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!

 

 

 

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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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

 

Ishra’s “Top 40 Under 40!” Luncheon and Article!

Congratulations to our teacher and fearless leader, Ishra, for being honoured as one of the Guelph Mercury’s “Top 40 Under 40.” There was a lovely luncheon for all the winners on June 19th at the Guelph Youth Music Centre to celebrate all of the amazing achievements of the nominees.

Mary and Ishra at the luncheon.
Mary and Ishra at the luncheon.
Ishra with all the other amazing nominees.
Ishra with all the other amazing nominees.
Special insert in the Guelph Mercury.
Special insert in the Guelph Mercury.
Ishra's profile at the event.
Ishra’s profile at the event.

We are so blessed to have such a talented and ground-breaking instructor right here in Guelph.  Ishra, here’s to another 40 years!!

~ M.W.