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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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