Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Buh Bye Saturn

The calm before the storm, or am I in the eye?
Settling in.

...words that come to me as I lay in bed awake, one of the more creative and poetic insomniac experiences I've had in a while. This summer and even this year has been an intense one. And I hate it when people say that. Intense? In what way? How? Don't you still have a roof over your head and food to eat? What could you really have to complain about?

I see forest fires rage up the west coast, hurricanes ravaging the east coast, our current political situation in shambles - and I'm sitting here in my beautiful flow space in San Diego, with little more than a heatwave to complain about.

But still, life has been so intense lately! Why?

Is it the solar eclipse? The full moon? Is mercury in retrograde? Can I blame it on the stars?

Well I kind of want to. I think maybe I am experiencing the END of my Saturn Return. So many people talk about the Saturn Return - the beginning of it. When your life gets disrupted in a way that you can only really blame on that crazy planet with all of those rings in the sky. You hear of people around the age of thirty changing careers, lifestyles, marriages, divorces, traveling the word, giving away all of their worldly possessions - that kind of thing. But what about when Saturn leaves the location it was when you were born, the same location it comes back to every 27 - 32 years. Buh bye. "There you are" says Saturn, "I just messed up everything you thought you knew about your life and here I go rotating through the universe for you to figure it out, buh bye."

And here I am, settling into the next phase of my life - waving Saturn goodbye.

It's definitely not been as disruptive as when Saturn showed up. THAT was crazy sauce. But this summer and even most of this year has been confusing. And I couldn't figure out exactly why until recently. 

It has a lot to do with pressure. Pressure to do adult things like save money and have a family, heaven forbid maybe even buy a house one day. I definitely want to have a family - and that doesn't feel pressured upon me. It feels natural. I have felt that way for as long as I can remember. And I am so in love with Bags, he is going to be an amazing dad one day. The other parts though - about saving money, having enough to provide for the family with performer careers - those are the societal pressures that go along with growing up.

Next ingredient for Valentina-slightly-melts-down-over-every-little-thing-summer-of-2017 is not having a tour or a large contract to work. Whoa. That felt weird. That was confusing. Yes we had work, we're doing pretty good...we're keeping busy and performing and teaching quite a lot. But nothing like doing 4-5 shows a day for umpteen amount of days in a row or touring around the country or the world. For 4 or 5 years now every summer I've done either one or the other - tour or contract. This summer, neither! Just sitting with that. Just sitting with anything, in any amount of stillness / stationary-ness is extremely challenging for me and probably exactly what I need. 

We've also said we're not going to travel as much so we can save some money (see wanting to have a family above) BUT we still traveled quite a bit this year: Hawaii, Australia, St Louis, Boston and we're about to do Portland, NY and Seattle. Not going to travel...psssshhhh...yeahhhhhh right! That's also been confusing. Because I love traveling and so does Bags.It feels so right and exactly what we should be doing. To not travel feels like going against the natural grain of our lives. But we don't have enough money to travel AND save money (noticing a pattern here?) And also what's confusing about all of this is that when I say I'm going to do something, I do it. I don't say I'm not going to travel but then still travel...kind of. Weird. Not like me.

I also tried to step back a bit from producing as many large scale shows and to focus on the Twisted Orbit business. I think it's finally starting to pay off. A couple things have come up and are on the horizon that make it seem like we're going into the direction we'd like to be. Which has contributed to me feeling a bit better about this decision. 

I have felt such joy, such immense pleasure from producing the shows I have created in San Diego. The feedback from the audiences, the students, the performers and the venues we've worked with are nothing short of fantastic. THAT is what I should be doing - things that give me beautiful, uplifting, inspiring feedback. But, at the same time DAMN do those shows take a lot of energy, work, time, stress and sometimes aren't the most profitable - especially when you count the hours upon hours of time put into them. Trying to move towards working smarter not harder. And producing generally doesn't fit into that category. But it feels WEIRD to not do something I am so good at, something I was obviously meant to do and something that brings so many people around me so much joy. Shifting my focus, changing my day to day, changing my habits - after about 6 years of this formula - has been really challenging.

With this confusion, this shift, this self-directed change comes a little bit of reverb. These disruptions have been felt in other areas of my life that I didn't think would be affected. I found myself in constant conversations with people. Having to talk to people around me about tough or confrontational things A LOT. Like for months on end. I've had to engage in these types of communications with members of both my troupes and the members of my community living space. Some of the topics weren't directly affected by/with me but as the leader of these groups, I have chosen the mediator role. I have chosen the role of holding space for others. 

I'm tired. And I feel like I failed multiple times.

Throughout my life I have struggled with communicating in a kind / compassionate way. I am very direct and honest. Maybe even harsh sometimes. I have been working on this aspect of myself since starting the Hoop Unit (8 years ago) and learned early on how important different communication styles are. As I leader I have taken on all kinds of both good and bad things. Responsibilities and standards that are quite tough to uphold for myself. The benefits of leadership outweigh the hardships by far, but this summer it's felt like I have had to deal with the tough stuff a lot more than normal. I find myself struggling to communicate with compassion, crying over and over about these failures and beating myself up about them. I find myself picking up the book 'Non Violent Communication' for the third time in the last decade. How many times must I learn this lesson? It's interesting because I have focused on this aspect of myself a lot in the past, but it's hard to constantly, continually keep working hard on it forever. Sometimes it goes a bit by the wayside. Like you know in the back of your head you have an issue with a certain part of yourself, you don't keep it in the forefront ALL of the time. That would be exhausting. But then things come up that challenge that aspect of you, and maybe you haven't focused on it in a while so then you slip up again. Grrr. 

I have written in a journal consistently for the first time since I can remember. It's helped a lot. I can't always unload everything onto Bags all of the time. Sometimes the pages of my journal need to get the brunt of it. 

Some things Donna Farhi talks about in her book "Bringing Yoga to Life" that my dear friend and dance sister/YTT coach Lisa Yeme recommended to me has helped me think about these things. The idea of compassion for everyone, the connectedness, unity and in all actuality sameness that we all are. If someone is pissing me off, I really need to think about how we are actually the same person. To see the good in them. They are just doing their best, just like me. Farhi talks about 4 recommendations from Patanjali (the man associated with the 196 Yoga Sutras):

1) Friendliness toward the joyful 2) Compassion for those who are suffering 3) Celebrating the good in others 4) Remaining impartial to the faults and imperfections of others (Yoga-Sutra I.33)

Also, the idea of not agonizing over every mistake but having a sense of humor about them and to realize that I am trying my best. Farhi says:
"We might also develop a sense of humor so that we can laugh at ourselves when we fall down and take our shambling efforts, not as a sign of personal failure, but as proof of the authenticity of our endeavor."

I tend to see each slip up as a complete failure and get really down, really hard on myself. I am such a perfectionist. Can't I just be good at everything?! Can't I be talented, an amazing performer, a natural teacher, successful, abundant, a doting wife, an excellent leader, a careful communicator - all the things?! Oh wait. That is unrealistic and just plain silly. I am not perfect. I never will be. And how boring would life be if I were? 

So circling back to the beginning of this post, how things really aren't that bad compared to what is happening in the whole wide world. I really can't complain - true. But I do believe it is important for me to realize and recognize what's going on with me and talk about it. Write about it. Process it. Try not to complain, of course, and move from a place of complete gratitude as much as possible. I don't want to dismiss what I am experiencing but I also want to know that in the grand scheme of things, life is pretty sweet. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Show Me a Shift in Myself

I have been home from the Show Me Burlesque Festival only a few days, though the festivities ended almost a week ago. It has taken me this long, and probably will continue to take me a while longer to process and allow all of what I experienced to soak in.

It. Was. Amazing.

The shows were out-of-this-world. I was left awe-struck many, many times. But what has really stayed with me is it's heart. The Show Me Burlesque Festival has heart. It has wild, open, unabashed true love. I think this is a direct reflection of the producer of the festival, Lola Van Ella. She is a gifted leader and a wonderful role model in the Burlesque community. After last weekend, I decided I want to be Lola Van Ella when I grow up! I have noticed that events, festivals, retreats, what have you, always take on the energy and approach in which their producer emanates. And Lola Van Ella emanates love. She's also super silly, smart, funny and sexy :)

She does it all: sings, emcees, dances, strips, produces, teaches...probably a lot more things that I'm not even mentioning here. She has so many talents. But one of her most important virtues is building other people up. She creates community and brings people together to make sexy stripper art. By raising up our art form (showcasing it on a platform worthy of it's importance) and also bigging everyone up to higher heights around her, she achieves so much. And she does it all with a smile on her face and an open heart beaming full of love and gratitude. When Lola tells you you're going to be amazing on stage, it sure does feel good!

Another noteworthy aspect of Show Me was it's diversity. Diversity in body type, gender, sexual orientation, culture, race, everything! Even diversity in approach to Burlesque. I have been to many festivals that have favored the classic aesthetic. Nothing wrong with a good old bump 'n grind, mind you! Many festivals have left me going home from the shows wishing I were thinner and that my costumes were sparklier. Show Me DEFINITELY inspired my costume-crazed mind. But maybe not just to be sparklier. Maybe to be more elaborate, creative, cleaver, beautiful, interesting...
Dirty Martini

I watched voluptuous babes such as Sassy Von Staddler and the one and only DIRTY MARTINI absolutely KILL IT on stage. Sassy went on right before me. She OWNED that stage. She is so flexible and so powerful. That night was the first time I'd seen Dirty Martini's swan act and I am a forever fan. It was hilarious, sexy, smart and weird. It was everything I ever wanted out of a Burlesque act. Yep, the definition of Burlesque. Right there. If anyone asks me what Burlesque is again, all I will do is point them to a video of that act. 

These two, along with many others that took the stage over the weekend made me realize in a completely new way that it really doesn't matter what your body looks like. As long as you completely bring it to the stage, THAT is all that matters. You bring You. Bring yourself to your fullest and do it with more conviction than anything, and you will have the audience eating out of the palm of your hand. 

Performing Burlesque showed me early on that one of my major roles in life is to get on
My Belly Burlesque Act
stage with my society-labeled-not-perfect body and rock it in a way that gives the audience permission to love their bodies as well. We are all bombarded with magazines, photoshop and unrealistic expectations to be "perfect." I have been fighting the good fight; encouraging all shapes and sizes of women to take my classes, feel free, feel themselves, dance and get on stage in complete disregard to how society tells us we should feel about our bodies. BUT even with YEARS of preaching this, teaching this to my students, encouraging them, etc, I have still struggled with my own body image. As a performer, I am expected to be thin. But I'm not. I am curvy. I don't have a flat stomach. And I am quite active, I workout often (on top of the very physically demanding job of teaching and performing circus and dance that I have chosen). I eat healthy, sleep well (most of the time) and take excellent care of myself. I shouldn't feel bad about my not flat stomach. But sometimes I do. 

I am happy to say that Show Me has shown me a shift within myself. An acceptance of my body in a different way than ever before. I have gone in and out. Up and down. Through a long road that winds and dips and curves (dangerous curves ahead!) To a place now that feels like: it doesn't matter what my body looks like, as long as I own it. As long as I rock it! As long as I take my talents (and talents I have honed!) on stage with me, with complete confidence and unabashed commitment...that is all that matters. It clicked. This time it feels like a different click. 


Needless to say it's been a really intense week. I have felt a lot of emotions and thought about so much. I have been exposed to 3 days of beautiful, eclectic stripper art and allowed myself to feel it all. I was a little bit more sensitive than usual, it being my moon time, so I spent a lot of time crying. I wasn't sad though. I was so, so happy. I was just feeling all of the feels, and I am a big crier, so all of my thoughts and epiphanies were coming out of my eyes. Like little stripper rhinestones, each one an important milestone in an art stripper's career process. 

Back to the diversity! I have not seen a festival with this much diversity before! Rivaling on, if not surpassing NY's festival with it's level of representation of EVERYTHING. I want to make sure that the shows, classes and events I am bringing to the San Diego community are fully representational and open to everyone. Everyone. I want to put it out there that the events and classes I create are a safe place for every type of person to be there, express themselves and find themselves through art. 

I am so impressed with Show Me for it's diversity, representation of all types of people, it's inspiringly high level, it's community that supports and surrounds it (the crew, band, musicians, support staff, volunteers) and how good the performers are treated and taken care of.

A brief recap of some of my highlights:
Thursday - The Speakeasy Soiree
Midnite Martini
Oh that venue! I think I swooned the whole time. The Thaxton Speakeasy is a beautiful art deco building with an unusual performance setting. Almost like a runway, the performers were incredibly close to the audience which made for an intimate show. I loved being that close to them! They all really did wonderfully with the space and I found myself smiling so much my face hurt! I was so inspired. Lola Van Ella emceed, starting the show off singing with her live jazz band, swoon! Some of my favorite performers were Laika Fox (giant steak suit, political statements, surprise cartwheel into drop splits!), Chola Magnolia (fringe, latin dance moves, the best stage presence and hilarious musicality), Lucky Buck (face balancing boylesque), Lola Lesoleil (beautifully performed with a story and a surprise that I wont reveal here), Kitana Louise (she didn't have a mic stand so used a stage hand and worked him hard while she striped, it was hilarious and sexy), GiGi Holiday's GPS of Burlesque and of course Midnite Martini KILLED IT - ending the show with a beautiful strip, chair / stocking removal acrobatics and so much soul. I was entranced, inspired and couldn't believe it was the first night. I only mentioned a fraction of the performers, but literally ALL of them were amazing. The afterparty was a Burlesque Bingo show emceed by Mimi Le Uke at a venue called the Crack Fox (why is there a venue called that?!) and had even more amazingness - it ended with Isaiah Esquire of Portland and he was absolutely unforgettable. I didn't even know humans were made like that!

Friday - The Red Light Revue
Show night for me! I went through a myriad of thoughts and emotions that night. I was so nervous! I had made this show into such an important one in my mind. Maybe put too much pressure on myself. I had reviewed my choreo and asked Di'Lovely to work with me to make it better, I added more bling / dangly bits to my costume, I practiced more than I usually do (though probably as much as I should be) and then I blanked out on stage for 4 counts of 8. Just fully blacked out, couldn't remember my choreo and couldn't get back to it for 4 freaking counts of 8. Not that the audience knew but I was devastated after I got off stage. Then I couldn't stop thinking about it. Before I went on I couldn't watch the show because it was making me so nervous and I was starting to have an existential crisis about Burlesque. Perfect timing. Right before I'm about to go on, I start to have a love / hate relationship with one of my biggest passions. In the end I just freestyled a bit and NO ONE knows the difference besides me. My cousins from Columbia came out to watch me and an old family friend from ages ago too! It was so good to have them there. 
The Red Light Revue Cast

After the show upstairs was the Van Ella Bordella...a stripper pole in the middle of the room and the Van Ella Band playing 90's hits. It was the best, weirdest, sexiest combo ever. That was the most "stripper" I've ever seen at a Burlesque Festival. There's this huge dichotomy between being a stripper at a strip club and being a burlesque performer...it's really not that different (except strippers make more money!) and there shouldn't be a divide. This was an example of fusion of the two worlds in a way that I have never seen at a festival before, or ever before actually. There was audience interaction, there were dollar bills flying in the air. And there was some of the sexiest stripping I've ever seen! All to live 90's music. Wont forget that one for a while, whoa! That night I suffered some gnarly insomnia and struggled with replaying my act in my head, over and over. 

There were two hoopers in the Friday show which was amazing to see! Johnny Nuriel ended his act with an LED hoop and the audience went wild for it! His, Mr. Gorgeous and Dirty Martini's acts really stick out in my mind. I didn't get to see lots of the show though, do to me performing in it and being a nervous wreck! Eva Mystique was my backstage buddy who was super sweet and I got to see her kill it on stage, so sexy!
Spectaculaire Cast
Saturday - Spectaculaire!
Hands down the best burlesque show I've ever seen. And I'd like to think I've seen some damn good burlesque in my day. The duo talk-show style emceeing from Jeez Loueez and Lola Van Ella was classically hilarious. The acts were incredible! Favorites include: Axis D'Evil (hoop burlesquer with a slick way to hide her hoop in her costume), Shellbelle Shamrock's Michael Jackson act was spot on, Icky Muffin is my new favorite aerial Lyra burlesque artist, Ray Gunn was a creepy, sexy, sexy bird, Midnite's aerial burlesque act gets me every time, I got to see Vivacious Miss Audacious perform for the first time (a fellow old school hoop burlesquer), athletic pole dancing by Patti Zikmund, Willy LaQueue got us all with his pop and lock style of dance stripping, contortion by Dahlia Fatale, and the ending with Duo Izhonny was epic. They brought out all of the stops - fire, headstand twerking, costuming like no other, fan veil work, beautiful makeup, beautiful moments - unforgettable. 

After the show we all headed over to Lola's studio on Cherokee and had some good stripper bonding time. There was a Hot Mess Talent show that was hilarious and a moment in which Lola thanked everyone for the weekend of awesome. Of course she had me crying with her sincere expression of gratitude. Around 4am I figured it was a good time as any to go home even though the afterparty was still going strong and probably went well into the morning :) I had a lovely, comfy place to stay, thanks to Michelle Schaeffer and had a lovely meal with my long time family friend Susan Weigand. I went to Columbia to visit my family on Sunday while the festival attendees went to brunch and the City Museum. It was so good to see my Mid West fam that I see all too seldom. Though most of the time I was in Columbia I was sleeping! I had so much sleep to catch up on! 
Fam Bam
I had a lot of realizations at the Show Me Burlesque Festival but one of the biggest things I have taken from it is how much I want to continue to push myself to be an excellent leader, a builder up of the people around me, an enricher of my communities and a elevator of the stripping / performing arts to see it rise to it's highest heights! Thanks to Lola Van Ella for raising the bar and making it a sparkly bar that I want to look up to.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Certification in Raw Vulnerability

Yesterday I took my first yoga class in seven months for no reason except for the pure pleasure of it. I didn't have to go home and write a journal entry! I couldn't help but think about the class as I was doing it in the same way I had since February...in my head preparing for what I would write: what I liked, didn't like, what I was feeling, how I was doing, what poses the teacher taught, how it was taught, the music, the heat, everything! That's because on Monday I took the 60th class out of 60 required to complete my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training through CorePower! Wowza! Yippeee!!! Squeee! 

I just finished all of the journaling, all of the written assignments, the questions, the answers, all of it. It's all sitting on Theresa's desk waiting to be reviewed and hopefully turning itself into a nice little certification. So on Monday, I start teaching donation based yoga classes in the space I am currently teaching (and living) at in Hillcrest, Flow Fusions. In some ways it feels fast, but it also feels like the right way to transition from learning about how to teach yoga into actually teaching it. I will probably always be learning how to teach, not just yoga, but everything that I teach for as long as I am teaching. I figure if I don't start sometime, I won't start at all, so here it goes!

The teacher training was one of the best decisions I've made as an adult. I have grappled with the idea of doing it for about 5 years. The main thing that stopped me was the price tag. As soon as I decided to do it though, the money showed up. I talked to Lisa about the training before it started to get some insight from her. Just talking about the training, sitting in Starbucks, about a month or so before it started, I cried. For no real reason at all. This should have been a big red flag. Um, hello, Valentina - you're going to be the crier of the group! Haha. And oh was I the crier! I cried so much during those two months, but never was it about sadness. It was always about awakening. It was just so darn emotional. To have so much striped away, to really look at myself. To start to understand myself in a completely new way. All of it was so intense and so beautiful. 

I remember the first time I had an ah-ha moment. I was leaving a group training session, getting in my car to drive. I immediately started to rush. I don't know if I even had somewhere to be. But as soon as I started feeling myself rushing, I stopped myself and said some very key words in my head that I don't think I had really told myself before. I said, "Slow down" and, "Move mindfully." Whoa. What?! And as I said these things to myself, I realized at the same time how different those words were from my normal self-talk. I thought, but I'm so old, I can't change now. I am just me and it's too hard to change at this point. As I had THAT thought, I acknowledged it and it's defeatist nature and how untrue that was. I can be calm, I can be mindful, I can be careful, I can be gentle and I can think before I do (like you breathe before you asana). If I want to! It was like a revelation and a self-reflection all at once. 

Shortly after that, Lisa taught her Philosophy of Yoga lecture. This was the most interesting part of the training for me. She brought us through the 8 limbs of yoga, particularly talking about the Yamas and Niyamas. Through every Yama and Niyama, I thought about how they applied to me. I was self-evaluating myself as we were going through the whole 3 hour lecture, without even realizing I was doing that. I was thinking about my personality, Bags' personality. How they're different, how they work and why we chose each other. I was really analyzing my life. Towards the end of the lecture one of the other students spoke about her best friend and their differences, it made her tear up. Of course as soon as the gates were open, the flood came! I cried through our ending hand-holding ceremony and was super embarrassed so I went into the bathroom and cried some more. I had to get out of there because there was no controlling it! I snuck out and cried the whole way home. No wonder though, because I had just spent three hours taking a long hard look at myself through the lens of the Yoga Sutras. 

When I got home I was running a student crafting session, so a lot of my burlesque students and troupe members were there. I had just had such an emotional experience and it left me completely open. I felt like I could connect with each person there on a level that I don't know if I could or would normally. But I was much better at one on one conversations. Large group chats felt really overwhelming. I had taken this pretty intense look at myself and I wasn't disappointed. I was proud of myself and how I saw my relation to each Yama and Niyama, but I also saw how much work I have to do. I accepted myself for myself wholly, for all of my faults, quirks, weaknesses and strengths. I don't know if I had ever accepted myself for who I am quite like that before. It left me feeling incredibly raw and vulnerable. But in such a beautiful way. That night after the crafting session, I lay in bed and told Bags all about the realizations I had made. I cried and cried some more. It brought us so much closer. I felt truly bonded with him as I spoke to him in full truth about how I saw myself, how I saw our relationship. 

This is not what I expected! I should have known, (Hello, Starbucks crying session?!) but there's no way to know. I just wanted to do lots of yoga. I just wanted to learn about the body, how it works, why it does things and how to lead people through joyful movement experiences. What I got was so much more than that. I felt taken out of my comfort zone. Even as someone who stands in front of people and leads them through dance and hoop classes on the daily, standing in front of a room full of yogis and teaching them the yoga was scary! I found myself doing all kinds of weird nervous things with my body. I struggled with walking around the room while teaching, NOT demoing while teaching and oh man did I struggle with assists/adjusts. 

The Karma Yoga Project is an aspect of the training in which the group does a community service. Our lead trainer had an idea that we teach a yoga class in which the admission was a donation to the Girls' Youth Rehabilitation Center. We held this class in our new space, Flow Fusions! It felt like a milestone because it was the first yoga class in our space and the first time we taught yoga as a group, a real class! Bags took the class and he doesn't even like yoga. He was so incredibly supportive through this whole process. Not only did he allow me to spend exorbitant amounts of money and time on it, he was my guinea pig when I needed someone to practice teaching on. He took this class and was my guest on beginner guest night too. I am impressed with his selflessness, his undying support and his belief in me. Our Karma Yoga project yielded lots of items to donate to the center that helps San Diego girls in unfortunate circumstances. We hopefully made someone's day better just by collecting clothing.

Teaching our beginner guest class was one of the most amazing experiences of the training, if not of my whole life! We were supposed to bring a guest to come take our class that we taught collectively, so we each taught about 10 minutes of a C1, to both friends and strangers. Bags was my good sport and came along for the ride. I was so nervous and I practiced literally all day. But when it came to do the teaching, I felt really proud of myself. I knew I had lots to work on still, but for those 10 minutes I felt like a real yoga teacher! There was something so much more real about it then the Karma Yoga class. Being in the heat, in the actual CorePower room that I had trained and taken so many classes in...made it feel so REAL. The Omies did so good too! I was really proud of them. After both of the classes, I was relieved that that part was over and so proud of everyone, plus grateful for the experience. The relief and release showed itself in my tears (surprise, surprise).

One thing I learned was that I am out of practice at being a student! The discipline to study, practice, journal, memorize, etc felt rusty after being out of school for about 10 years. But I have felt this yearning to learn again and put myself back into the student role lately. I have done it as a yoga student and in Suhaila's belly dance intensive, both yielding shiny certifications. I plan to go to community college for business, Spanish and anatomy next year as well! I think these trainings have prepped me a bit for going back to academic school. I also learned that I am not the "perfect", organized and over-achieving person I used to be! I did not finish all of the required assignments, classes and journal entries on time. This bugged me. I think I have had this idea of myself based on my behavior in school and as a small-business-owning entrepreneur. It has been a good lesson in letting go of expectation, relaxing my own standards for myself and being realistic. Also a good lesson in how tough and important it is to be disciplined!

On the last day of training, I was so sad it was over. I weeped through our class taught to us by our trainers (Yoga and crying DO NOT go well together. Have you tried breathing in and out of your nose with your head below your heart while crying? Not so much...) We had a talent show in which I performed a hoop piece for my Omies and teachers. I dedicated it to them and I truly gave them everything I had to give, from my heart. It was intense! After everything was over, I brought a bunch of hoops into the room and lots of my fellow Omies tried it! It was so much fun to hoop with them! I have been dreaming of hooping at CorePower basically since I started taking classes there 5+ years ago. The Hoop / Yoga Fusion potential is HUGE and I can't wait to explore it more. 

I felt a deep sense of bonding with my fellow Omies and so much pride in how far all of us had come over the two months. We truly had a magical group of humans journeying through the YTT experience together. I learned so much from them. They inspired me, taught me, laughed at my silly crying antics and were a great network of support through the intense process. I am happy to see what they're all up to now and know that it will forever be a pleasure to watch what they're doing next!

So, what am I doing next? I am starting a donation based beginners yoga class at Flow Fusions on Mondays at 5:30pm. Come learn and play with me!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Year of Festivals and Weddings!

It's that time of year when we start to reflect on how it all went. I am really reviewing my year...what I liked, what I didn't and how I want to make life even better next year. This year seemed to be particularly full of festivals and weddings. I went to SIXTEEN festivals this year, mostly of the flow arts and burlesque variety. I performed and/or taught at all of them but one. What a whirlwind! All over the country and one in France. Bags and I also got married TWICE! So yeah...2015 = festivals and weddings!

I also produced the most nights of shows in the most amount of productions I have produced in one year. Seven nights of shows in the span of three events. I made a dream of mine come true which was to produce in a real big theatre with a curtain, theatre lights, a big stage and lots of seats...The Midnight Carnival this past November was definitely an achievement. 

Another highlight was starting a Burlesque troupe! I started The Hoop Unit six years ago and we have dabbled in burlesque from the beginning, plus I have produced student and advanced student burlesque pieces under the name Vaudeville Vixens but this year we made it official and began the Vaudeville Vixen Showgirl troupe. We had lots of fun opportunities and created three new unique acts that we performed in many exciting places. Plus I got so close with these women and found a sisterhood that I cherish dearly. 

Here I go with a brief(ish) overview of my year and way to process it, in all of it's glory :)
Thailand with Bags' Fam

We started the year in Thailand! Rang in the New Year in Chaing Mai with almost all of Bags' extended family. They had a massive family reunion for the holidays and I got to be introduced to his aunts, uncles and cousins who live in Australia, England and Zimbabwe. They made me feel so welcomed and included. I truly felt completely accepted and like I gained a second awesome family! My favorite part was that for the white elephant gift exchange I was given a hand drawn/painted portrait of Bags and I by Bags' cousin Shane which was signed by every family member. Heart melt!
BellyFusions, Paris

After Thailand I headed to Paris to participate in my second Belly Fusions Festival. It was an incredible opportunity to push myself to create a new Belly Hoop Fusion routine AND I got to teach two workshops - one in Belly Hoop and the other in Belly Burlesque. So much fun! I really love the whole team that make that festival happen, they are so organized and warm. I was lucky enough to stay in a wonderful fellow hooper's flat and have a dinner date with Lila Chupra Hoops, an inspiring Parisian Hoop Burlesque sister.  
Face of Temptress!

In February I experienced the Mac gig sizeism debacle that you can read about here. I also was crowned the Face of Temptress Fashion that month! One of my goals of the year was to do as many photo shoots as possible and work on pin-up modeling. If I didn't do a million other things, I would love to pursue a career as a pin-up model. Since I can't do ALL THE THINGS, just doing photo shoots and being apart of the pin-up model family at Temptress has been amazing this past year. I have learned so much! Janet is such an inspiration to me; she is a strong, successful businesswoman who gives other women confidence and makes them feel sexy in her amazing clothing. I couldn't be more grateful for my time working with her this year. We got to do shoots in her store, out and and about in OB, at the Lafayette, as a mermaid on the cliffs and in the OB Christmas parade, plus on a horse ranch to make an epic calendar. Thank you Janet for all that you do!
First Wedding!

Springtime brought abundance, and man was it a busy, satisfying time of year. I was able to be featured in Lola Demure's House of Blues Burlesque & Variety show as well as Ooh La La's Circus Burlesque show at Tango Del Rey. I produced the VaVa VOOM! show with headliners Kristina Nekyia and Erin Shredder. It was the first show I produced that had solos from students who had taken my Solo Act Creation course, which I am running again this January. Both Kristina and Erin taught workshops while in San Diego that weekend. After that, Bags and I GOT MARRIED! The first time :) Bags' mom came from the UK and my mom and brother were there too. It was a spontaneous and beautiful wedding at the courthouse in downtown SD. I wore Temptress Fashion and we brought our Hoopologie hoops (of course).
The Flow Show, SF

We then headed up to SF to perform in the flow show. We debuted our multi-hoop juggling duet, "Circling the Infinite". We had worked on it hard for months and got the opportunity to perform it three times that weekend. We also were able to bring it around to every flow festival we taught at this past year. It was so satisfying to do the same act so often, and really hone it in. Each festival presented it's own challenges with performing the act, which I believe we learned from every time. In SF I was also able to perform with Hubba Hubba Revue and we taught workshops up there as well, hosted by the lovely Cherry Hoops. I was interviewed by Paige of HulaHoopla, you can listen the interview podcast here. We visited Harbin Hot Springs before it burned down. I feel so lucky to have been able to visit that magical place and to have taken Bags there before the destruction hit later this year. It was the most relaxed I had ever felt...yoga in the morning, alternating submerging in hot and cool pools, gazing upon a wild doe, sunbathing in the nude and getting a massage...ahhhhh, absolute bliss!
Fire Ceiling at Flame Festival

Our first flow festival of the season was FlowStorm in Texas. It was held at Quilombo Paixao which is Wesley's family's home on acres and acres of farmland. It was a small, intimate gathering that mixed lots of interesting workshops like permaculture with flow arts. We loved how well taken care of we felt and how family-like the festival was. I still remember taking Tom Thumb's Crowd Funding Campaign workshop there, it stuck with me! I am excited to use some of the techniques I learned to fundraise to open a training space in San Diego this year. Another highlight was getting friend avocado tacos from a food truck and vegan ice cream after the festival was over with Casandra and Marvin. 

Jillian & Nathaniel's Wedding
After FlowStorm was Flame Festival in Georgia. I got to bond with Casandra a lot at this one! She picked me up from the airport and we camped together. I ended up sleeping in her car the whole weekend because it was cold! Flame was one of the coolest flow festivals I went to this year. The infrastructure was very Burning Man-like, made it feel like more than just a flow arts festival. I performed my Belly Hoop Fusion routine in the instructor show and taught a couple workshops. That weekend I met McCalla too! We bonded instantly about hooping and ukulele. She said, if you're ever going to New Orleans, look me up. Which I did! In September. Flame Festival had these amazing flame throwing, flame ceiling-ed domes that were especially epic. Perkalator and Kassandra were there, who's workshops I thoroughly enjoyed. 

The Vaudeville Vixens
In April, our good friends Nathaniel and Jillian got married! I was fortunate enough to be a bridesmaid for their beautiful Temecula wedding and it was the first time I was in a bridal party. Bags and I performed our lovey hoop duet and enjoyed the mansion they rented for the weekend. Such a beautiful wedding! We then went to Colorado for The Spin Summit. It was my fourth one! This is where Bags made the crazy epic MultiHoop Madness video with all of the amazing multi-hoopers!! I was surrounded by badass Hoop Juggling women and it was awesome. I helped produce the showcase and enjoyed yet another year at our second home, oh Colorado, I love you!

Marvin Ong's Manipulation Theater
May brought Kinetic Festival in Ohio and Fire Drums in Northern California. Kinetic was one of the more challenging spaces to perform our act in. We were in a barn with rafters overhead that we had to juggle hoops through. It was interesting to say the least. I will never forget the moment in the renegade when Jonathan Alvarez surprised everyone with his unexpected entrance onstage, right after he was referred to by the MC. Whoa, that was a crazy moment! Fire Drums was at a beautiful northern California location. It had a kitschy barn which was probably my favorite part about it. There were butterflies and a really cold creek. The festival itself was freezing at night time too! I am a wimp. We got to perform the in the showcase with Wes Peden in it! Big deal!! The fire circle was HUGE!

Photoshoot with Hoopologie
That month the Vaudeville Vixens had our first photo shoot with Xavier Bailey of Studio X Photography. Wow! That was a wonderful, fun and sexy experience. He's an amazing photographer. You can see some more of the photos here

In June, we started the summer gigs at the Lafayette Hotel with Circus Mafia. We had a blast hooping and juggling poolside all summer this year! We also shot a video with the Hoop Unit, centered around Ocean Beach. Watch it here. We had a hoop booth at the OB Street Fair and Chili Cook Off, in which we performed as well. We got to be apart of Marvin Ong's Manipulation Theatre show in Brea and performed to live handpan by Stevan Morris. This was a creative decision made by Marvin that I don't think Bags and I would have chosen for ourselves. But it ended up being one of my all time favorite performance experiences ever. You can watch the video and see the pics here and here. Stevan's music is so dreamy and beautiful to move to. I can still remember looking at Bags, on that big beautiful stage while Stevan played behind us and being in pure blissful heaven. It was the beginning of what I hope is a long friendship and working relationship. I am so grateful to Marvin for that! I also began hooping at the Bahia Hotel that month for the rest of the summer every Thursday to a live band, The Mar Dels. That was a fun regular gig! I love their music and I loved being a gogo dancer/hooper right on the Mission Bay beach. 

Sizzzling Circus Sirens - 5 nights!
In July we went to Colorado for the Colorado Burlesque Festival. I met Midnite Martini for the first time and got to perform right before her at the late night Thursday show. I always love performing at Lannie's! We got to stay with Melinda of Hoopologie and her wonderful family. It was a pure treat to spend time playing with Evan, Mark, Matt, Pam, Danielle, Caterina and Jennifer Alberts! I loved the ping pong games at Evan and Mark's. We went on a gorgeous hike through the Rocky National Forest to Mills Lake for a photoshoot with Melinda, Evan and LOTS of Hoopologie hoops. We visited the mansion that inspired the Shining! 

The Hollywood Burlesque Festival
I also turned 30 in July, right before producing "Sizzzling Circus Sirens" at the Lyceum Theatre for the San Diego International Fringe Festival. Wow. That was an experience. 5 nights almost back to back of shows. I had never done anything like that before! It was intense! Tito Bonito was our host and stayed with us for a whole week. I loved being surrounded by my Burlesque Brother from Another Mother (BBFAM) and my silly husband all week. Lots of giggles! We were very well received at the Fringe with lots of packed houses and a different show every night. We had some great reviews too! We busked pretty much every day and did shows the same night, talk about labor of love! 

After the Fringe show we went to Pennsylvania to teach and perform at Return to Roots. We had taught there in 2013 and loved it so much we wanted to go back! It was on a Christmas tree farm, a really big property of gorgeous land. We slept in hammocks in a forest and relaxed. Another challenging performance experience in the showcase, outside in the dark with bright lights shinning into our eyes while we tried to pass hoops with each other, whoa! Somehow we managed it :)

August brought the Hollywood Burlesque Festival, ABurlyQ and another photo shoot, this time with Scott Saw of Vixen Photography. I competed in the non-local LA performer category in the Hollywood Burlesque Festival and the Vaudeville Vixens performed in the showcase night. It was SO HOT backstage. It was during one of the many heat waves this summer and not AC in the backstage area. Phew! We were melting back there. It was the first time I had competed in a burlesque competition in which I was legitimately disappointed that I didn't place. But it was made up for the next weekend when I did win first place in the Variety Arts category at ABurlyQ with my Dance of the Seven Hoops piece. Emeraude LaStarr and Luna Divine of the Vaudeville Vixens joined me at ABurlyQ in the troupe category. We didn't place in that one but I know we all thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Watch our act here. The community was so warm, welcoming and inclusive. It felt like a big burlesque family love-fest and I truly believe it was due to the two main women who run the festival. An event is always going to take after the energy of it's leader, and these two - Vivian Mirann and Jane Sweeney are truly wonderful, open and sweet women! I was fortunate to teach two hoop workshops in Albuquerque and meet up with my friend Nicole who had a baby since las time I was there. 

Fee Fi Fo BUM in SF at Hubba Hubba
In September the Vaudeville Vixens had a weekend trip to San Francisco and performed in Hubba Hubba Revue's 9th Anniversary show! We did both our Pasties & Parasols number as well as the "Fee Fi Fo BUM" Pirates number. It was a long show! We were the last act in a show that ended up being around 3-4 hours long. I taught a workshop at the Alonzo Lines King Ballet studio again and we went out dancing and drinking in the Mission. I got to eat at my favorite restaurant ever, Gracias Madre and hang out with both Marria of Ninja Hoops and Revolva. It was a fun trip!

I also got to go to New Orleans that month to perform in the New Orleans Burlesque Festival. I was in the House of Blues show, The Queen's Ball. I taught two workshops at Audobon Park near the big beautiful tree with the help of McCalla. I ate vegan begneits at Seed, oh man was that place good! And got to watch the "Bad Girls of Burlesque Show" which I thoroughly enjoyed. Jeez Loueez was by far one of the best MC's I have ever witnessed. I hung out with a lovely bunch of Canadian burlesque performers from the Cheesecake Burlesque Revue. Another highlight  was the performer pool party on Sunday. 
After our Green Card interview

Bags and I joined Fern St Circus for two days of hot summer shows at the Carlsbad ArtSplash then headed up to Santa Cruz for Hoop Camp! The day we left for Hoop Camp we had our long awaited Green Card interview! It was such a stressful thing to lead up to, but it wasn't as bas we thought it was going to be and we passed! Woohoo!! It's a huge victory for us this year, Bags is legal here in the states! Hoop Camp was a blast! We loved teaching, performing and playing with so many epic hoopers. 

After returning home from Hoop Camp, we hosted a fun World Hoop Day celebration at the White Box Theatre with a community showcase, raffle and DJ'ed Hoop Jam. We raised more money for the World Hoop Day than last year and I really enjoyed this change of pace from previous WHD celebrations. There were so many talented hoopers in the show!

10 person corporate juggling gig
Bags and I headed to Marvin Ong's Manipulation retreat in Idlywild while the Vaudeville Vixens went to perform at the Las Vegas Burlesque Festival and represent us there. You can see the video of them performing here. A cool video of MOPs can be seen here. MOPs was epic, as usual. A big beautiful gym for training in all day and night, a gorgeous location and of course the best instructors out there. I loved learning from McKenzey, Gail O'Brien and Melissa Daly. In October we had a very exciting gig through Circus Mafia and Bollotta Entertainment doing a 10 person juggling show for an IAM San Diego event. It was circus themed and quite the production! I was honored to be booked primarily as a juggler :)

Florida Flow Fest
We headed to Florida Flow Fest at the end of October. Casandra is a genius. I loved the model of having a flow festival in a park in the middle of city. The festival is free to attend but you just have to pay to take workshops. So the exposure is truly wonderful. So many people who might not have otherwise known what the flow arts are get to find out about it. I helped produce both nights of showcases and Bags & I performed as well. The shows went really well and I felt appreciated for my addition. We enjoyed teaching, hanging out with Sharna, meeting and staying with Troy and of course spending time with Casandra. 

The Midnight Carnival
November was a big month! We produced the Midnight Carnival, I went to BurlyCon and we had wedding #2 (or number 3 if count the renegade Hoop Camp one). The Midnight Carnival was the biggest, grandest and most exquisite production I have had the pleasure of orchestrating to date. It was a dream of mine to do, and we did it! Midnite Martini headlined and we pretty much sold out the 500 seat theatre. Epic circus acts, flow artists, belly dancers and burlesque performers from all around the country as well as the Hoop Hooligans from New Zealand graced that stage and made me so proud! My students rocked it, troupes killed it and the audience was the best dressed, most loving and most understanding of my seating snafu ever. 

BurlyCon with SD Burly Babes!
Somehow the following weekend I made it to Seattle to have both my body and brain blown away by BurlyCon. I had wanted to go to it for about 5 years but money or scheduling always stopped me. Well this year, even though it was sandwiched between my wedding and a huge production, I went!! And man am I grateful that I did. I learned so much. I think I am still processing all that I learned. I felt like I got to know and bonded even more with some fabulous San Diego performers as well as met and learned from Burlesque stars and legends from around the world. I danced, I stretched, I workshopped, learned, took notes and brainstormed away those 5 days and have over 25 pages of notes to show from it. Whoa! Thank you BurlyCon!

The Second Wedding!

I came home basically to an apartment full of Brits! Bags' best friends Emma, Emily and Sandy all came out to San Diego to be apart of our wedding. Bags' mom and her partner were also in town for a couple weeks. Most of my family were able to make it too! It was a Circus Ukulele Hula Hoop Vegan Potluck wedding, of course! It wouldn't have been possible without the help of everyone who attended, that's for sure. It was a community effort. Everyone pitched in somehow and it ended up being a dream wedding. You can see some fabulous photos of it here. One of my favorite moments from the wedding was singing and playing uke to our own rendition of "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz in the ceremony with all of the 100 guests! While bubbles floated around :) 
We then spent Thanksgiving with both mine and Bags' mom which was a real treat.

Ensenada Gig Adventure
December brought some fun holiday gigs. The most memorable was at a convention center outside of Ensenada. The REMOTE convention center was down 30km of washboard dirt road, with crazy colorful Seussian architecture, sculptures, gardens, cacti and the ocean. We performed a 30 min circus show for the local employees of the organization. The org brings leaders from developing countries together to promote development in those regions of the world. I MC'ed our entire show in Spanish! Whoa! Performed in it as well and then came off each act huffing and puffing while trying my best to speak Spanish into a microphone in front of 450 Mexicans. It was intense but I feel really accomplished and of course my desire to work on Spanish has been re-ignited. The kids were the best! I am grateful to Mango and Dango for the referral, to Miriana for the Spanish help, to Bags for pushing me to learn a new routine, MC the show and for being the best adventure/performance partner a girl could ask for. I am excited to welcome more opportunities into my life that bring adventure, attainable challenges and abundance!
Naughty Christmas Burlesque

We also had a fun gig with Circus Mafia doing a holiday themed burlesque circus show for the WomanCare Global Evofem holiday party. That one gave us an excuse to create a fun Christmas-y burlesque routine to "I'm a Little Christmas Cracker" We got our cute costumes from Temptress Fashion. Bags and I have closed out the year working on filming videos of ALL of the skills we have to offer. It has been an intense process! We are working hard, investing in our future and creating gorgeous video content in hopes that clients will have a real idea of what we have to offer. You can see our newest glow hoop video here and my Multi-Hoop Solo routine promo video here. There are lots more on the way! 

Now that I have reviewed 2015 and picked out some of the highlights, I will go through the process of writing down what I am particularly proud of from this past year. I will also hone in on what it is that I want from the year to come. Practicing gratitude for what I already have and pride in what I have accomplished is the best platform for creating attainable goals for 2016! Can't wait to see what we all create!