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:

 

 

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!

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.

 

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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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!

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