Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Fall Belly Dance with Joie at Flourish Arts

Date:  September 18 - December 4
            (No class Thanksgiving week)

Time: 6:30 - 7:30

Location:  Flourish Arts
                  140 Main St
                  Biddeford, Maine

Cost:         $95 - Early Bird (before 9/8)
                  $110 - after 9/8
                  Installment plans are available by

Please note this is a session class - no dropins

Learn the expressive and beautiful art of belly dance in this 11 week mixed levels belly dance class.  You'll learn the foundational movements of the dance, and be introduced to the music and rhythms that surround this beautiful dance form (with live music!!).  You'll learn how to combine the movements to create improvised, flowing dances.  Whether you want to dance on the stage or in your own living room, this class will give you a great start.

Students will also have the opportunity to perform at a student recital in December! 

Joie teaches dance from an embodiment perspective, students will learn not only how a movement should look, but how it feels in the body.  She seeks to create a safe and welcoming space for student to explore movement and dance.

Belly dance is suitable for all body types and the class is open to all genders.  No prior dance experience is required.

You will want to bring clothing that is comfortable to move in (layers are wonderful), a water bottle, and a willingness to learn!

This class is a live music class with musicians Dorothy Barker and Stephen Carpenter.


The Hollow Tree

There have been times in my life that I have felt a great emptiness inside.   A hollow expanse that should contain all that is me but contains only muffled echoes of forgotten possibility.  At other times that space has felt like it is overrun with rottenness; a vile, decayed sludge that has seeped in through forgotten cracks until I am full up with foulness.   It spreads out from my core to the ends of my fingers, the tip of my nose, the top of my head, until I become a tower of unworthiness.  Unlovable, unwanted…

Yet, somehow I am still here.  Somehow, despite carrying this giant bag of self nastiness, I grew.  I moved through life, not always functioning in the best way, but still alive.  There are so many of us that live in this way – wounded, but still walking.  Dancing along the edge of the wallow…

When I sat last night to draw I wanted to create some image that spoke to this feeling.  This feeling of being alive, but deeply hurt.  I put the pen to paper, and I asked my body, my heart, what image will convey this?  And so emerged the hollow tree. 

The hollow tree is wounded, but it lives.  At some time in it’s life the  heartwood was damaged.  Fungi moved in, breaking the wood down.  As time passes the core breaks down, but the rest of the tree grows – the fungi only feed on the decaying wood.  Depending upon how you approach the tree, you may not see the gaping hole in its side.  You only see the living bark, the green leaves, the blossoms, the fruit; you may pass it by never knowing the emptiness that is inside.

But you might also decide to walk around the tree.  To examine it, to look more closely, as you come around the other side you see the great wound that is there.  A closer look and you also see the spots where new wood has grown in around the edges. You will see the remains of a possum nest, or where a squirrel has stashed its acorn bounty.  If the hole is large enough you may even step inside and marvel at the quiet of this hollow place.

I wondered how such trees could live; with their hearts rotted out.  I discovered that trees are remarkably adaptive creatures.  There are theories that the way trees rot is an adaptive trait, that the minerals, and nutrients stored there are broken down by fungi, returned to the soil, and used again by the tree as it grows new sap wood.  Some say that hollow trees withstand storms better, they bend instead of break.  Another theory is that trees will allow the rot to happen because the heartwood is not what keeps the tree alive, the new sapwood is, and so it turns its energy and resources to creating new paths for sap to reach the rest of it.

The hollow tree is wounded.  It is damaged.  But it is also resilient.  It is also strong.  It can grow, even flourish – there are some great hollow trees that are hundreds of years old. One in the UK is large enough that it has been host to a seated dinner for twenty people inside of its trunk! 

Today I sit holding this image of myself as the hollow tree.  Still reaching my branches to the sun.  Still creating fresh new green leaves.  Still blossoming and bearing the fruit of my existence.  The wound is not gone, but it is not just an empty rotting hollow.  When I step inside that space, that wound, I find that it is also haven.  Here I can sit and remember how I survived, what got me through, and if I reach out to touch the edges,  I connect to the tough, living wood that is my survival.   

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Thoughts on death, ancestors, and the future...

I don’t know if the concept of what I perceive as me will exist after I die. That part of me may end when my brain ceases to function, when there is no more living body to contain my consciousness. Or maybe I will continue in some less substantial form, but I wonder how long a sense of self will last without a body to interact with the world. In more fantastical moments I imagine that we, and our identities, fade slowly into some collective gathering of thought, without individual distinctions or names. Occasionally bumping into the world of the living, giving rise to stories of ghosts and spirits, or those fleeting moments when we know we have touched something greater than our individual selves but struggle to name it.

Most days I am okay with the ambiguity of not knowing. I figure I will either have an amazing new experience or my sense of self will pop out of existence when my body dies and there will be no consciousness to perceive the loss of this. Knowing that this life may be the only time I walk this world keeps me present, it lessens the pressure to be perfect because who really gets it right the first, and possibly only, time?

It is the part of me that will for sure be left behind, my body, that gives me a sense of continuity. It is through my body that I am connected to the past and to the future.

When I think about what will happen after my death, I imagine my body buried deep in the soil, or perhaps my ashes scattered across some bit of earth I loved, slowly decomposing…composting…until, after a time, there is no difference between what was me and what is soil.

That decomposed me will be dug through by earthworms that move infinitesimally small portions of me a few inches deeper into the earth. It will be eaten by insects and digested in the guts of bacteria. Fungus. Ants. Water. Freezing, thawing, freezing again. Breaking down into my base elements. This happens to all living things.

Maybe some particle of me will be pulled up by the root of a tree, transforming into energy, leaf, bark, berry, and root.

This is where I find my hope.

When I look out my window to the tree that rises from a three-foot-wide strip of soil between street and sidewalk, I think of all the other living creatures that are a part of that tree. How many bits of broken down, composted beings exist beneath its bark? How many generations of us are in those leaves? How many in the white flowers that bloom on its branches in the spring? How many in the berries that plump and ripen each fall?

A squirrel may eat a berry from the tree, taking in a few particles of my ancestors into its squirrel belly. It will live out its life, raise its young, grow old and die – or it too may by eaten by a hawk, moving the process of transformation along more quickly. It either case it too will be bodily broken down by time, scavengers, and weather. The tree too will eventually die and take its place in this cycle.

With each meal we eat our ancestors. We wear them on our bodies. We burn them for fuel. We plant seeds in them. We grow the next generation with what the Earth and they provide us. The trees, the flowers, the grass, the sea, the cotton t-shirt I’m wearing, my skin, my cat, parts of this computer, are our ancestors. And in time they will become the future generations that live out their lives here.

When I turn my gaze again to that same tree I see my ancestors, and I see all the generations to come. And I am reminded that I am here only briefly. I am not the owner of this place, I’ve no more right to it than the bee, or the flower, or the squirrel. It doesn’t belong to me or you, but to the future.

When I turn my gaze to my own hand I see the past that created me, and the future that my body will be come. And I am reminded that I only have right now, the very brief window of time that is my existence, to help create a world where all of the other beings I walk this Earth with, and all that are to come, are able to live out their lives in safety and peace. I only have right now to make choices that will help to ensure that there is enough Earth left to support the generations to come.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Rhythm & Drum: An Introduction to Belly Dance Rhythms & Drumming for Dancers!

Date/Time:      Part 1: Sunday, July 14 – 4:00 – 5:30PM
                        Part 2: Sunday, July 28 – 4:00 – 5:30PM

Location:         Bright Star World Dance
                         108 High Street, 3rd Floor, Portland, Maine
                         (This venue is not mobility accessible)

Cost:                Part I: $25 (workshop only)/$65 (workshop & drum)
                         Part I & II:  $50 (workshops only)/$90 (workshops & drum)

Advanced signups are closed as are drum preorders .  If you wish to drop into the workshop please use the contact form to let us know you plan to attend.  

We do have drums that can be borrowed for the workshop.
Are you a belly dancer seeking deeper understanding of the music you dance to? Do you want to become more comfortable with dancing with a live drummer?  Would you like to be able to accompany the rhythm on the zills as you dance?

One of first steps in understanding the music you dance to is to learn about the rhythms behind it. Co-taught by dancer Joie Grandbois and percussionist Stephen Carpenter, this unique (and fun!) two-part drum & rhythm workshop series will introduce you to common rhythms used in belly dance by combining instruction on the drum with dance application.

Designed specifically for dancers, each workshop includes instruction on the drum (a drum is required for class), dance instruction, and a chance to play for your fellow dancers! 

Our goal is to increase your comfort level with the music. 

Note:  A drum is required for this class.  While we strongly suggest learning on the doumbec/tabla students may bring other drums with prior approval of the instructors. We have arranged to purchase drums at a discounted price from The Drum Shop. 

You may purchase drums with your workshop registration and will receive your drum on the day of the workshop. 

Part I: Basics (July 14)

This workshop will give you a basic introduction to the doumbec/tabla.  You will learn how to play a few of the more common rhythms you hear in Middle Eastern music, instruction on dancing to the rhythm, and a chance to play for your fellow students!

Each student who attends Part I will also receive a rhythm sheet and information on resources for deeper learning.

Part II: Advanced (July 28)

Note:  You must have taken Part I to take Part II

This workshop is an introduction to more advanced rhythms such as the kars lama and samai.  Building on lessons from Part I you will learn how to play these delicious and moving rhythms on the drum as well as have the opportunity to dance and play for your fellow dancers.

Students who attend Part II will also receive information on resources for deeper learning.

This workshop is open to any person 18 years of age or older.

Joie Grandbois

Dancer, choreographer, musician, writer, storyteller. Whether they are using the medium of dance, rhythm or words Joie seeks to bring to life the character present in a creative work. A lifelong dancer Joie entered the world of belly dance through the side door of raqs gothique after falling in love with its dramatic storytelling nature. Their dance explorations have also led to a study of cabaret and Turkish styles of the dance expanding their love of the art form. For the past 9 years joie has studied and played Middle Eastern percussion,and has a love of playing the zills.

Joie is the founder and director of the street vaudeville performance troupe Dark Follies which formed in 2008 and performs as a solo artist around New England. They teach belly dance, contemplative dance, and theatrical dance in Portland and Biddeford, Maine


Stephen Carpenter

Stephen Carpenter, has been studying hand percussion for most of the current century with a particular focus on the rhythms of the middle east. Stephen has played with variety of performers in Maine and around New England in both stage and classroom settings. Through the voice of the drum and ney he seeks to create a conversation between the music, dancer and audience.Since 2010 he has been the musical director for the Portland, Maine based street vaudeville troupe Dark Follies. Stephen is also a professional woodworker who crafts many of the instruments he plays upon