Disappearing 9-patch (Australia Quilt part 2)

Hello again!

I thought I would explain what a disappearing 9-patch is for those of you non-quilters out there who check into my blog once in awhile. 🙂

You’re welcome! 🙂

A nine patch block is made up of 9 squares (patches) that are sewn together in three rows of three. Usually (but not always) alternating light and dark patches. Here is one of the nine-patches that is going into the Australia Quilt,:

002Now let’s make it disappear!

First I am going to cut it exactly in half, using the center block as my guide. That’s right – take a deep breath and slice that baby in half!

003Now, without disturbing it, rotate your mat and cut again the other direction, exactly in half, again measuring from the left side of the center square:

005Now lets make it disappear!

Flip the top left and bottom right blocks around so they are facing the other way:

23-03-2014 4-43-09 PMLike so:

006And Ta Da! Your nine-patch has disappeared!

Ordinarily you would sew them together at this point:

007However! Here’s a twist – the pattern I’m following calls for some extra white space added in. So I’ve sewn strips down the center to open it up a bit. Now the disappearing nine-patches look like this:

013 Here’s a recap: From standard nine-patches:

028To disappearing nine-patches (with a spacer strip):

014And here’s another disappearing 9-patch quilt top done the regular way (without the spacing strips):

011Pretty cool, eh?

Stay tuned for the next installment of Australia Quilt as I become a maverick and leave the pattern directions behind and head off in my own direction!

Random Thursday & Beni wa Benak

Today is Random Thursday. Since I don’t have any quilting news, I thought I would finally get around to posting this choreography. This is my former dance troupe, Saba Middle Eastern Dance Ensemble, performing Beni wa Benak at the Yukon Arts Centre in March 2011.

I originally choreographed this piece as a tool for the advanced class to learn and practice particular movements & combinations (among other things such as being aware of facial expressions, theatricality, embellishments etc).  The choreography itself is not performance art, but it has its place. As a performance piece it is best suited to an outdoor event such as a street fair or other event where the audience is milling about and stopping to watch the dancing for awhile before moving on. In this type of venue it is a perfect piece. Lots of movement, lively music, flash & glitter and the audience loves it. However, I included it in the Rockin’ the Casbah show mostly because I needed a filler piece. I adapted the dance to suit the theatre stage as best I could by having dancers join in from the wing mid-way through, adding variety and interest. Someday I’d like to revisit this piece with a troupe – I have ideas for the choreography that I simply didn’t have time to play with when getting ready for this particular show.

These costumes were well-suited to the piece and I love the way the skirts flare out when the dancers twirl.  And get a load of Doug, our MC in the beginning of the piece. The audience loved him!

Linking in with Random Thursday over at Live a Colorful Life.

bellydance floorwork & Purvottanasana: upward plank pose

This is a re-posting from August 11, 2011.

Bellydancers can benefit from including yoga into their personal fitness routine, and one way this is evident is in floor work. Floor work is an aspect of the dance that seems to be making a bit of a comeback very recently. At least, after seeing virtually zero floor work for about a decade or more, I have suddenly seen a few routines making an appearance in various shows over the last couple of years, and “how to” floor work DVDs are starting to appear on the market. Bellydancers in North America used to do floor work regularly in the 1970s & 80s. It was part of what used to be called the “standard 5- or 7-part restaurant routine. More on that in another posting.

Anyway, back to yoga. My yoga practice ebbs and flows, and sometimes I just don’t feel like working with my DVDs. Instead,  I’ll spend some time on my mat just working through poses that I enjoy, trying out poses that I see in magazines or online journals, or working on poses that focus on areas I need to build strength or flexibility in (personal challenge poses). I have weak wrists, and there are some poses I simply can’t do because my wrists do not support me. I also don’t do the sword work that I’d like to do because the weight of the sword causes pain in my wrists, making practice difficult. In a fitness assessment last June, I scored low in the upper body strength category. That wasn’t a surprise, but it did cause me to refine my fitness plan. As a result, I’ve started to incorporate some movements to stretch & strengthen my wrists, arms & shoulders into my yoga routine. I’ve also added working with light weights, but I’m not as dedicated to that practice yet.

One of the personal challenge poses that I’m working on right now is the upward plank (purvottanasana).  This pose strengthens the wrists, arms & hamstrings and is also a heart-opener (stretching the shoulders & chest). By the way, Purvottanasana translates as “intense Eastern stretch” in Sanskrit (the front of the body being the “eastern side” and the back of the body the “western side”). For some reason, that just tickles my little raqs sharqi (eastern dance) heart! I love word associations!

The upward plank pose is challenging for me to do with good form. Start by sitting with your legs together in front of you, toes pointed. Hands are behind you with your fingers pointed towards your bum.  Press down through your hands and engage your legs to lift your hips into the air. Your wrists should be directly under your shoulders. Your arms and legs should be straight. Relax your bum without letting the hips drop, and let your hamstrings & arms do the work. Ground all 10 toes and gently tilt the head back. If you can’t do it without “cheating” & using your glutes, then sit back up and bend your knees before pressing up into reverse table top position. When you’ve built some strength in your hamstrings, you can begin work on the full upward plank again. You’ll see right away why this is a good strength builder for wrists, arms & legs!

As a bellydance floor work movement, you can layer belly rolls & flutters onto the upward plank pose, being mindful to not allow your hips to drop. To recover, lower the hips back to the floor. Cross one ankle over the other and roll towards your audience onto your side, supporting your torso with the downstage arm. From here you can lift into full or partial side plank for more isolations if you choose (another powerful arm strengthener) or keep your side-hip on the floor as you focus on performing mesmerizing hand & arm movements with your free arm. To sit up, bend the knees & swing the legs around to kneeling. (Be mindful to not offer your audience any crotch shots. Always dance side-on or at a diagonal when on the floor.)

If you are balancing something on your head such as a sword, cane or water pot, you want to be very mindful of your balance & center. So, as you roll over, be sure to start the roll from the foot. Think of it like gently “wringing out” your body. The turn starts from the ankle and then proceeds through the lower leg to the inner thigh; then the hip turns, followed by the waist, the breast, the shoulder, turning the head last.

Here is a lovely photo ofAndrameda in purvottanasana, balancing a very heavy sword on her chin. She did some stomach isolations, followed by lovely snaky cross-over steps with her feet from this position. I hope everybody was suitably impressed with the strength required to do this movement and especially with the ease and grace with which she executed it! Brava, Andra, you make it look so effortless!

Baba Mama

I first heard this song at a show in Saint John New Brunswick in late 2000.

I was sitting in the audience, having finished both of my performances, all settled in and enjoying the show when this fabulously energetic music boomed out of the speakers, and in bounced this little dance troupe from Maine.  They were 4 or 5 young women wearing yoga pants with matching fringe skirts and choli tops, and I was completely mesmerized.  So mesmerized, in fact, that I actually still remember it, 13 years later! 🙂 They were beginner dancers, their choreography was simple and teetered on being over their heads, and yet they outshone many of the performances that I saw that night in sheer joy and enthusiasm. What they lacked in crispness and accuracy was more than made up for in the energy and excitement that they shared both amongst each other and with us in the audience. I no longer remember their choreography, with the exception of two movements: a cute little chest drop while pulling the hands down the front of the body, followed by pelvic drops with the same hand movement, which I changed around a bit and incorporated into my own repertoire.

Fast forward to 2010. I bought a CD at a workshop I was attending in Calgary, and just about fell off my chair when I heard that song start to play!  According to the CD, the song was called Baba Mama. I was so excited that started to choreograph it right in that very moment.

Here it is, performed by Saba Middle Eastern Dance Ensemble. Choreography by yours truly. Watch for that little chest and pelvic drop with the pinch pull-down: I incorporated it into the choreography as little tribute to those lovely young dancers from Maine.

 

The Icing on the Cake: Kelly Collins wins the Yukon Order of Polaris

…a thick layer of frosting on an already rich and delicious cake.

Congratulations to my wonderful husband on being awarded the Order of Polaris and inducted into the Yukon Transportation Hall of Fame!

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LOCAL PILOT HONOURED FOR 27 YEARS OF SERVICE

By Max Leighton, What’s Up Yukon
Photo by Michael Collins

Local flight instructor Kelly Collins has spent nearly three decades helping Yukoners earn their wings.

This month he was given the Order of Polaris, one of the Yukon Government’s top honours, awarded to Yukon aviators (and the odd Outsider) for service to the territory, its people and its unique culture.

Collins, who is retiring this year, has spent 27-years training more than 300 pilots from various schools in Whitehorse as well as satellite programs in Atlin, Ross River, Faro and Dawson City.

Until recently he had trained the majority of all private and commercial fixed wing pilots in the territory.

Collins has spent the last twelve years as chief flight instructor with Whitehorse Air Services — the last flight-training school in Canada’s North.

He’s taught everyone from the young to the retired the secrets of flight.

“It’s a pretty wide spectrum,” he says. “For some people it’s just a personal challenge, it’s a goal that’s not that easy to do. A lot of our students are folks who have always had a dream to fly.”

Collins is known for his hands-on approach to training, sitting fearlessly alongside would-be pilots attempting everything from basic aircraft control to emergency maneuvers, falls, spins, takeoffs and landings.

“I call it ‘knowledge through a fire hose,’” he says. “It comes fast and furious… and it’s hands-on from day one.”

After a while the training becomes reflexive — and marginally less terrifying.

“The better you get at the machinery, the farther out your awareness goes from all around you, to in the aircraft and outside,” he says.

Collins doesn’t just teach his students to fly, he teaches them to think like pilots.

“Learning how to fly is one thing — learning when to fly and when not to fly and what not to do and how to stay out of trouble, that all comes under the heading of pilot decision making and that’s probably the big variable in keeping people safe,” he says.

Getting a pilot’s license is hard work, and it’s not cheap —about $9,500 for a recreational pilot, $14,000 for a private license — but it’s probably more likely to lead to a job than your undergrad degree, and you’re guaranteed a good office view.

Sixty-one year-old Neal Letang became a licensed pilot this year. Letang had a lifelong ambition to fly, but says it was Collins’ mentorship and focus on safety that gave him the confidence to finally become a pilot.

“It does do something for your confidence,” he says. “You’re doing something that, for me anyway, was a little extraordinary and [Collins] helped me do it.

“At times when I was discouraged, or dissatisfied with my performance, or whatever I was doing and he’d work me through it,” he says.

As a recipient of the Order of Polaris, Collins joins the ranks of Canadian icons like WWII fighter pilot Ian Willoughby Bazalgette, and pioneering Canadian engineers Ronald John Baker and Alexander Graham Bell.

“Every student is different, every day is different, it’s all a challenge, it’s all rewarding,” Collins says. “Helping people reach that goal of flight for whatever reason they started out on, every day is its own reward. So to be awarded the Order of Polaris is a huge, thick layer of frosting on an already rich and delicious cake. I feel very humbled.”

This year John Van Every, a Dawson City trucker and transportation company owner, was also honoured as the Transportation Person of the Year award, and the late Frank Steele, an early Alaska Highway lodge operator, was named Transportation Pioneer of the Year.

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Classes this fall?

I’ve been wondering if you’ve been wondering about classes and troupe now that we are into the month of October!

I’ve been giving it a lot of thought. In fact, I’ve thought of almost nothing else.

I’ve decided to retire from teaching and from the dance troupe for awhile while I recharge my batteries and nurture some of my other interests. Teachers and artists are just like good gardeners: they know that they must occasionally rotate crops and/or let the soil lie fallow in order to rejuvenate and replenish for a new growing season. It’s like I always told you in class: “ya gotta know where your center of gravity is. Ya gotta have balance!”

So, what other interests am I nurturing? Well, if you’ve been following this blog, you’ll all be chiming out in unison right about now: “quilting!” LOL, yes. Creativity comes in all forms, and I’ve been spending time getting reacquainted with an old love. But that’s not all! I am also taking a class through Yukon College and the University of the Arctic called Introduction to the Circumpolar North. I may post a homework assignment on the blog now and again, just because the material is so darned interesting (to me, anyway!)

Anyway, back to the topic of my dance life!

Regarding Saba: while I am very sad to let the dance troupe go, I also have a wonderful feeling of joy and accomplishment at what we were able to do together. When I originally created the troupe it was to give my students a vehicle to perform in professional venues – to take their dancing beyond the classroom and beyond student-level performances and into the realm of true performance art. I believed that setting the bar high (and holding to it!) would not only bring the art of Middle Eastern dance to the Yukon stage as a beautiful art form to be respected and admired, but would also bring great personal reward to all of us. I am certain that we succeeded! Not only that, but we had a blast doing it, and we formed some great friendships! I hope that Saba will either stay together as they are or else find a new vision and re-form into something just as wonderful. I wish them all my best from the bottom of my heart. I feel like a momma…I gave them all I could and now it is time for them to go out on their own without me.

As far as classroom teaching goes, you may have heard that Kelly and I have managed to swing an early retirement, and will be moving to Salmon Arm at the end of 2013. This means that my time with the Whitehorse dance school will be coming to an inevitable end anyway.

I know that I will teach again. It is too much in my blood to retire forever! I just can’t see it, can you? LOL! However, I think that teaching will probably be a “retirement” job. I can definitely see myself offering a class or two in Salmon Arm some day with a brand new batch of newbies. For sure!

I’d like to say thank you to all of the students who crossed the studio floor over the 10+ years that I taught in Whitehorse. I figure over 600 different sets of feet stood in the classroom and learned to trace a hip circle in front of me over the years. That’s an awful lot of joy!

Thank you all so much for following my dream and sticking with me through thick and thin. I truly admire, respect and love each and every one of you, and I am so darn proud of you all.

I’m still available for private lessons & performance coaching. I’d like to offer workshops or go out on the workshop circuit a bit.  I’m not leaving dance, I’m just…taking a huge chunk of it off of my plate.And on the performance end…well, that will never change. I love to perform. I love interacting with the audience. It’s magical! I plan to continue my personal development as an Egyptian Oriental dance artist. I have a reputation to keep up, after all! So keep your ears and eyes open and you may see me on the stage or on the workshop circuit now and again. 

For me, the last show we did, Rockin’ the Casbah in 2011 was the highlight of my career. I can’t think of a better note to go out on than that.