Tag Archives: dancer

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What’s this season called?

I’m in a transition phase in my life … which is starting to sound kind of funny to me since I’ve been saying that for more than six months now. First it was time to leave my full-time day job, then I switched into a part-time evening one, then I had an audition drought (which was pretty annoying, since the job change had been prompted in part by my desire to have my daytimes free for auditions), then I used those daytime hours to write my first feature-length screenplay and apply for funding to help get it made, then I reinvigorated my training as an actor and got new headshots, then I had a few auditions followed by two more audition-barren weeks, and now I’m in training at a new new day/evening job and the auditions have started to pick up again.

In the meantime, I’ve taken a vacation (a concept which is nearly as foreign to me as the idea of celebrating a romantic anniversary, which I’ve also recently done), said goodbye to my cat (a beloved faithful companion of 14 years), dealt with a health issue or two (nothing awful, don’t worry), and had numerous extended family members pass away. So in many ways it feels like a turbulent time in my life.

When I expressed this recently to a friend, she said “Try and have patience. You’re likely coming through the other end now,” and “Longer transitions mean a greater impact when you land … I’d like to think.”

So would I.

I received another helpful insight from a social worker, who has suggested that I try being more compassionate with myself. I live my life by a set of unwavering standards, and I’ve always been able to fall back on my adherence to them even when those around me fall short. This has mostly served me well – except that I’m starting to wonder whether one of the lessons I’m meant to learn now is to let up on myself every now and then. To have a non-productive day without feeling bad about it. To treat myself with gifts once in awhile, the way I love to treat others. To congratulate myself for tries as well as actual wins. Because when I stop and think of all the reasons (excuses) I could’ve come up with to not write, not seek medical advice, not pay for classes and new headshots, not travel, and not go back into the Job Hunt Vortex … twice … all of those tries begin to look more and more like wins to me.

This is where I’m supposed to deliver an elegant finish; I don’t really have one. I guess I’ll just thank you for reading, and for sharing any of your own recent tries and wins that you’d like to let the world know about; and give thanks, of course, to my friends and fam who love me undoubtedly.

And thank you, Self. I’m proud of you.

xo

 

 

PS: For real, what are you reaching for right now? I’d love to know!

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Tired … On Purpose

This post will probably be more useful to me than it is to you.

Roughly ten years ago, when I was taking dance classes regularly, I had a brief meetup with a dancer friend of mine inside of DLM Studio on Bloor St West. He told me about how tired he was because of all the dancing he’d been doing (both that day and in general). I remember telling myself “Don’t do this. Don’t get to the point where you complain about doing so much singing, or acting, or whatever.” What I think I said out loud was something to the effect of, “Hey, everybody’s tired, but at least you’re tired from doing a lot of something you love.” And I’ve been reminded of that conversation numerous times.

Like yesterday, for example.  My Saturday, February 17th was awesome.

Tiring?

Yes.

Hectic?

Yep, even more so than an average weekend for me.

Worthwhile?

Well, let’s see.

Although I went to bed too late on Friday (my day job is an evening one), I woke up on time Saturday to arrive at the location for a music video shoot at 9:45am. I was one of the production assistants, helping to organize various things so that my friends and their dancers/models could focus on giving the best performances possible. It was so good to support folks I really care about who are working to make their dreams come true, while meeting some new ones and having the fun of being part of a creative project without any of the stress of the project being mine. Although the shoot was an all-day affair, I left at 1pm after a partial outfit change to get to the Art Gallery of Ontario before 2 (eating snacks en route on the 505 Dundas streetcar). At the AGO I had time to apply lipstick, mingle a bit, and settle in for a tribute to and Q&A session with acclaimed casting director Robi Reed, who bestowed some nuggets of useful knowledge as part of the 6th annual Toronto Black Film Festival. Two of my favourites were “Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready,” and “There are two kinds of people: the people who want it and the people who can’t live without it.” That ended a bit before 4, so my friend and I were able to mingle a bit more and then hustle to catch the 4:15 showing of the Black Panther movie with my dad and my boyfriend. All I will say about that at this moment is that Black Panther is one of the best movies I’ve seen, I fervently hope to play a role like Shuri’s one day (yessss Letitia Wright!), and this film will go down in history as a memorable one for so many of the right reasons – I’m so happy I was able to see it on its opening weekend. The last event of the day was a live comedy show starring Toronto comedian Trixx, who’s absolutely blown up online since the first time – years ago – I saw him onstage in person. While Trixx and the other comedians were all very funny, one of my favourite parts of the night was probably his serious show ending, where he talked about the support he receives from Torontonians despite our reputation as the Screwface Capital. It was especially cool that when I made my way up to Trixx to congratulate him afterward, he greeted me as “Ms Director” (a bit preliminary, but I’ll take it!), which just seemed to confirm to me that while you’re watching someone else rise and shine, they may also be aware of you doing the same thing. And then, on the way home, I realized that I’d received an email during the show confirming my participation in a Master Class with a Gemini-award-winning screenwriter and director at the upcoming ACTRA conference; essentially, my first audition of the year, and one with maybe 200 people watching it. Live.

I was very tired by the time I got to bed, and it was the kind of tiredness that inspires and even demands gratitude. Even better: although yesterday was particularly careerful (haha), it wasn’t an anomaly for 2018 Chattrisse Dolabaille. Today I took an acting class which involved a true performance breakthrough for me; on Monday I’ll be getting new headshots done and writing; Tuesday will involve prep for the ACTRA conference which is on Wednesday and Thursday; the next screening of my short film CHECK is on Friday. And et cetera.

I wanted to publish this so that I’ll have something tangible to point to when future successes seem to some as though they materialized from nothing. I actually keep a little notebook where I write down every career-related task that I do each day, to make sure I don’t let any days go by without adding to the pile; and even though I still have *so* much more building to do, I know that I’ve been putting in work that I can be proud of. Since I’m learning and growing, my goals are within my reach; since my goals are within my reach, I have more learning and growing to do. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’ve “made it” and the bulk of the work is behind me; I do know that every time I yawned today, somewhere deep down inside my soul, I gave myself a high-five.

So at the risk of repeating myself, let’s promise that since we spend so much of our adult lives being tired anyway, we’ll make sure that at least some of that tiredness is the result of chasing our dreams. Not so that we can complain about the effort, but so that we can develop those dream-chasing habits and muscles.

Now if you’ll excuse me . . . bedtime. And not just because I don’t want bags under my eyes for tomorrow’s shoot =)

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IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED…

So I was on my way home from an audition, and as per usual I was struggling to put it out of my mind. This is a wise thing to do after any tryout, audition, callback, interview, or go-see. Once you’ve done it, there’s no going back in time to change what you did or how you did it. Right?

Oh, except in your mind. And I am a master of torturing myself by dwelling on what’s already behind me, singing the shoulda-coulda-song even though I’m tired of hearing it. Maybe it’s because of my experience as an editor, which teaches that finding flaws is the vital first step to fixing them. Maybe it’s because I’m an emotional Pisces, so comfortable in my dreamworld (a place where I’ve already won enough Grammys and Oscars to put even my own vision boards to shame) that my worst fear is opening my eyes to a reality that doesn’t measure up. Maybe it’s because an actor or singer can always find another actor or singer to laugh and commiserate with over how badly and thoroughly “I just bombed that audition;” or maybe it’s easier to remember the things I did “wrong” than the things I did right.

It’s probably all of the above, but for now I’m focusing on that last point. And here’s a plot twist: I’m about to congratulate myself for things I’ve done imperfectly, because I got some unexpected rewards out of those so-called mistakes.

I remember auditioning for a short film called Home Away, and totally forgetting my lines at one point while the camera was rolling. Oops. I said the wrong words but still got the character’s intent across, booked the role and finally earned the third ACTRA credit I needed to become full union.

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I competed in the Miss Teen Canada Scholarship pageant, with grand visions of bringing home the crown. Did I make the top ten? Nope. Did I cry? Yes (later, in the car). Funny how, even though there was no talent competition for this pageant, the director later asked me to sing something over the phone and invited me to perform at the Miss Teen/Mrs Michigan pageant that year. I happily accepted, and that was my first time performing outside of Canada.

Miss Teen Vaughan, in my "fashion outfit" =)

Miss Teen Vaughan, in my “fashion outfit” =)

It isn’t just about show biz, either. Last summer I picked up my phone, butterflies in my stomach on 100, called a guy I had met recently but really liked, and asked him out. I realize this isn’t a big deal for everybody, but for me it was huge! And he said no. And the Earth, I am glad to report, did not stop turning.

I'd love to post a pic of the gentleman in question, but that would be mean - here's a shot of me instead, celebrating a few weeks later =)

I’d love to post a pic of the gentleman in question, but that would be mean – here’s a shot of me instead, taken a few weeks later =)

Listen, social media can make it look like other people are strolling down Easy Street while you’re struggling to just get out of bed. Be aware of the gap between perception and reality. Please be aware of the many discouraging moments we all have, and which most of us decline to document or share. I personally cringe every time I hear the word “lucky” applied to me (and it’s usually being said by someone whose knowledge of my life is limited to my Facebook wall), knowing that my “luck” is largely the result of effort and discipline. And pain. And time. And learning.

And dozens upon dozens of “unsuccessful” auditions.

Seriously, if you’re curious, here are a few: The Lion King; Degrassi; Les Misérables; Hemlock Grove; The Little Mermaid; Caroline, or Change; Dark Matter; Once on this Island; Copper; The Gift; Ruined; A Day Late and a Dollar Short; Little Shop of Horrors; The Next Step After-Show; 12 Monkeys; Beauty and the Beast; Universal Studios Japan; Honey Jam; Kinky Boots, Rogers TV; Carnival Cruise Lines; Disney Cruise Lines; Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines; the Raptors Dance Pak; plus a bunch of commercial auditions, song submissions, general auditions for theatres, etc.

Sigh.

When all is said and done, maybe I’ll always feel bad for awhile after an unsuccessful shot at something. But deep down inside I know that the regret of not taking a shot feels even worse and lasts even longer. So … here’s to … I guess, a lot more NOs, with hopefully a whole lot of YESes too.

Here we go again ... ;-)

Here we go again … ;-)

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MY DUBAI DESERT SAFARI

Some of you remember my Top Ten Tuesday blog featuring ten things I wanted to get done during the last couple months of my stay here in Dubai. Many of those things will remain unchecked on my list, but one of them that I made sure to get done was the desert safari experience.

Full disclosure: several of the activities presented as part of the safari package are things I had already done, so for that and other reasons (keep reading) it wasn’t the most thrilling few hours of my life. But I got a great deal on it, and some really nice pics, and all in all it was worth it …

So here is Chattrisse’s Guide to a Dubai Desert Safari!

First things first: book carefully. Booking a desert safari here is like trying to find a hot dog vendor in downtown Toronto: lots of options for the same stuff. If you’re a tourist, your hotel probably has a link, but it’s worth looking elsewhere as hotel prices are usually not bargains. Check Groupon, or Kobonaty, or just use the internet from within the UAE and wait for the ads along the side of your screen to start showing white Land Rovers on red sand dunes. I promise it’ll happen soon enough.

IMG_0517Also before you go, know what you want to do the most. I don’t imagine anyone could get through all of the activities on offer in a single shot. I recommend bringing a buddy so you both have lots of pictures of the day without wasting time canvassing strangers to take them.

The company I went with offers door-to-door pickup and dropoff, which was a huge bonus for me. Unfortunately I got picked up more than an hour late (I was told this was because other guests were late, but those guests said they’d been told the same thing after we finally picked them up) and it would have been nice to have that extra hour or so to get more things done.

In any case, once your driver gets you out of the city your first safari activity is dune bashing. He’ll let the air out of the tires and go careening up and down the sand dunes. This was fun, even though I was in the back seat and my knees got a bit beat up; it wasn’t my first time dune bashing, and apparently it takes more than two tries to really get the hang of capturing good video footage. I’ve got a pretty strong stomach in most cases, but the heat (close to 40 degrees a few hours before the trip) combined with all that motion and the confined space did make me a bit queasy.

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It was a relief to get out and breathe some fresh air, and the driver chose a nice deserted-looking area (no other vehicles or people anywhere in sight) to let everyone take some pictures. Part of the reason I’m blogging about this almost a month after the fact is that I was hoping a nice woman in my group would send me the nice pics of me she took with her nice camera. C’est la vie.

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Next, the driver takes you to the main area, parks and gives you a super-quick tour of where everything is. Because of our late start, we were informed that we had about an hour before it would be time to go. So I made the most of it, and if you were with me here are some of the things we could have done:

Shisha smoking – this is included in the ticket price, but I’ve heard and read too much about how shisha isn’t any better for your voice than cigarettes, so I passed. I get plenty of it secondhand when we perform on the beach, lol!

Falcon flirting – okay, I’d already taken pictures with Maktoum the falcon back at the resort, but this was a different one! =) And she did tricks; Maktoum doesn’t. This did cost a small fee of 10 dirhams, but I enjoyed it.

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ATV riding – I would have liked to get this done. Too many people and too little time.

Sand boarding – this was on the top of my list! Picture snowboarding, except on sandy dunes instead of snowy hills. But there didn’t seem to be anyone around offering instruction; I was handed the board by another tourist, so I dragged it up to the top of a dune, looked down at my sandals and shrugged. I ended up taking some more pictures instead.

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Camel riding – thank goodness this wasn’t on my list (again, I had done it at the resort), because there were hordes of people waiting to ride the camel.

Authentic dress – another area where it would have been nice to see staff of some sort. Putting on the abaya is a no-brainer, but wrapping the sheila definitely takes practice and/or help! I met a nice woman from Cambodia who was in the same boat, so we did the best we could, but if the organizers had asked for my feedback … um, why didn’t they? … I for sure would have asked about this.

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Tanoura dancer – once the sun goes down, the scheduled entertainment starts. I found the male dancer kind of boring but I’m sure I’d have been more interested if I knew more of the history behind Tanoura, an Egyptian folk dance where the performer’s costume lights up.

Henna – yeah! I haven’t had henna done since the turn of the century, so I was excited for this. It was included in the ticket price too, but I chose to tip the Indian woman who applied it. I left mine on for a little over two hours because I wanted it to get as dark as possible. Shoutouts to the guys from the States who were in line in front of me getting scorpions and other designs: “real men get henna tattoos!”

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Dinner – the words “international buffet” sound more glamourous than what you get; luckily I was warned about this ahead of time. If you don’t expect much, you’ll be fine – salad, meat, rice, and a few other items, plus water and pop (and I think tea and coffee) are all included in your ticket price, and you line up to get it cafeteria/all-you-can-eat-buffet-style before chowing down at the table reserved for your group. The tables are low to the ground, decorated in keeping with the Bedouin theme, and you sit on low benches surrounding the stage so everyone has a good view of the entertainment.

Belly dancer – I was excited for this as well. She danced to a handful of songs with different props, including canes and a silver cape and of course the jingling hipscarf. During her last number she got a few of the audience members up and dancing with her; some of the men could really shake it!

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Bathroom – don’t expect to make it through the whole safari without needing to relieve yourself, especially if it’s hot out because you will be drinking. And don’t expect much from the bathrooms either. Although there were separate toilet areas for men and women, a guy didn’t see the sign so a few of us ladies ended up having to wait (lol) to use the rather shabby facilities.  (You’ll notice if you scroll back up that I packed hand sanitizer … yeah. That’s all.)

I skipped the souvenir shopping, and we all piled back into the car to get driven through the dark desert, then the brightly lit city, and back home.

My ticket (thanks to Groupon and Cooper Tourism) cost me 109 dirhams, or $33.59 Canadian; plus I gave the falcon’s handler and the henna artist 10 dirhams each, which is roughly another $6 Canadian. Under 40 bucks = totally worth it. And I would be really annoyed with myself if I’d somehow made it through six months here without doing the desert safari, so voila!

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Til next time …

 

On set for a Divine Brown video shoot ... the first time I was ever paid to dance ;-)

Singer who Moves Well

Those of you in the world of musical theatre, or anywhere else where triple threats can be found, can probably guess what this post is about.

I love to dance; I have as long as I can remember; I’ve spent lots of money and lots of time taking dance classes and workshops, I’ve choreographed and taught others, and I even convinced my father that one night a week we should watch So You Think You Can Dance Canada instead of whatever sports channel he normally lives on.  (In fact, as I post this, I’m packing up my heels for a dance class later tonight – if the video footage I get is any good, I’ll share it later!)

But when people ask me what I do, I usually say “I’m a performer” or “I write and sing” or “I’m a singer and actor” … or, if I’m in a chatty mood, “I write and sing and act and dance.” I never just say “I’m a dancer.” I would kind of feel like a fraud if I did.

For one thing, Dancer Chattrisse is a baby compared to Singer Chattrisse (started singing in public around age 6) and Actor Chattrisse (first took classes at age 8) and Writer Chattrisse (who was born at age 10, an outgrowth of Poet Chattrisse who came on the scene around the same time as Actor Chattrisse but faded into obscurity much sooner). I never took a dance class in my life until I was the ripe old age of 12, and I doubt I will ever be able to do the splits; kicks and pretty turns are still challenges for me, and it was an absolute shock to discover in 2009 that my male dance partners could lift me into the air. So dance is still the area on my resume in which I have the least experience, and therefore the least confidence.

Besides that, many of my dancer friends have been dancing since they were toddlers. Baby ballerinas are not only adorable; by the time they’re in their teens and twenties, people who have been dancing for that long (with adequate passion and proper instruction) are not to be messed with! So I have this tendency to shrink away from calling myself a dancer because to me, they are dancers.

The labels “singer who moves well” and “ strong mover” are more appropriate, as dorky as they look and sound. And I’m not saying I’ll never consider myself to be a dancer dancer, because since 2010 dance has been creeping back up my list of priorities and presenting itself as an activity that really does keep me sane. It also makes me feel liberated and sexy in a way that singing and acting don’t always do … though that may be because the styles I’ve been learning and teaching lately are almost exclusively burlesque-tinged or Caribbean. Many of my professional friends and acquaintances have been nice enough to show that they really appreciate my talent as a dancer, and if the dancer dancers are calling me a dancer, hey, I must be getting closer to the point where I am one.

For now, though, let’s not ask me to do any triple pirouettes; let’s hold off on even the double turns. Isn’t that what body doubles are for??