2018 – Year in Review

WOW – 2018 flew by!! And what an eventful year it was – one full of growth and changes, both in dance and in our personal lives. Here are some highlights for the Invoketress ladies as we reflect back on 2018.

We kicked off the new year with 2 sold out “Hot, Hot Havana” workshops by Ishra. Workshop participants learned a sexy, slinky choreography which you can see Ishra perform at a “Glitter” Bellydance Show.

The mega fun “Hot, Hot Havana” workshop participants!

We are honoured to be regular performers at “Glitter” Bellydance Show hosted by our friends Eshe and Mahasti – The Bellydance Emporium. It always gives us an opportunity to showcase many of our non-conventional dance work as well as our Raqs Sharqi pieces and we are grateful to be a part of that community. This year, in addition to numerous “Glitter” shows and their summer “Sideawalk Sounds” series, we participated in two special edition “Glitter” shows including a “Swap” edition (where we essentially “swapped” dance styles with that of another dance studio) and a “Shuffle” edition where we did not know what song we would be performing to (see video)! The “Swap” prompted us to produce our “Harry Potter” troupe piece (choreographed by Siyobin) in homage to Mahasti having dancing a number of “character” pieces (i.e. Batman, the Grinch, Harry Potter, etc.). Mary took the challenge to “swap” in Eshe’s Turkish Rom style (see video). We performed the “Harry Potter” piece again at The Femmes Rebelles “Pop” themed Burlesque show.

Our “Harry Potter” troupe piece performed at The Femmes Rebelles “Pop” show.

Spring brings the start of the busy gig season, usually starting with the University of Guelph’s “Relay for Life”, a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society and performing at BellyUp‘s Showcase. This spring Mary also participated in the Datura Online‘s choreography challenge where she learned 2 of their choreographies and won the Social Media award! Check out her submissions (Sedona Soulfire choreography | Ebony Qualls choreography)

In May, we were super excited to host Nawal Doucette all the way from St. John, New Brunswick! She taught amazing workshops on a wicked hot May Sunday and we gelled so well with her and her vibe. We drilled and layered and conditioned and learned about the Salimpour format of training and certification.

The sweaty participants at Nawal’s workshops!

June is always dance madness for us, starting with the Guelph & District Multicultural Festival! This year, we were requested by the festival to produce two full-scale performances and tutorials, one in Bellydance and another in Bollywood.

At the Guelph & District Multicultural Festival.

The weekend after was our annual Belly Blush Student Showcase, our beloved show where we get to showcase all of the students in the Invoketress school from beginners, children’s classes, troupe performances, and special guest Valizan and friends. We’ve been blessed to have had the last few years sell out so last year we started having a matinee and an evening show and this system seems to work out wonderfully! The students shone and it was a beautiful day of performances! You can check out our fun Shaabi performance here!

Invoketress backstage at the Belly Blush Student Showcase. Photo by S Curve Photography.
All the performers! Great show, everybody!

Summer brought Invoketress to two Tribal Fusion Bellydance festivals. Ishra and Invoketress’ tribal fusion troupe Divine Eclipse traveled to Chicago to learn from great instructors like April Rose, Mardi Love, and Donna Meija to name a few at Tribal Revolution.

With April Rose at Tribal Revolution in Chicago.
With Mardi Love at Tribal Revolution.

A couple weeks later, Ishra and Mary traveled to Montreal to learn and perform at Tribal Momentum, a new, Canadian tribal fusion bellydance festival. Check out their “Thunderbirds” duet and Ishra’s solo below.

Tribal Momentum 2018 – Ishra from Tribal Momentum on Vimeo.

Summer is never complete without the Guelph Pirate Festival on the August long weekend! We performed 2 daily interactive shows as well as a customized set at the raucous Saturday night Captain’s Keg!

Day show mermaids at the Guelph Pirate Festival.
Bellydance & Burlesque at the Captain’s Keg.

August Long weekend is also the Mill Race Festival in Cambridge and Ishra is a regular performer there accompanying award-winning, nuevo-Flamenco guitarist Cuneyt.

Ishra performs with Cuneyt at the Mill Race Festival.

We love collaborating, whether it be with other artists, musicians, charities, or local establishments. This summer, Mary partnered up with Guelph Lebanese restaurant Retour Bistro to offer Bellydance & Hookah nights for people to indulge in the Lebanese experience of having a leisurely late meal or snacks, followed by some drinks, coffee and dessert while smoking some hookah and enjoying live Bellydance. We ran two Bellydance & Hookah nights and were especially pleased to have them both sold out successes! We are excited to make this a regular event – it seems Guelph is ready for it! We’ll be having our next event on Valentine’s Day!

In the new September semester, we were proud and excited to fully induct troupe apprentices Rachael and Shannon as full-fledged members into the Invoketress Dance Troupe! Congratulations, ladies!! You’ve earned it!

September was the Hamilton International Bellydance Competition‘s second year and we were proud to be performers at the gala show.  Having competed and placed last year, including winning 1st place in the Ensemble category, we were happy to sit back and enjoy the competition. The talent was impressive and inspiring! The gala show was stunning and included performances from competition judges Melissa Gamal and Henna, whom we were tickled pink to be slotted in between for the show!

We also kicked off fall by celebrating the Fall Equinox by performing with Roula Said and her amazing band at Farmfest at Thorpe’s Organic Family Farm!

Mary, Minerva, and Ishra perform with Roula Said and her live band at Farmfest.

2018 was also a Mosaic – Bellydance Fusion show year and this year’s theme was “Divination.” On November 10th, Invoketress and special guests delved deep into this theme, unraveling our cosmic mysteries and presenting them in dance art at this show at the River Run Centre.

This year’s performances certainly rose to the occasion! Special guest performers included Valizan, Shades of Araby, Raqs Mahasti, Tribe Mayafire, Anuka Bellydance, Wild Orchid Belly Dance and musical guest Adrian Raso. It was our first ever SOLD OUT Mosaic show and were thrilled with a smooth production and rave reviews. Videos are available on our Youtube Channel. Check out the gorgeous photos by Brandon Marsh Photography here.

In November, Ishra also road-tripped down to Ohio to teach Saidi workshops to the Egyptian Breeze Bellydance Troupe!

In line to our commitment to continuous learning, troupe members took multiple workshops with some amazing instructors throughout the year such as Shahrzad, Esmeralda Colabone, Angela Josephine, Audra Simmons, Heather Marie, and Henna to name a few.

Workshops with Henna.
Ishra at workshops with Sharhzad.
Workshop with Audra Simmons.
Mary and Arlene at workshops with Heather Marie at Mahasti. Mary will be performing in a group piece with Heather and other workshop participants at Kami Liddle’s “Sparkle Motion” in March in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Workshop with Angela Josephine.

We love collaborating with other artists and musicians and Mary was excited to be invited to collaborate with Guelph talent “The Naked Harpist” Leslie Shapiro at her Christmas concert!

In addition to the mentions above, there were many other performances and workshops at weddings, restaurants, dance shows such as Rising Moon Bellydance‘s show in London, the Spooky Souk Halloween show, the Pumpkin Promenade, festivals such as the annual Flying Dance Festival, World Peace Day, corporate events and parties.

And here we are, having just finished a slew of Christmas parties, in our last week of class and just one more large New Year’s Eve performance to go. Today is the Winter Solstice and we are ready to rest and reflect and welcome in the new year with openness to more artistry, collaboration, and abundance!

Thanking everyone for their continued support and love!

PRESS RELEASE: Mosaic Bellydance Fusion Show: “Divination”


GUELPH, ON, NOVEMBER 2, 2018: On November 10th, 2018 at 8 p.m., Guelph’s celebrated bellydance troupe Ishra & Invoketress Dance will be presenting their 12th Mosaic Bellydance Fusion Show at the River Run Centre’s Co-operators Hall. This unique production, presented biennially, is a tribute to the ancient Middle Eastern art form of 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 “Divination”, will present pieces that merge Middle Eastern movement with tribal fusion, American Tribal Style, Tahtib, urban, folkloric, and contemporary dance styles while exploring the themes of astrology, tarot, and the mystical arts. Invoketress dancers will perform new and innovative pieces inspired by the symbolism and traits of the divine identities of the group. The line-up of special guest performers includes some of the best innovators in the Bellydance and fusion community, including Anuka Bellydance, Valizan, Shades of Araby, Raqs Mahasti, Wild Orchid, Tribe Mayafire, and live music from some of the best of Guelph’s arts scene: Adrian Raso with Kris Raso and Lorie Bortolon.

Come see for yourself on November 10th and enjoy a feast for your eyes and ears. Prepare to be mesmerized! The show is almost sold out; remaining tickets are available through the River Run box office. Limited complimentary tickets available for media. Please contact Ishra by November 4th to have tickets reserved: ishrablanco@yahoo.ca | 519-362-2036.

Visit the Facebook event for more details. 

Alaina’s Bellydance Blossom Festival Weekend

During the weekend of May 4-6, 2018, Invoketress’ Alaina attended the 2018 Bellydance Blossom Festival hosted by Arabesque Dance Academy in Toronto. Below are some of her reflections from the event. 

“Believe in yourself, believe in your art” – Dina Talaat

Feeling inspired, awestruck, energized, full of love, sad it’s over and hungry for more! What a wonderful weekend of performances, panel discussions, and of course workshops!! 🤩 Saw many familiar faces and met many wonderful new friends! Inshallah, I see you all again soon. I discovered many things and I learned that I have a lot more to learn!! Thank you Yasmina Ramzy Arabesque Dance Company for creating this special event 🙏Mohamed Salah for being an incredible teacher and choreographer 🐺 and of course Dina Talaat Sayedfor coming to Toronto for the first time! 🌟 The whirlwind of my first dance festival ended with a joyous halfa/disco tonight and I could’ve kept dancing all night long! 💃🏻 I only have one photo because I was too busy enjoying the festival to take more!!) 😍🙏👌Wow!

L-R: Mohamed Salah, Alaina, Dina, Yasmina Ramzy

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:

Evening Show:



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!

Our silent auction table.
Invoketress performs!
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.
The white swan and her flock: Nicole and Brent’s wedding.
Morveno and the Mermaids Three, another Invoketress project, performed daily at the Pirate Festival.


Invoketress captivates live with Eccodek at the Guelph Jazz Festival.
Invoketress (minus Minerva and Natalie) at Nicole and Brent’s wedding.
Mary’s new ITS classes launched in September.
Ishra performs at Caribbean Dreams.
Nicole, Siyobin, Mary, and Diana at the United Way 75th Anniversary Gala.
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!