky for Toronto, Holla Jazz has a full length production Floor’d coming up later this month! I’ve had it in my calendar for a minute and then in early April, I won tickets to the show through Turnout Radio on 89.5 (if you haven’t tuned into this dance show on our last remaining community radio station, you should!). I was so excited when I called into the station to find out I’d won — and the day before my birthday, so it felt extra special…

I’m super looking forward to the show, here is the choreographers statement for more info. Whatever genre of dance you’re into, this show is one not to miss, it runs April 25-28th. See you there!

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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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