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

 

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

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InvokeTribe Announcement!

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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.

 

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.

Spring Fever

If you’ve been following our Blog or our Facebook Page, you’ll know that this spring has been chock full of performances! They all lead up to our highlight of the season – our Belly Blush Student Recital!  Do you have your ticket, yet? You can purchase them in advance from the Blue Ribbon in downtown Guelph or from any one of our lovely Invoketress ladies!

On Friday, June 7th, Natalie, Minerva, Mary and Ishra had the lovely opportunity to provide some entertainment to the Relay for Life, Cambridge walkers. Relays for Life are held all over to raise money for much needed cancer research.

On Saturday, June 8th, the ladies were blessed with a rain-free Guelph Multicultural Festival for the first time in years!  We were also honoured to be the Saturday night show-closers.  What a wonderful, receptive audience we had.  Be sure to catch some video highlights from our performance here.

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The lovely ladies at the Guelph Multicultural Festival: Paula, Nicole, Cindy, Mary, Ishra, Minerva, Tova, Natalie.

This Saturday, June 15, catch some of the Invoketress ladies as they participate in a celebration of the Speed and Eramosa Rivers at Guelph’s 2 Rivers Festival celebration! They will be accompanying a drumming procession down the river so you don’t want to miss this! Catch them at The Boathouse, 5pm.

Also, this Friday and Saturday, Mary and Natalie will be attending some workshops from some of Ontario’s finest instructors at Rakfest, hosted by Guelph’s Hiba. They will also be performing at the Saturday night hafla. Check out the amazing offering of workshops! You can still register before noon, Friday, June 14th!

Lots still to come this summer….so stay tuned!

~ M.W. 

Busy Little Dancing (Queen!) Bees!

Springtime is always a busy time for bellydance. Not only are the girls being hired for more and more gigs, we’re also gearing up for our annual Belly Blush Student Recital! This year, Invoketress is working on a brand spanking new fun and cheeky tambourine piece as well as pulling out our exciting Tunisian piece that was unveiled at November’s MOSAIC show. There will also be new duets and smaller Invoketress group pieces choreographed by the ladies themselves. Such a talented bunch!

Despite being busy, the girls aren’t resting on their laurels. Always eager to learn more from the wealth of talent in the bellydance community and to broaden our horizons, we recently had Valizan come to teach the troupe some ATS basics. It was an awesome time – if you’ve never taken a class with Valizan, it is a must. Natalie took a workshop with Yasmina Ramzy, Mary took a workshop with Audra from The Dark Side Studio and Ishra took one with Cassandra Shore.

ATS workshop with Valizan!
ATS workshop with Valizan!

This Saturday, May 11, you can catch Invoketress at a Bracelets of Hope fundraiser in St. George’s Square, downtown Guelph.  That same day, Ishra is also one of the guest instructors at Flying Dance’s Company’s Women’s Dance Retreat.

As always, please check out our Performances section for all of our upcoming events!