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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.

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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.

 

InvokeTribe Announcement!

InvokeTribe promo V.2

InvokeTribe is an exciting new project under the Invoketress umbrella. This is a group of dancers who will come together through a shared love of Improvisational Tribal Style (ITS)* bellydance. This group will be led by Invoketress senior troupe dancer and choreographer Mary Wyga who has had years studying American Tribal Style (ATS) as well as being a member of the ITS/Tribal Fusion troupe Tribe Aurealis. InvokeTribe will combine existing ATS and ITS vocabulary and formations while developing their own unique versions, creating a fresh new style in the genre of group improvisational tribal style dance. Over time, InvokeTribe dancers will embody a shared vocabulary which will enable them to create spontaneous dance creations – art on the spot.

InvokeTribe will be unveiled with a performance at the Belly Blush Student Recital on June 20, 2015. Classes are intended to commence in September, 2015.

For Mary’s dance biography, please visit the Biographies section.

For more information, please contact Mary: mary.wyga@gmail.com.

*Improvisational Tribal Style (ITS) belly dance, or ITS, is a combination-based form of Improvisational Tribal Fusion dance. It relies on a shared vocabulary of movements, each initiated by a distinct cue movement. The leader initiates the cue movement, then a short, choreographed combination, or Combo, is performed. These Combos can be done in any order, and none of the dancers know ahead of time what moves the leader will cue next. Improvisational Tribal Style is a specific style or school of Tribal bellydance. The term was first coined in 2006 by Amy Sigil of UNMATA to describe her Improv vocabulary, as it evolved away from ATS American Tribal Style. (Similar styles include American Tribal Style, Synchronized Group Improv, Tribal Group Improv, American Improv Tribal, Group Improv Tribal.) – Wikipedia

Invoketress Logo & Title Tribe copy

Bellydance and Developing Personal Style

One of the things I love most about the Invoketress troupe is our diversity.

Somehow, through all our different dance and life backgrounds, we can come together and cohesively dance as a single, powerful energy.

But that’s not to say we don’t have our individual styles, quirks, weaknesses and strengths.

Before entering university, I was taught to believe that with all forms of art, your technical skill must be mastered before you can express and develop a personal style. But now, in dance and other artistic endeavours such as painting, I’ve been appreciating the well of possibilities that comes from exploring your own personality and uniqueness while learning your art.

Recently, for example, I’ve been trying to pay more attention to facial expression in Bellydance, as it’s an aspect that can complete a performance and elevate it to another level of sophistication. Of course, there are times when concentration is key (especially for beginners like myself) and finding a “look” can be difficult and just isn’t on your mind.

Then again, there are also times when raw emotion can’t help but make its way into your expression. I’m learning that it’s okay to let this happen and show the audience glimpses of your pure joy, sorrow, excitement, solemnness, etc.

I think it’s important to let these moments happen, because they are unique to your own experience while dancing. Different moments in the music and choreography (and of course, improvisation) will stand out to different dancers. This is the beauty of Bellydance as well as one of the keys to developing personal style.

To be clear, I don’t believe personal style is about pre-planning exactly every expression or feeling during a dance – that’s an impossible feat. However, I think that (especially while still learning the basics) personal style should be at the forefront of your mind as you learn, not an end goal.

Take the time to pay attention to what your face and body does naturally during a dance. How can you showcase this to an audience, or pull it back when needed? What kind of feeling or expression are you presenting to an audience who hasn’t seen you dance before? How can your personal tendencies help or hinder a performance? What ARE your personal tendencies? Is there something you see in others that you would like to explore in your own style?

These are just some of the questions I have asked myself about Bellydance.

Simply paying attention to and recognizing the natural development of your personal style as you continue to learn and discover dance, I believe, is an important feature that allows for improvement and a deeper connection to this beautiful art form.

~ Alaina, Invoketress dancer

Some great examples of expression in our troupe:

Ishra, our inspirational leader. Photo by Shannon Dore.
Ishra, our inspirational leader. Photo by Shannon Dore.
Ishra's Sapphire class at Belly Blush 2014. Photo by Shannon Dore.
Invoketress at Belly Blush 2014. Photo by Shannon Dore.
Invoketress Bollywood at MOSAIC - "Time in Motion" 2014. Photo by Dennis Novosad.
Invoketress Bollywood at MOSAIC – “Time in Motion” 2014. Photo by Dennis Novosad.

 

Happy New Year!

As we wind down 2014, we want to take a moment and mention some highlights for us as we reflect on the past year:

  • inducting 5 amazing apprentice dancers as full-fledged members of the Invoketress Dance troupe;
  • Ishra placing 2nd runner-up in the Fusion category in the Star Bellydancer Canada Competition;
  • Invoketress road trip to Montreal as special guest performers at the Nocta Bellydance Student Spectacle;
  • our 10th Anniversary MOSAIC Bellydance Fusion show which was a huge success and received rave reviews;
  • some amazing gigs, such as at Hope and the City – Wellington County, Guelph & District Multicultural Festival, Relay For Life Cambridge, Grand Valley Construction Association Awards Gala, Brantford International Villages, TD Sunfest Canada, Chris Lane Memorial Fundraiser, Autumn Spice, Take Back the Night rally, and at one of our own troupe dancer’s weddings;
  • having the pleasure of collaborating with other great performers in our dance and music community such as Ancient Moves Dance Company, Shades of Araby, Rinceoirí Celtica, BellyFlow Fitness, Nuwayrah, Rhaehana, Andrea Fryett, The Light of East Ensemble, Cuneyt Yetkiner, BellyUp BellyDance Studio, Tribe MayaFire, Wild Orchid Bellydance Studio, Nico, and Andrew MacPherson.

We are so fortunate to dance in such a vibrant and artistic community with so many talented and supportive colleagues. Excited for what 2015 will bring.

Happy New Year!

~ M.W.

Ishra and Mary heading out to perform at two different New Year's Eve parties!
Ishra and Mary heading out to perform at two different New Year’s Eve parties!

Congratulations to our New Troupe Dancers!

Congratulations to our most recent class of apprentices who have been inducted into full troupe status! These dancers have met apprenticeship requirements which include:

  • being a student of Ishra’s advanced-level Sapphire class for at least one year
  • performing in and assisting at a minimum number of gigs
  • embodying a certain level of technical ability in Bellydance
  • having an appreciation for Bellydance culture and history
  • have positive camaraderie with existing troupe members
Photos by Loft Photography.
Photos by Loft Photography. Dancers, left to right: Audrea, Alaina, Siyobin, Olivia, Eleanor.

About the Invoketress Dance Troupe Apprenticeship Program

Invoketress Dance Apprentices are hand-selected students of Ishra’s who are invited to join the troupe in an apprenticeship with the intentions of eventually becoming a full member of Invoketress Dance Troupe. She has identified these dancers based on their technical abilities, emotive qualities, appreciation for the culture and art form, and their camaraderie with existing troupe members. The apprenticeship gives these students the opportunity to experience the administrative and business side of performing at public and private functions and to learn about some of the logistics that exist in the world of professional Bellydance. They may also be invited to perform alongside Invoketress at various gigs to develop and enhance performance and stage skills (e.g., more intricate choreography, improvisation, musicality, emoting, audience engagement) that comes with such experience.

~ M.W.

Montreal Trip!

The Invoketress ladies love a good road trip, having traveled multiple times to Michigan, Windsor, Sarnia, and all over Ontario to perform.  At the end of August, Ishra and some of the ladies traveled to Montreal to perform in the Spectacle Des Élèves Nocta Bellydance, thanks to an invitation from innovative and creative dance artist and choreographer Andrea Fryett, (an Elora native who now lives, performs, and teaches in Montreal) founder of Nocta Bellydance.  The ladies jumped at the chance!

The weekend started off with Ishra teaching the Montreal ladies a workshop based on her challenging, award-winning “Enemy Guns” choreography on Saturday.  That evening, Andrea invited the girls to dine at Menthe & Couscous, a Tunisian restaurant where she regularly performs.  It was an amazing evening filled with delicious food, lots of dancing by Andrea, the Invoketress girls, the restaurant owners, and the patrons.

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Natalie, Mary, Ishra, Audrea, Eleanor, and our lovely hostess Andrea at Menthe & Couscous restaurant.

Sunday was the day of the show.  It was held at Cabaret Lion d’Or, a charming theatre that evoked history and conjured stories of classic cabaret shows stemming from the 1930s.

Natalie with some classic cabaret performers of days gone by.
Natalie with some classic cabaret performers of days gone by.

It was Andrea’s student gala and the show was filled with a wide range of styles from traditional to fusion.  Invoketress performed their mystical mermaid number and Ishra performed her iconic “Enemy Guns” piece.

Photo by Jocelyn Lecours.
Photo by Jocelyn Lecours.
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Our lovely dance apprentice Eleanor. Photo by Jocelyn Lecours.
Photo by Jocelyn Lecours.
Photo by Jocelyn Lecours.
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Invoketress on stage at the end of the show.
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Audrea, Natalie, Eleanor, and Mary outside the theatre.
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Ishra outside of the theatre.

Outside of dance, the girls enjoyed the city with shopping, dining, walking, croissants, and enjoying the nightlife.  Thank you, Andrea, for your invitation to perform…it was a great reason to road-trip to Montreal, network with the Nocta ladies, and enjoy this fabulous city!

~ M.W.

Recital Season!

Spring is always an exciting time for many bellydance studios as it’s often when students and teachers get to showcase their skills to their friends and families at student recitals! For many students, it’s the only time they perform on stage.

Invoketress’ annual Belly Blush Student Recital in June is always a special event, one near and dear to Ishra’s heart. The venue is transformed into a lush Middle Eastern garden and it’s a casual hafla-type setting with the audience sitting around the dance floor as opposed to an on-stage performance. Dancers and audience members alike always comment on how intimate and cozy this show’s atmosphere is as a result. Proud teacher Ishra beamed as all 5 of her classes performed to a packed house. Invoketress performed with this year’s troupe apprentices including a unique, Polynesian-inspired drum solo and a very special structured improvisation focusing on supporting one another in our sisterhood which even generated a few tears on and off stage. Special guests within the dance community are always invited to perform and this year, there were a number of new guests such as BellyFlow, Nuwayrah, and Andrea Fryett, and old friends such as Rhaehana and Wild Orchid.  The Belly Blush also has an annual silent auction where proceeds go towards funding our MOSAIC Bellydance Fusion show at the River Run Centre in November. A huge thank you goes out to all of our donors and bidders! It was truly a magical evening.

~ M.W.

Ishra addresses a packed house!
Ishra addresses a packed house!
Invoketress and apprentices performed a moving structured improvisation.
Invoketress and apprentices performed a moving structured improvisation.
Guest performers Nuwayrah.  Photo by Shannon Dore.
Guest performer Nuwayrah. Photo by Shannon Dore.
Guest performer Andrea Fryett from Montreal.  Photo by Shannon Dore.
Guest performer Andrea Fryett from Montreal. Photo by Shannon Dore.

Ishra & Invoketress were also honoured to be invited guests to perform at other studio’s student recitals.  This year, the ladies performed at BellyUp Kitchener’s Student Gala as well as Wild Orchid in Hamilton.  It’s always great to see what the other studios have been working on as well as meeting new dancers and catching up with old friends!

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Minerva, Ishra, Natalie, and Mary at BellyUp Kitchener’s Student Gala.
Ishra, Mary, and Audrea pose with BellyUp's Joharah at Wild Orchid's Student Reictal, who also performed at the show!
Ishra, Mary, and Audrea pose with BellyUp’s Joharah at Wild Orchid’s Student Reictal, who also performed at the show!

Troupe Apprentices’ First Gig – Guelph & District Multicultural Festival

The Guelph & District Multicultural Festival is an annual event for us. We love performing on this community-oriented stage and seeing all the other cultural acts. Last year, we even had the honour of being Saturday-night show-closers! We have been cursed with rain almost every single year, though and this one was no exception. We still had a very warm and engaging crowd this past Sunday, June 8th. Thanks to everyone who sat in the rain to watch us perform!

It was also the debut of our five dancers in our Invoketress Troupe Apprentice program. These dancers joined Ishra’s challenging Sapphire Level class in September, 2013 and have been joining us for troupe rehearsals, working on some pieces for fall’s MOSAIC fusion show.  Our new Sapphire Drum piece was also debuted at the festival. There was a fresh excitement and nervous energy that came from the “rookies” – an energy that had somewhat gotten lost along the way. The troupe had become so seasoned at performing at various gigs in front of crowds and it was nice to feel some nervous energy again! And of course, they all did us proud and did a beautiful job performing alongside troupe – they blended in seamlessly! Come see them again at our Belly Blush Student Recital!

Congratulations to Alaina, Audrea, Eleanor, Olivia and Siyobin!

~ M.W.

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They did it! Troupe apprentices Siyobin, Alaina, Olivia, Audrea, and Eleanor did their first performance alongside Invoketress.
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Can you tell who the apprentices are? We can’t, either! Photo by Shala Kashani.
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Photo by Shala Kashani.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Motherhood is no stranger to Invoketress – a large number of our troupe dancers and students, past and present, are mothers. Ishra herself is a mother of four!

Ishra and her oldest child and only daughter, Siyobin, who is currently an Invoketress Apprentice. She’s now 20 years old!

Motherhood and bellydance share a rich and historic relationship. Our dance moms can definitely attest that bellydance was therapeutic during pregnancy – whether it was the rolling undulations to ease cramping, big figure eights and hip circles to aid in labour, strengthening the core muscles that are involved in child-bearing, or simply being part of an art form and community that really celebrates pregnancy and encourages these women in performances – what other dance form can say that??  Those who discovered motherhood while dancing have found that it has changed their dancing: physically, in the sense of loose hips, new curves, and (trying to) embracing child-bearing “war wounds;” or spiritually, in discovering new and deeper connections with the body and the amazing things can do – like create life! – or dancing through the trials and tribulations of motherhood itself.

Here’s to all of the beautiful, bountiful, belly-shaking mothers!

~ M.W.

Mother's Day Invoketress