Invoketress Represents at the Hamilton International Bellydance Competition!

After months of training and choreography work, on September 9, 2017, a quartet of Invoketress dancers – Ishra, Mary, Siyobin, and Alaina – went to The Casbah in Hamilton to compete in the inaugural Hamilton International Bellydance Competition (HIBC), hosted by Eshe, studio owner of Mahasti – the Bellydance Emporium. They competed in the ensemble category and Siyobin and Alaina also competed in solo categories in front of a distinguished judging panel comprising of Anjelica Scannura and Henna. We are pleased to announce that the Invoketress dancers placed in all categories entered among some incredible talent! They are grateful to have had this opportunity to step up their dance training as well as receive valuable feedback from the judges. Following the competition, there was a lovely gala show where the ensemble performed a repeat of their 1st place performance and Ishra danced a solo. The gala show also included some performances from some of the competitors as well as from both judges, the host studio Mahasti, and guest dancers. The vibe of the day was friendly and warm and there was great camaraderie backstage among all of the competitors. Despite being exhausted, the next day, Mary and Siyobin took some incredible workshops held by Henna at the Mahasti studio. Thanks so much to Eshe for putting on this event and congratulations to our winners and to all the other dancers of the HIBC!

Summary of Awards:
Ensemble Category: Invoketress, 1st place
Professional Solo Category: Alaina 2nd place
Fusion Solo Category: Alaina 1st place; Siyobin 3rd place
Judge’s Choice chosen by Anjelica Scannura: Alaina

Here are all of our performances from the event:

Invoketress’1st Place Ensemble Performance:

Alaina’s 1st Place Fusion Solo Performance:

Siyobin’s 3rd Place Fusion Solo Performance:

Alaina’s 2nd Place Professional Solo Performance:

Ishra’s Solo at the Gala Show:

Press Release – Belly Blush Student Showcase 2017

Guelph, Ontario – There’s no such thing as down time for Ishra & Invoketress Dance. Amid a busy performance season, they are hosting their annual “Belly Blush” Student Showcase. This annual event has grown so much over the past few years that they are now offering a matinee show as well as an evening show. Founder and Creative Director Ishra Blanco will be presenting performances from students from 7 levels of classes in traditional Bellydance, Tribal Fusion Bellydance, and Fusion Fit; her daughter Siyobin Blanco will be presenting students from her Youth Bellydance class; and senior troupe dancer and instructor Mary Wyga will be showcasing students in her “InvokeTribe” Improvisational Tribal Style Bellydance class. This year will also be the unveiling of “Divine Eclipse,” a new troupe under the Invoketress umbrella specializing in Tribal Fusion Bellydance.

The Belly Blush will take place on Saturday, June 17th at the Guelph Curling Club (816 Woolwich Street Guelph). The matinee is at 1:00pm and the evening show is at 7:30pm. Matinee show tickets are $10 at the door. Evening show tickets are $15 advanced/$20 at the door. The evening show will also include a silent auction with an array of goods and services donated from our generous community, as well as a cash bar.

For over 10 years, this annual Bellydance recital has been a celebration of the female soul and a tribute to this ancient art form. Bellydance is a dance which takes many different forms dependent on the country and region, often performed at celebrations and social gatherings. Ishra & Invoketress Dance strive to respect and perform traditional styles of Middle Eastern Bellydance while creating innovative choreographies that fuse Bellydance with other dance genres.

Want to learn more about this dance form? Come out on June 17th and enjoy a show of enchantment featuring all of Ishra’s beautiful, blushing students, Ishra, and Invoketress Dance! Prepare to be mesmerized.

Complimentary tickets available for all media. Please contact Ishra to have tickets reserved or to purchase advanced tickets: ishrablanco@yahoo.ca.

For further details on each show:

Matinee Show:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1391381967588711/

Evening Show:
https://www.facebook.com/events/421376581555566/

Belly-Blush-Evening-Poster-2017-jpg

 

Belly Blush Matinee Poster FINAL

Becoming a Choreographer

Written by Invoketress troupe member, Nicole Lalonde

Dionysus 2
Photo by 4KW Photography.

I’ve been a belly dancer for over a decade now and have occasionally delved into choreographing solos for myself, duets and, at most, a four-dancer number in which we were all dancing the same choreography together. Two years ago, I started a new and exciting challenge. I had the honor of being asked to choreograph a piece for twelve dancers. This piece would tell a story as it was to be performed in our bi-annual bellydance fusion show “Mosaic“, which always features a theme and is a more theatrical dance show than our student recital or other gigs.

This process was really transformative for me. We performed it in our 2016 Mosaic show in November and I now have time to reflect upon my experience. Our Artistic Director, the lovely and talented Ishra, chose the theme: “Evoking Otherworldly Beings.” I was super excited by this theme and thought “Where do I begin?”  For me, the song came first. I chose the ending theme Bolero from the movie soundtrack of “Moulin Rouge.” From there I did a lot of research and tried to find a storyline that would fit with the exciting and intense music. I decided on telling a story involving the Greek god of wine and fertility, Dionysus. The gist of the story is that Dionysus wakes his followers, the immortal maenads and the mischievous satyrs for a day of fun.  During their romp, they stumble upon a group of innocent maidens and from there begin to bewitch and seduce the maidens into joining their revelry. In the end, the maidens join in the fun and the piece ends in an ecstatic, pulsing exhaustion.

The dancing was a fusion of Raqs Sharqi, Tribal fusion, and a section of Bolero. I spent countless hours listening to the music and trying to visualize the story come to life in dance form. Some of the sections were completely inspired from my imagination while other sections were inspired by YouTube research and collaborations with Ishra and Mary of Invoketress. I was living, breathing and dreaming this choreography. There were times my husband would be talking to me and I wasn’t hearing him speak; I was seeing dance in my mind’s eye! After many hours of rehearsal and trying to explain my vision to the dancers, this choreography came together in a fun and exciting number for the show.

I’m so proud and humbled at the same time and feel that this experience has awakened a new level of creativity in my soul. I can’t wait to delve into the next venture and keep exploring this new world of large group choreography!

View the performance video below!

 

Press Release for “Mosaic” Bellydance Fusion Show – “Evoking Otherworldly Beings”

October 24, 2016Purple Mosaic Poster-01

“Mosaic” Bellydance Fusion Show: “Evoking Otherworldly Beings”

On November 12th, 2016 at 8 p.m., Ishra and Invoketress Dance will be presenting their 11th “Mosaic” Bellydance Fusion Show at the River Run Centre’s Co-operators Hall. This unique production, performed biennially, is a tribute to the ancient Middle Eastern art form – Bellydance – as well as an exploration of the artistry created when Bellydance is combined with other dance traditions.

Bellydance takes many different forms depending on the country and region of origin, and is often performed at celebrations and social gatherings. Ishra & Invoketress Dance strive to respect, learn, and perform traditional styles of Bellydance as well as pushing the envelope by innovating choreographies that fuse Bellydance with other dance genres.

This show, with the theme of “Evoking Otherworldly Beings”, will present pieces that merge Middle Eastern movement with tribal fusion, American Tribal Style, Kandyan, Irish, Dancehall, urban, folkloric, and contemporary dance styles while exploring the theme of transcending our worldly existence. The line-up of special guests performers include some of the best innovators in the Bellydance fusion community including internationally-acclaimed Shades of Araby, award-winning Raqs Mahasti, Irish dance innovators Rinceoiri Celtica, Royal Academy of Dance TCP and Canadian Dance Teachers Associate Crystal Reia, celebrated Middle-Eastern dance artist and musician Roula Said, modern dancer Georgia Simms from Dancetheatre David Earle, and live music from some of the best of Guelph’s local scene including Andrew McPherson and Brent Rowan from twice Juno-nominated Eccodek collaborating with expressive arts therapist and instructor Gary Diggins. Of course, the show will also feature new and innovative performances by Ishra and the Invoketress Dance Troupe.

Come see for yourself on November 12th and enjoy a feast for your eyes and ears. Prepare to be mesmerized. Tickets are available through the River Run box office or through Ishra or any Invoketress Dance troupe member. Limited complimentary tickets available for media. Please contact Ishra by November 4th to have tickets reserved: ishrablanco@yahoo.ca | 519-362-2036.

View the trailer:

 

 

Ishra in “The Whole Shebang Guelph”

About The Whole Shebang Guelph

Ishra had the amazing opportunity to be part of this creative and innovative group of artists as part of the River Run Centre‘s first ever artist in residence program. On Saturday, September 26, 2015 over 300 people participated in a multi-media and multi-disciplinary experience to celebrate the completion of River Run’s 3-year artist in residence program. Led by celebrated Toronto-based dance artist Andrea Nann, artistic director of Dreamwalker Dance Company, Guelph artists Ishra Blanco, Jenn E Norton, Megan O-Donnell, Claire Tacon, Amadeo Ventura and Bry Webb worked together over three years to develop a collaborative and multi-disciplinary creation practice. Andrea specializes in facilitating movement-based creative strategies to cultivate a group-based artistic practice. The Guelph Shebang model, developed by Nann, focuses on a collaborative approach to creative practice. Read more about the artists and the program here and well as details of the event listing here.

Ishra Blanco gave a stunning performance, interacting with Bry Webb’s ‘Strung Floor’. Bry had set up a series of feedback loops by placing guitars hooked up to amps in a circular pattern on the side hall’s performance space. The floor became a sensitive instrument, highly responsive to footsteps. Ishra’s practice in Flamenco dance combined with the sensitive electric guitars gave way to a highly electric performance and I was captivated by way she commanded music from guitars with the fabric of her traditional red dress adorned with ruffles.” – Elysha Poirier (read the whole review of the event).

Photo by Jessa Aglio.
Photo by Jessa Aglio.

Enjoy this video which captures the third and final presentation of this 3-year project.

Guelph Shebang by Erin Sproule from Dreamwalker Dance on Vimeo.

Hafla Fundraiser for Syrian Refugees

On February 20, 2016, we held a hafla fundraiser to raise money to donate towards sponsoring a Syrian refugee family to come and settle in Guelph. We had an open mic style of performances, free dance, refreshments, and silent auction. Thanks to all  that came and donated. We raised $907 that was donated towards the Bridge to Guelph organization. A family recently landed in Montreal and will be soon making Guelph their home!! Thanks to all who performed, donated, and came to our event!

9862_10156520203080035_6162628635964258313_n
Our silent auction table.
12742557_230058654012325_8210114174304980026_n
Invoketress performs!
Halfa---syria
Our poster, designed by Invoketress troupe member Siyobin.

2015 Year in Review

Another year is coming to a close, and again we’d like to pause to take a moment and reflect on some of our highlights from 2015:

  • Troupe dancer Eleanor giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, Emelia Louise on April 30th!
  • Being featured instructors and performers at all 3 events for Flying Dance Festival held by our friend Nico with Flying Dance Company. 3 dates and 3 different locations offering a variety of workshops and performances in a multitude of dance styles. Ishra and Mary taught workshops in traditional Bellydance and Ishra also taught Flamenco.
  • Performing at our troupe dancer Nicole’s wedding on July 3rd. It was a perfect summer’s day. Nicole and Brent wed at a small civil ceremony at city hall and then invited their family and friends back to their new home for a reception. It was a joyous occasion with a delicious potluck spread, live music, and of course, performances by Invoketress. We even surprised the bride with individual solos where each dancer chose a piece of music specifically for the bride, then pulled her up to dance with us which then started the dance party. We love performing at weddings, and it was even more special that it was for one of our own.
  • Participating once again at the Pirate Festival. Invoketress’ other song and dance act, Morveno and the Mermaids Three, performed daily shows while Invoketress provided fun entertainment at the Captain’s Keg.
  • Introducing InvokeTribe! This project was announced with a performance at the Belly Blush Student Recital and Mary started her first regular session of Improvisational Tribal Style Bellydance classes in September. Classes are going strong and we are excited about the growth of this new tribe within the Invoketress umbrella!
  • The final culmination and production of the Guelph Whole ShebangIshra was one of two dance artists chosen to be a part of this first ever artists’ residency at the River Run Centre. September 26th saw the final production of 3 years worth of artistic collaboration.
  • Performing live with Eccodek at the Guelph Jazz Festival on September 19th. It was a night of intense jams with undeniable electricity between the Invoketress dancers, the musicians, and the crowd. Check out the videos of these amazing performances: “Voices Have Eyes”, “Red, White and Mali”, “Bizuru“.
  • Being invited to perform at the Shades of Araby 10th Anniversary Show in November. We have been good friends with Valizan and Shades over the years, inviting them as regular guest performers at our Bellydance fusion shows and even at this year’s Belly Blush. This was a doubly special occasion as it is one of the very rare times the ENTIRE Invoketress troupe performed at once (this usually only happens once a year at the Belly Blush). We were thrilled and honoured to be part of their stellar line-up and to celebrate their milestone!
  • Ishra obtaining her Kelani Dance instructor certification in November! Ishra can now teach this Polynesian-inspired dance form certified under Canfit Pro.
  • Ishra going to Sri Lanka for some much needed and deserved R&R and of course, some additional dance training and inspiration!
  • Other notable gigs: United Way’s 75th Anniversary Gala, Relay for Life University of Guelph, Brantford International Villages, Spooky Souk, Guelph Multicultural Festival, Sarnia Greek Festival and London Greek nights, weddings, Diwali Festival, the 2 Rivers Festival, Hope House Night Street Fair, Caribbean Dreams just to name a few.
  • In typical fashion, Mary and Ishra will be closing off the year and ringing in the new while performing at a New Year’s Eve party!

We want to thank everyone who we have been a part of our dance journey: students, teachers, dance colleagues, audience members, supporters, and appreciators. It is more than a hobby for us, but rather a sisterhood bound deeply for our love for this art form with this dance ingrained in our daily lives. Wishing everyone an artistic, creative, and fruitful year in 2016!

Yours in dance.

The whole Invoketress troupe at Shades of Araby 10th Anniversary show.
The whole Invoketress troupe at Shades of Araby 10th Anniversary show.
11703099_1095409860473806_2702059736416279771_n
The white swan and her flock: Nicole and Brent’s wedding.
10955323_1477197019246633_7318841799836854977_n
Morveno and the Mermaids Three, another Invoketress project, performed daily at the Pirate Festival.

 

12030537_10208125243188254_5368062054032165898_o
Invoketress captivates live with Eccodek at the Guelph Jazz Festival.
12112011_1150312171650241_6139842397823362576_n
Invoketress (minus Minerva and Natalie) at Nicole and Brent’s wedding.
12342473_1179025738778884_8437344223572484815_n
Mary’s new ITS classes launched in September.
11008460_10207472919200562_464304980907686160_n
Ishra performs at Caribbean Dreams.
12299316_1173619029319555_2838810199757385511_n
Nicole, Siyobin, Mary, and Diana at the United Way 75th Anniversary Gala.
11407267_1082351001779692_6165517667395727555_n
Siyobin, Ishra, and Mary at Flying Dance Festival – Royal City Park, Guelph.
Ishra and her signature notebook in Sri Lanka. Undoubtedly jotting down big plans for 2016!
Ishra and her signature notebook in Sri Lanka. Undoubtedly jotting down big plans for 2016!

 

 

 

Beguiling Beginnings

This is a guest post written by Jennifer, one of Ishra’s Intro students. 

Hi there.

My name is Jennifer and I just finished my first year of belly dancing with Ishra and Invoketress Dance. My experience with Ishra and belly dance has been quite life changing and full of personal and physical growth. Today Im going to share with you my story.

I started belly dancing with Ishra and Invoketress Dance in September, 2014. I took 4 classes in the fall before I broke my ankle on a canoe trip in October 2014. It took me about 3 months to be able to walk normally again, and during that time I was pretty much homebound. The 6 weeks in a cast were especially limiting since my full-time job had been serving at a restaurant and my hobbies included dancing and yoga. It was quite difficult to go from being completely independent to being completely dependent. When I finally got my cast off, it was very slow going. In any case, I managed to keep myself somewhat occupied with my part-time job teaching Spanish twice a week, and I was determined to keep up dancing to some degree.

For the six weeks I was in a cast, I would practice the body isolations I had learned from Ishra. Every day I would sit on the coffee table and prop up a full length mirror on the back of a chair so I could see myself. I would practice arm isolations (shoulder-elbow-wrist, shoulder-elbow-wrist become my mantra). I would practice moving my neck side to side, chest circles, and I would also practice chest shimmies. One day I wanted to make sure my breasts were moving properly in the shimmies so I removed my shirt and recorded myself. Sure enough, they were moving! A while later, my sister stumbled across that recording and we had a good laugh about it. By the end of the six weeks there was a visible improvement in my arm, neck, and chest mobility. It was exciting!

Through physio twice a week and swimming regularly, I eventually learned how to walk again and by mid-January I was back dancing. I was determined to make up for lost time so I ambitiously joined three of Ishras classes. I discovered that my upper body isolations were on par with the other girls, so I was pretty happy about that. Belly dancing thrice a week also greatly helped me regain my ankle strength and mobility.

It also helped me gain confidence as a dancer and embrace my femininity. For the first time ever, I actually felt sexy and felt that I could move sensually. I was not used to looking at myself in a mirror with other people and at first I felt very shy about it (I still feel shy sometimes). In time, I got used to watching myself in the mirror, and I found it very interesting seeing the progression of the body isolations and the different moves Ishra was teaching us. I would be practicing something over and over again and it was so exciting when mind and body would click and I would see my body moving the way it was supposed to. I began looking at my body affectionately instead of critically and seeing myself as beautiful.

All year, Ishra was stressing the importance of facial expressions. She wanted us to bring out our flirty looks, our sexy looks, our cheeky looks, our Xena looks and our boss lady looks. This was one of the most difficult things for meI felt so silly and embarrassed! It was one thing to look at my body moving, but now I had to consciously use different facial expressions while dancing. Sexy look? Whats that? I dont have a sexy look!I would think to myself. Slowly, my unknown-to-me sexy look began surfacing and eventually I was able to look at myself in the mirror with my sexy or my flirty or my Xena look and not feel embarrassed. I practiced smiling so much that in one of the classes Ishra actually told me to tone it down!

By the time June rolled around, most of the choreographies were pretty well finished, and all that was left to do was practice, practice, practice in preparation for the Belly Blush student recital. Having chosen to participate in 3 choreographies, I was somewhat unprepared for the amount of practice (during class and on my own) that would be required. I had never performed before so I was quite adamant about practicing at least three times a week for at least an hour and a half each time in preparation for the recital. I wanted to know those choreographies like the back of my hand just in case my nerves tried to get the best of me.

I also decided last minute (2 weeks before the recital) that I wanted to make my own bra for one of the performances. I had never been creatively or seamstressly inclined but I was about to become so and it ended up being a very fun experience! I actually ended up working until about 2pm on the day of the recital, so I was quite rushed to get ready for tech rehearsal and the recital itself. On top of that, my dad was visiting from New Brunswick and my Aunt and Uncle whom I hadnt seen in about 5 years also came to visit as well. Needless to say, it was a bit of a crazy day for me!

The experience of the recital itself ended up being one of the most exciting and exhilarating things I have ever done in my life. I was a combination of excited and nervous as well as happy that my family and best friends were there to support me, all of which created an incredible feeling inside of me. The performances went flawlessly which made me even happier that my practice had paid off. I honestly couldnt stop smiling the whole nighteven after I went home. The crowd was amazing, the solidarity among the dancers was infectious, and being on stage was invigoratingI couldnt wait to perform again! I did end up performing twice more during the summer at the Flying Dance Festival in July and August.

Now, I cant wait for Ishras classes to start back up again in September and to continue learning and growing through dance. Belly dancing has helped me learn to love and appreciate myself and my body and be gentle with myself rather than critical. It is an ongoing process but with Ishras help and encouragement and the support of my fellow dancers, I think Im off to a good start! Im so glad I discovered and had the courage to explore, the art of belly dance. 

Photo by Dennis Novosad.
Photo by Dennis Novosad.

Belly Blush Student Recital 2015 – Press Release

Ishra & Invoketress Dance’s Annual “Belly Blush” Student Recital

There’s no such thing as down time for Ishra & Invoketress Dance. In the midst of a busy performance season, they are hosting their annual “Belly Blush” Student Recital. This year marks some significant expansion in the Ishra & Invoketress Dance brand. Ishra will be presenting performances from 6 levels of classes – her most ever; a new Children’s Bellydance class taught by Ishra’s daughter, Siyobin; and the unveiling of a new arm of Invoketress called “InvokeTribe” which will be led by senior troupe dancer Mary and will focus on Improvisational Tribal Style Bellydance.

The Belly Blush will take place on Saturday, June 20th at 7:30pm at the Guelph Curling Club (816 Woolwich Street Guelph). Tickets are $13 advanced/$16 at the door/Children $6 and can be purchased at Wild Rose Consignment (23 Macdonnell Street). The event will also include a silent auction with an array of goods and services donated from our generous community, as well as a cash bar.

For over 10 years, this annual Bellydance recital has been a celebration of the female soul and a tribute to this ancient art form. Bellydance is a dance which takes many different forms dependent on the country and region, often performed at celebrations and social gatherings. Ishra & Invoketress Dance strive to respect and perform traditional styles of Middle Eastern Bellydance while creating innovative choreographies that fuse Bellydance with other dance genres.

Want to learn more about this dance form? Come out on June 20th and enjoy an evening of enchantment featuring all of Ishra’s beautiful, blushing students, Ishra, Invoketress Dance, as well as special guest performers! Prepare to be mesmerized.

Complimentary tickets available for all media. Please contact Ishra to have tickets reserved: ishrablanco@yahoo.ca.

bblushfinal-with-rose

Guelph Research Spotlights Canada’s Belly Dance Story

The following article was written by Invoketress Dance troupe member Alaina and was published in The Guelph Mercury on June 16, 2015.

Anne Vermeyden

Guelph Mercury

GUELPH — Belly dance is an art form celebrated and practised among many cultures and regions of the world — including Canada, new research shows.

University of Guelph history PhD student Anne Vermeyden, a dancer herself, is investigating the rich but largely unwritten past of belly dance in Toronto, and why it has flourished there.

So far, most research on belly dance history in North America has been largely focused on the United States. Vermeyden says the art form’s presence in Canada should be recognized, too.

“This research will contribute to the growing Canadian voice in the transnational history of belly dance,” says Vermeyden. “Placing the story of belly dance on the academic map will encourage the public and performers to give the dance form and its history the respect it deserves.”

Vermeyden believes that the ability to powerfully express emotion through movement is one of the reasons why so many women in Canada have found a connection to the dance form. Belly dance allows for improvisation, which has offered women in Canada an alternative to more structured, Western dances.

She’s interviewing dancers and musicians who were involved in the first substantial wave of belly dance in Toronto, beginning in the 1960s. She’s researching all facets of their dance careers, including their styles, their teachers, the economic effect of belly dance and how the dance has been meaningful to them.

Belly dance has grown to become an umbrella term for several different styles of dance that originate from across North Africa and the Middle East, all of which are physical expressions of musical qualities, and focus on the undulation and articulation of the torso, arms and hips.

Different regions have belly dance “accents,” with specific musical and movement qualities. Egyptian style cabaret belly dance is, for example, very distinguishable from American style cabaret belly dance. Egyptian style, with roots in folkloric dance there, was cemented in Egyptian cinema and cabarets during the 20th century. American cabaret style, on the other hand, was developed by North American dancers who were taught by Arab, Greek and Turkish musicians and dancers, and fused elements of these various regional styles together within a North American context.

In the 1960s and 1970s, factors such as second-wave feminism also helped to inspire interest among Canadian women to find power in their bodies through dance. At this time, dancers became more interested in the culture and history of belly dance, not only the movement.

In her preliminary research, Vermeyden has found references to belly dance in Canadian newspapers as far back as the late 19th century.

That’s about the time many North Americans were first introduced to the idea of belly dance, in spectacles such as the numerous “ethnographic” exhibits in the Midway Plaisance of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. The presentation of belly dance forms at this World’s Fair often perpetuated Orientalism, where East Asian and Middle Eastern regions were generalized and displayed as exotic and uncivilized.

While it is important to acknowledge the issues of Orientalism in belly dance, Vermeyden aims to create a more complex picture of its layered and constantly evolving history. Her preliminary research indicates that since the early 1970s, the dance form has had the ability to both cement and undermine Orientalist attitudes about North Africa and the Middle East in Canada.

The research is in collaboration with Drs. Femi Kolapo, Barbara Sellers-Young, Renée Worringer, and Jeff Grischow, and is sponsored by the University of Guelph and the Ontario Graduate Fellowships program.

This article was written by a participant in the Students Promoting Awareness of Research or SPARK program at the University of Guelph.