Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Junonia Bellydancemble Summer Hafla @Sweeney's Dame Street, Dublin 1 on 16 June 2013

Another belated entry, but better late than never.

I just wanted to mention that my group, Junonia Dance Company performed at our summer hafla in Sweeney's on 16 June and it was an absolute success. The Junonia dancers worked incredibly hard to rehearse and perform two group choreographies, the first being "Heartbeats" by The Knife, the second being a more traditional piece to "Crush" by Beats Antique featuring Brazz Menazeri.

The weeks leading up to the summer hafla were filled with loads of rehearsals and "overtime", and many discussions on how to create group costumes efficiently. I really enjoyed seeing the dancers grow so much and be so involved and excited about the whole process. It makes my job as a dance teacher and organiser so much easier and much more exciting because I can feel their support and enthusiasm which nurtures me throughout.

While I must say that the choice of venue will have to be a different one next time (It turned out to be far too small and stuffy), I had the impression the hafla turned out really well otherwise. We had a lot of really talented Dublin dancers perform at the event and it was a great start to networking more and will hopefully be a platform of increased collaborative efforts amongst the Dublin (Tribal Fusion and American Tribal Style community) in the future. I really enjoyed organising the event although sometimes juggling all the logistics and retaining a full time employment can be a bit challenging and demands good time management skills. But it all worked out really well, and everyone was so supportive on the night, so a big thanks goes to all my students for being so super amazing, and Nadia Gativa for keeping "my cool" on the night:) You guys just rock and I cannot wait for more haflas to come over the next few months. And a big thanks to all the other performers involved in the event!

Please check out Junonia Dance Company's new group page on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JunoniaDanceCompany?fref=ts

Image by Eva Ziggiotto

Flyer design by Nadia Gativa

~Dance on~

Greystones Yoga- Weekend Intensive with David Swenson and Shelley Washington May 2013

I meant to post an entry directly after the David Swenson Intensive Ashtanga yoga weekend at the end of May 2013, but clearly that never happened.

Participating in the Intensive Ashtanga yoga weekend with David and his wife Shelley Washington was an incredible privilege and I came out all buzzing and really motivated to take my own Ashtanga practice that bit further. Thanks to Rionach O'Flynn of Greystones Yoga, we were able to study with this seasoned, incredibly insightful and refreshingly funny yogi who has been practicing Ashtanga for the last forty years. It was an inspiring reminder that I am on the right track with my own practice, and that my practice has become so much more than just a way to become and stay physically fit. As a matter of fact, with consistent personal practice, I have managed to transform yoga into a lifestyle over the last few years. I am incredibly grateful to have discovered the practice because without it I would not know what to do, it's my anchor and keeps me sane no matter what is going on in the external world or with people around me.

David and Shelley take such a refreshing approach to teaching yoga, and make it so much fun. In fact, I cannot remember laughing as much in any yoga workshops I have taken in the past.  I loved hearing David's little anecdotes throughout the workshops. While taking Ashtanga yoga seriously and passing it down in the traditional framework as taught by Patthabi Jois, David Swenson still manages to keep a healthy balance between a serious, disciplined practice and a lighthearted approach allowing for human error and inviting playfulness.

Another thing I particularly loved about David's workshops was the fact that it involved a lot of group work which did not only take out the tension and possible anxiety that some anasanas (like headstand, handstand and backbend) may cause in some people but it also gave us really precious knowledge about how to assist other yogis in accomplishing and practising certain poses in a healthy, supported and controlled manner. While I love backbending sequences I am still a little weirded out by the concept of freestanding headstands (this got much better over the last year) and especially handstands. The idea of potentially falling freaks out my adult self and I much prefer having people around to catch me in case I do happen to fall. I know falling won't kill me and David did explain how to fall and roll out of falls safely but I still have not managed to entirely let go of the fear (that simply imagining the potential of falling creates).

The fact that David and Shelley put us in groups to work on and explore handstand helped me enormously as it made me realize how much fun handstands actually are. I love seeing the world from an entirely different perspective, and exploring my balance and strength. Also, it made me acknowledge that I am probably already strong enough to attempt them (gradually) on my own although my rational mind still tends to try and convince me differently. Another aspect I really loved about the weekend was that we were able to discuss yoga philosophy quite a bit too, which was a great way for winding down the weekend.

While I mostly practise yoga on my own, I always appreciate opportunities of connecting with and getting to know fellow yogis/yoginis. The events organised by Greystones Yoga are always such a welcome chance for me to do yoga in a group setting. The David Swenson workshops (much more like the David Williams workshops at Greystones Yoga last year) really allowed me to exchange myself with yoga practitioners and to feel that I am part of a greater movement. Not only did I get a lift of a beautiful massage therapist and met other yoga girls as a result, but I was also able to meet new people assisting and being assisted in the workshops, and I spent two amazing days in Greystones. Greystones is such a beautiful place and the whole weekend was sunny and bright, and I enjoyed vegan food at the Happy Pear. How much better can life get?

Just because I am only posting this entry now, I wanted to also mention that my participation in the Luke Jordan workshops at Samadhi Dublin on 14 July was amazing too. Again, the second workshop (which followed a Led Primary Series class) was about Yoga philosophy and chanting and I will definitely read the Yoga Sutras in depth after this. My next yoga related adventure will be with the wonderful Gillian Mooney who will teach a series of amazing workshops over the coming bank holiday weekend.. I absolutely cannot wait for it! Saturday 3 August will commence with a Tristhana workshop (10-1 pm) followed by the Principles of Backbending (2-4 pm). Sunday 4 August will start with a Led Primary class (10-1 pm) followed by an Inversions workshop (2-4 pm). And Monday will be an Introductory workshop to the Intermediate series (10-1 pm) which I am particularly looking forward to. See http://www.ashtangayogaireland.ie/workshops.html for more information.



Photo by Greystones Yoga

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tribal Umrah/ Marseille 19-29 July 2013

Words cannot express the magical atmosphere at the (itinerant) Tribal Umrah Festival which took place in Marseille this year. Of all the dance events I have been to in the past few years this has by far exceeded my wildest expectations. Not only was I blessed enough to be picked to partake in the Pro-Track program, but the social activities and many dance events organised throughout the week just blew my mind. The talent and immense love and support shared were simply overwhelming and it will be take my quite some time to process all the impressions I had during my stay in the South of France.

We arrived the weekend before the festival kicked off, and I am glad we got some time to explore Marseille before being immersed in dance related events and training the week after our arrival. On getting off the plane at the airport on Friday 19 July, we were hit by a wall of heat and it took some time to acclimatize despite the heatwave in Dublin the two weeks prior to our departure. We were so lucky to have booked a flat on Avenue de Mazarques which we we discovered was just a convenient few houses up from the studio (Olga Semanova Dance Studios) reserved for the Pro-Track. My first experience booking a flat via Airbnb was really quite positive, and I am thinking of resorting to this accommodation option when travelling to events in the future. It really makes all the difference to be staying and living in a local's flat. It automatically gives you a feel of home and a certain sense of familiarity. We loved our flat right from the moment we stepped into the doors. It was great having a chat with the landlady in French and to discover that my French (spoken) skills are not as rusty as I thought they would be due to a lack of practice in recent years. The landlady gave us a few pointers as to what places to check out in the surrounding area, and we were chuffed to discover that the beach was just a short walk from the flat and Parc Borely was just down the road also. All in all, the ideal place to stay for our dance ventures.

My friend Teuta and fellow dance soul then joined us that Friday afternoon, driving down to Marseille by car, as she is currently undertaking a road trip through France. It was so wonderful to see her again after a year, and to catch up and hear about her French adventures so far. The next day (20 July) we decided to explore the neighborhood and walk into town (leaving dripping pools of sweat behind us on the way in). I am so glad we made the trip to the Old Port as it's just absolutely stunning. I loved sitting on the edge dipping my feet into the water and enjoying the view across to the boats and harbor. We also got to see the Gay Pride that paraded through town as we walked in and it was super fun to see everyone's make up and dress. The participants had a mad good time dancing and partying though their choice of music was rather questionable at times. The markets around town were also fun to check out, and the whole of Marseille smelled lovely, of handmade soaps and lavender. We also stuffed our faces with Macaroons which was definitely an occasion for me to make a vegetarian exception and for temporarily "abandoning" my largely vegan lifestyle. The sun was shining all day, and we were spoilt rotten by the weather!

The Sunday we finally spent on the beach, and I loved just being in the water, and reading a really stimulating book on neuroscience/brain plasticity.

Our Pro-Track adventures got kicked off by a four-hour Black Sheep workshop on Monday morning, and I loved it. It was nice to study their group improvisational format which is very informed by American Tribal Style and it gave me food for thought for group work when teaching my own classes. The following morning class consisted of the Suhaila Salimpour format taught by Ashara (assisted by the gorgeous Maelle from Belgium) and it was great to review the format as I have been studying it for quite some time now. Deb Rubin's "Dance Therapeutics" class on Wednesday was amazing, tying into and expanding on what I learnt from Deb at the Infusion Emporium in Wolverhampton last year. Amy Sigil then rocked our world the following morning with her "can do attitude" (despite her broken foot). Reciting "I am ready" at the beginning of class was super fun and summoned our energies for a highly energetic, powerful Unmata style class during which Amy also managed to put together a full group choreo (consisting of 21 Pro-Track dancers). The main message being that the movement is already within us and that we need to listen to ourselves and discover our own movement repertoire organically. Another lesson I took away from Amy's class was that even any day to day activities can inform our movement vocabulary as dancers. The last morning class of the week was delivered by Sharon Kihara, and I am so incredibly blessed to have finally studied with this stunningly beautiful and exceptionally talented dancer. Sharon had us do a really strong and much needed yoga warm up which I absolutely loved. She then went on to analyze two drum solos with us which was really informative. In this class, we also learnt a lot about the social dynamics between dancers and musicians before tackling and learning Sharon's extremely fun and unusual drum solo (which she also performed at the closing show on Saturday, 27 July).

Moving on to the afternoon sessions, April Rose worked very hard to create her water choreography with our Pro-Track group. It was such an honor to be working with April and also to be able to collaborate with so many talented dancers. I particularly loved the interactive approach which involved everyone's creative input. While I started out in the "underwater group" and contributed some movement to their routine, I then moved on to joining the floorwork group. It was six of us and I just adored the floorwork despite the hard, concrete floor at the Olga Semanova studio (Nr. 52 on Avenue de Mazargues) and many bruises acquired as a result.

I truly think being part of the Pro-Track was a necessary step towards greater professionalism and integral to my further development as a dancer teacher and dancer/performer. It was amazing to be able to work with dancers that boast such a high level of proficiency, everyone catching on so fast and being so pro-active and supportive of one another. Witnessing this high degree of mutual support and dedication really inspired me, we had such a great sense of community and fellow dancey kinship, it was heartwarming. I just loved getting to know all the amazing Pro-Track dancers and hope we will be dancing together again soon. Our performance on Saturday was just amazing and I am absolutely dying to watch the recording of the piece. Considering we only had two hours four of the afternoons to put together and learn the choreography with April Rose, I thought we did a great job of supporting each other on the night. The Pro-Track water choreography was a lovely way of opening the closing show! Words cannot begin to express what I felt on the night of the performance- The whole atmosphere was just so magical with the stage being set up at the seaside in open air. Dancing outside with the refreshing breeze in our faces was just wonderful and seeing all the other outstanding dancers perform was such an honor. All the performances were just stunning, and I was particularly moved by Sharon Kihara's first number which was so emotional, powerful and truly overwhelming, moving me to tears as a matter of fact.

Our first Tribal Umrah participation got rounded off by a hike to the Calanques which was organised by Djeyenne and her Tribal Umrah crew. The hike was a perfect way of winding down in nature after an intensive week of dancing. Swimming and enjoying the beach after the hike was such a great reward for our hard work throughout the week and gave us the opportunity to socialize and get to know each other better. The trail of pools of sweat we left during the hike to and from the Calanques was so worth it and I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed I will be able to join Tribal Umrah next year also!

Thanks to Djeyenne and her Tribal Umrah chicks, April Rose, all the Pro-Track performers, my students Grace and Yukari and my gorgeous friend Teuta for such a memorable dance holiday!



Photo by Ne├» Mad Photographies