Tag Archives: training




June already! I’m almost back on Canadian soil (editing and posting this from inside an airport terminal actually), after spending half a year abroad. For this edition of Top Ten Tuesday, here are ten awesome memories and/or accomplishments from this stay in Dubai . . .


1.  So much writing.

Beginning on Christmas Day 2013, I promised I would write every day. Even a single sentence, or a few words; some days this meant an entire song or three, and some days it meant several scenes of a TV episode. Sometime in April or May I got a little more strict with myself, so now I have to write a snippet or piece of a song, or a song idea, every day. Even on days when I’ve completed a song. Even on days when I’m totally focused on a script and don’t want to think about writing a song.

IMG_0726So, the final tally? 52 new songs and 3 new episodes of the series I’m working on. Plus, I’ve got about 11 pages of ideas to dip into the next time I think “now what can I write a song about?” Not bad at all.


2.  So much sun.

What do you when it’s 50 degrees warmer where you are than it is back at home? You go to the beach.

Feb 5 2014.027It’s not like I was out there every day, but I definitely took advantage of my winter and spring in the desert — and I’ve got the tan to prove it!


3.  So much singing.

Being onstage six nights a week and singing so many genres (pop, reggae, rock, country, soul, Motown, blues, calypso, jazz) is awesome training. Doing so without lyrics in front of you is great for your memorization skills. Doing so in heels has left my feet considerably uglier than they were six months ago . . . ah well, you can’t win em all.

DSC08154Shoutouts to my incredible bandmates Jo (keys) and Julian (guitar), for allowing me to experience the awesomeness that is playing with live musicians — and alllllll the hilarity that goes along with it!


4.  Friends from every corner of the globe.

Maybe not every single corner . . . but I now have people to welcome me in Italy, South Africa, Indonesia, Sweden, all over the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Russia, the Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, and of course here in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And as eager as I am to get back home and hug all my people in Canada and the United States, it feels good to know that friendship transcends borders.

jan 12 2014.012




IMG_0110Of course I look forward to welcoming any of my new friends if and when they find themselves in Toronto, too!


5.  Fly boarding.

Hands-down the coolest single activity I’ve done since leaving home.

flyboard10You can watch the video here (in fact, go do it right now) and I really hope I get the opportunity to do this again one day . . . Does anyone offer it in southwestern Ontario yet?


6.  Loving on nature.

At home I can jog along Lake Ontario, and I’m frequently amused by the friendly (well, probably just hungry) squirrels in my neighbourhood, and there are some nice views of the sunset from my building before it’s hidden by condos.  In Dubai, I’ve been bathing in the Gulf of Arabia, taking pictures of flowers and sandscapes and water views, and loving the sight (though not always the sound) of tons of birds — including obnoxious crows and shrill peacocks.


10am in Toronto, and 6pm in Dubai




There are some really cool manmade wonders out there, obviously, but it’s also been really nice to just look at a seashell or a cliff and enjoy that.


7.  Opportunities.

I’ll do my best to explain this clearly and without offending anyone.

Opportunities are everywhere, and so are opportunity-seekers and opportunity-creators. But it seems to me that there is a greater sense of possibility in Dubai than at home; and it has nothing to do with money and everything to do with attitude. Both Toronto and Dubai are big, bustling cities with international populations and people at different socioeconomic levels . . . but they differ when it comes to the ratio of whiners to risk-takers. At home, I find a lot of people who feel that they’re stuck in a rut. In Dubai, I find a lot of people who are hustling, who are keeping it moving, who are creating some type of change instead of just complaining.

Example: my friend Davide Giusti (grey shirt), tennis coach extraordinaire who is opening his own academy in Dubai, and 15-year-old "Rpince Pavel," a future world tennis champion from Poland

Example: my friend Davide Giusti (grey shirt), tennis coach extraordinaire who is opening his own academy in Dubai, and 15-year-old “Prince Pavel,” a future world tennis champion from Poland

This is probably because roughly 80% of the people there are expats (not local to the area, they were born somewhere else), so they’ve already taken the step of leaving home, their physical comfort zone. Granted, many of the people I met were on vacation, but when I did meet someone who’a planning to stay for awhile I tended to notice a quiet confidence and certainty that they’ll be able to do what they came here to do. And if not then they can go somewhere else and try again. It’s all good.


8.  Truly cherishing interaction with people from back home.

It will be such a treat to sit down and have a meal with family and friends again. Even if I don’t like the food, I have to sit on the floor, and no one says a single word for the duration of the meal.

See these two? They will be smothered with hugs very shortly . . .

See these two? They will be smothered with hugs very shortly . . .

I knew homesickness would be an issue for me; I’m glad that I came through without getting too emotional (for the most part), and I now fully understand what a musician friend of mine meant when he told me staying away for a month wasn’t enough; he wanted to be gone for long enough that he missed being home.


9.  Exploring.

I’ll have to make sure I do this in Toronto/Ontario/Canada too! One of the best things about travelling is getting to know a new place. I don’t mean just the people and customs and laws, I mean the physical place. When you’re new to the UAE, you ask a lot of questions like “Why isn’t there any parking?” and “Can I take the Metro?” and some more unique ones too, like “Why isn’t there a street address?”

The huge sigh of relief when you finally somehow get to the place you were hoping to find . . .

The huge sigh of relief when you finally somehow get to the place you were hoping to find . . .

I’m very grateful to anyone who has ever printed and distributed a clearly marked map, and for numerous online forums where expats and travellers share tips. I’m also newly in love with Groupon (and similar sites like Kobonaty) for offering great deals in the area, making it that much easier to get out there and try a desert safari, or flyboarding, or a double-massage deal.


10. Discovering and developing new talents.

I’ve dusted off my photographer, videographer, and video editor hats, in addition to writing new episodes as mentioned above. I decided to share some of my insights in a 30-day art installation project via Instagram and Facebook/Twitter . . . (stay tuned to my YouTube channel for a video recap of that, plus a video recap of the whole Dubai trip) . . . and being genuinely touched and surprised by a bandmate’s comment that I’m “so visual,” I’ve been creating collages (as seen all over this blog) that are way better than those Instathings, and I even came up with my phoenix/mermaid photoshoot out of thin air.

collages.056Plus, I commissioned two newly designed dresses and had them made at a local tailor’s (and blogged all about it), and I’m really loving finding new ways to express myself visually!

tailor made.060

So what’s next for me? A Top Ten Tuesday blog featuring the 10 best things about being back home?

Nah, too predictable.

See you next time ;-)

10,000 Hours

There is an awesome book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers, and one of the “that-makes-total-sense-so-why-am-I-almost-surprised-to-read-this-in-print” revelations I took away from it was his “ten thousand hour rule.” In summary, Gladwell points out that 10,000 hours of dedicated practice are required to become a master at anything, and he uses numerous examples (most notably Bill Gates, who spent more than 10,000 hours programming before launching Microsoft, and the Beatles, who spent more than 10,000 hours playing together in Europe before launching in America) to prove this point.

If this huge amount of time and effort is such an important difference between someone who is really really really good at something and someone who is great at it, I wondered, how do I stack up? Good news and bad news: I have no idea.

As a singer, there is no way I could tell you how many hours I’ve spent singing, whether for fun or for practice or both. I started in the church children’s choir; let’s assume that was 30 minutes of practice per week for one year for about 1,500 minutes, or 25 hours not counting performances (I’m lowballing all of these estimates). I remember schoolyard singing competitions and that’s probably worth another 10 hours; at least 100 hours from the time I sang in a gospel band and 40 from the Jazz Ensemble at Baythorn and 150 or so from actual in-class singing at the same school over two years. Plus 20 or so for other performances; I was in the arts program, after all. That’s 345 hours before I started high school. Between the Concert Choir and the York Region Children’s Chorus and Voices of Praise, my high school gospel choir, there had to be another 360 hours for a total of 705 hours of instructed singing time, plus performances. I was in university by the time I started with a vocal coach and got thorough one-on-one vocal training … at least 300 hours’ worth … which finally puts me past 1,000. A tenth of the way there.

This pic is from 2007 (the one up top is from 2009). Even back then I felt like “Um, I’ve been doing this for a pretty long time already…”

Since then, I’ve added hundreds more hours in the form of rehearsals for musical theatre productions, a TV shoot, and dozens (maybe hundreds) of live shows. But what about the (literally) countless hours I spent just singing, not gearing up for any particular piece or performance? In the car, in the house when no one else was home (my favourite), doing dishes, leading youth services, sitting in the pews, at auditions, at the club, at fetes, playing mas, playing with my cousins and friends, writing songs, recording songs, teaching songs to other people, watching movies, learning dance routines, waiting to be picked up from work, waiting to fall asleep? And wait, wait — Gladwell points out that the Beatles played those 10,000+ hours together and it made a big difference. Does that mean I have to discount the hours I spent singing with other singers, or singing along to a radio or album? Or only count the hours I’ve spent singing my own songs that I wrote myself?

Okay, maybe it would be easier to count something other than my singing hours. Like writing; I’m better at writing than I am at singing, in my opinion. But when I considered that math, I stopped before even starting. And I concluded, as I have many times before, that my chosen professions are not linear so it usually doesn’t make sense to try to define or measure my progress in a linear way.

I remember feeling vaguely disadvantaged by this when I was younger. People who want to be chefs or architects or marine biologists have narrower career paths, from what I can tell — although I’m sure students in those paths have to stress over their grades way more than I ever did, so I’m not saying they have it easy at all. What I am suggesting is that when you have to learn on the run and make up a lot of it as you go, the trip might take longer than you thought it would and that fact itself is often enough to slow you down a little bit. The goal may be as bright and visible as it ever was, but the mountain range standing between you and it would be less intimidating if you had, say, a clear map. Or a tour guide. Or a clicker to track the amount of steps you’d taken. Because to the naked eye, your goal still looks very, very far away.

Lofty goal? For sure. Let's see how close I get in the next 12 months =)

Lofty goal? For sure. Let’s see how close I get in the next 12 months =)

Back to the timeline: I wrote my first song in 1996 (it might have been 1995, but again, I’m lowballing so nobody can accuse me of blowing things out of proportion when I’m a big deal) and that’s when I decided to become a famous singer-songwriter. As a kid, I figured I had all the time in the world to get over being shy, learn to sing better, lose weight, master the on-camera interview. Now, as a trained, educated, hungry, hardworking, and (luckily) photogenic adult with hundreds of original songs but no deal, no placements, one incomplete album, and only one radio single, I do have moments where I grope for something “real” to convince me that I’ve made a good amount of progress, distracted though I may have been by things like getting a degree and paying bills. It’s in moments like these that I turn to rules like Gladwell’s, and then turn away again. After all, I’m not yet convinced that I need to become a “master” pop artist, and quite frankly I don’t want to become quite as big as Bill Gates if I have a choice in the matter. So 10,000 hours, while they will accumulate in time, really don’t need to serve as a marker of how far along the path I’ve come.

But it’s good to remind myself that I still have some walking to do.

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??