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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

Audrea & Nageeb’s Wedding

We absolutely love performing at weddings. On April 5th, 2014, we were so proud and honoured to perform at one of our own at Invoketress Dance Apprentice Audrea and her now-husband, Nageeb’s wedding.

Audrea’s history with Ishra goes way back…back to 2003 when she decided to take up bellydance classes with now-Invoketress dancer Mary for “funsies.” Who knew that that was the beginning of a long-term love affair with the dance form for both girls. After a few years of Audrea and Mary taking classes together and progressing up the levels, Audrea ended up moving to Hamilton for work. Sad for the girls, but it did lead to the development of her relationship with Nageeb. Audrea continued taking bellydance classes with other teachers over the years, keeping up with her technique and expanding her horizons with new instructors, but ultimately, Ishra and the Guelph girls felt like dance-home. In 2013, she made the decision that driving to Guelph for lessons from Hamilton was worth it.  Now, she’s back with Mary and Ishra and some of her other former dance-mates and getting to know some of the newer girls in the Invoketress Apprentice program.

So, when Audrea wanted some bellydancers to perform at her wedding, the girls were quick to say, “Of course!!” Ishra and Invoketress have performed at a number of weddings, but nothing compared to the high energy and pumped up crowd as this one. After the wedding party was introduced, the dancers led the bride and groom in a Zaffe to a house on its feet, waving their napkins, full of cheering and zaghareets. The energy was electrifying. Soon, the dance floor was full of friends and family, dancing and cheering and lifting Audrea and Nageeb up in the air. This lasted for about 4 or 5 songs before dinner commenced and the official performances occurred.

The girls were in agreement that this was the most lively and dance-friendly wedding ever. Nothing is better than performing for an engaged and appreciative crowd, one where we are able to connect culturally and musically , sharing smiles and shimmies alike with guests. At one point, a boy came out carrying and playing a dombek! The dance floor was never empty and there was a great mix of Middle Eastern and Western music for all the guests.

We were thrilled to be part of such a joyous occasion for one of our very special dancers. The day was full of love and happiness and it was such a treat to serve one of the purposes of Bellydance: Celebration.

Minerva and Ishra at the wedding ceremony.

Invoketress’ Minerva and Ishra at the wedding ceremony.

Natalie enters during the Zeffe.
Natalie enters during the Zeffe.

These ladies know how to start a party!
Ishra, Mary and Minerva sure know how to start a party!
Photo by Livingface Photography.
Photo by Livingface Photography.
With the beautiful bride!
With the beautiful bride!

The Long Winter…the end is near!

Many people have felt that this is the winter that never ends, even those that LOVE winter (like your writer, here). How do you endure? For many of us here in Invoketress-land, it is those bellydance classes and rehearsals spent working on our craft in anticipation of that slew of spring and summer gigs that helps us through. There was the excitement of Ishra participating and placing in the Star Bellydancer Canada competition earlier this year as well as a wedding show and a couple private gigs that brought some activity to those cold winter months, but there is always something special and magical about those outdoor performances, student recitals and community festivals where you can dance with the earth under your feet and feel the sun’s warm rays and the gentle breeze that makes you yearn for warmer days.

Speaking of which, we are excited to be confirmed for Hope and the City – Wellington – the quintessential girls night out to raise money for women’s cancers! We will be performing some sassy Burlesque numbers in line with this sassy women’s only event. We are also confirmed again for The Pirate Festival which is always a great opportunity for us to push the theatrical and creative envelope at this bawdy event. As usual, there is the Guelph Multicultural Festival, which we had the honour of headlining last year; the annual Chris Lane Memorial Fundraiser which raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada; and of course, our beloved Belly Blush Student Recital. Invoketress is pleased to present some new pieces at this year’s recital, including an intricate Polynesian-inspired drum solo which includes some of our new troupe apprentices; a piece that showcases self-expression in some of the trials and tribulations of some of our Invoketress dancer’s private lives; and some more play in ATS/ITS (American Tribal Style / Improvisational Tribal Style). And of course, there’s our highly anticipated MOSAIC bellydance-fusion show in November that we will discuss further in future blogs as details are gradually unraveled….

Don’t fret, fellow dance aficionados…the warmth will soon be here!

~ M.W.

Feeling It

Photos by Shannon Dore.  

Ishra Places in “Star Bellydancer Canada” Competition!

Congratulations to Ishra who placed 2nd runner-up in the Fusion Solo category in the first ever Star Bellydancer Canada Competition! A tremendously talented group of dancers showcased the wide breadth and depth of Canadian bellydance. We are very proud of Ishra’s accomplishments and know she will always be number one to her students, friends, and family! Check out some photos of Ishra’s performances!

Some words from Ishra from the experience:

Processing the whole Star Bellydancer Canada Competition event, so much to take in, it was all really overwhelming at first!  Now reflecting, I so LOVED watching all of the inspiring dance that evening. So many incredible dancers that I had never seen perform before. Really opened up Canada’s Bellydance community. 

“Teaching my first class after the competition yesterday I realized how much I soaked in by watching and appreciating the earthiness, the artistry and innovation I saw at the show. Congratulations to all the dancers who participated. Whether you won a trophy or not, you have inspired and are keeping our dance intact to its roots and always growing. Much love.”  

~ M.W.

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Photos by Natalia Sokolovska

 

Welcome, Ronan!

On January 8, 2013, we welcomed the newest member to the Invoketress family. Troupe member Mary gave birth to baby boy Ronan  (a future dumbek player, perhaps?). Here’s a maternity photo that was taken on December 30th in some tribal fusion costuming and of course, a photo of the new babe! Mom and baby are doing well!

Mary pregnant at 36 weeks in tribal dance costume. Photo by Loulou West Photography.
Mary pregnant at 36 weeks. Photo by Loulou West Photography. Body art by Infinite Body Painting.
Baby Ronan at 1 week old!
Baby Ronan at 1 week old!