Classes & Workshops

Dance classes and workshops are offered at The Dark Side Studio, 244 Augusta Ave (second floor), in the heart of Kensington Market, starting at the beginner level (Basic Black) and progressing through to advanced/professional students.

The Dark Side Studio is also home to the Dark Side Dance Program.  Launched in 2012, The Dark Side Dance Program is a series of intensive workshops designed to provide a comprehensive, multi-stage dance foundation for belly dancers of any style. This dual pronged approach, with focus on both technique and musicality, aims to provide students with the ability to practice, create and perform belly dance, with individuality, confidence and versatility.

Private lessons are also available for those who wish to study in this way.  Please contact us for prices and availability.

Audra Simmons, Artistic Director of The Dark Side Studio and Lavish Dance, and Heather Labonté, Lead Dancer in Lavish Dance, currently teach at The Dark Side Studio.

 

Why choose The Dark Side to learn belly dance?

At The Dark Side Studio, we provide all students with a solid, safe and versatile foundation in belly dance.  Many ‘belly dance’ movements are universal, though often they are executed differently depending on who you study with.  One way in which classes at The Dark Side Studio differ from classes at other studios with other teachers, is the focus on creating versatile dancers and students.  There is no ‘right way’ or ‘wrong way’ to do anything.  There are different ways that are suitable for different things.  We teach our students to become aware of their bodies and their muscles, teach them how they can make their bodies move using muscular isolations, and teach them to be aware of the different ways there are to create movement.

Another way in which classes at The Dark Side Studio differ from your average bear, is our focus on teaching each student how to ‘dance’ and how to express themselves.  From the first technical level of classes (Basic Black), time is spent explaining the how’s and why’s of combinations of movements (short ‘dances’) so that students can being to understand not only how dances at put together, but how one goes about expressing emotions and ideas through dance.

As dancers progress through the 4 technical levels at The Dark Side Studio, more opportunities are given to students in which they can begin to put the concepts together as they create their own combinations.  Guided exercises are used to slowly and gently make each student comfortable in beginning to express themselves in movement.  Aspects such as emotional expression, fluidity, abstraction, phrasing and musicality are some of the concepts students study in the technical classes at The Dark Side Studio.

In order to further Audra has worked for the past 4 years to develop a series of creative and drilling classes that are meant to compliment any technical class at any level, including those outside the studio.  Classes such as The Dark Side Boot Camp, Combos Class, Études Class, and the Daytime Drills are offered so that students can further their exploration into the movement world.  These classes are multi-level classes and each participant is encouraged to work at their own level as they are lead through the particulars that challenge both body and mind.

What style of dance is taught at The Dark Side Studio?

Ultimately, you are taught to be able to express yourself in your own style, as you choose to move, to costume yourself and to the music of your choice.  If I’d have to put a name on the style, I’d call it Modern Belly Dance.  It’s what I do, and as the Artistic Director, it’s what the school is about.

It’s certainly an offshoot of tribal and tribal fusion belly dance (if you don’t know what that is, google Rachel Brice and FatChanceBellyDance) but it differs slightly from that.  Tribal and tribal fusion differ from traditional belly dance in their posture, their upper body emphasis and strength and their attitude :)

I’ve taken my traditional belly dance training, and mixed it with the people who’ve influenced me and I’ve studies extensively with (Rachel Brice, Suhaila Salimpour, Carolena Nericcio, and Mira Betz).  That coupled with my music training (I’ve my grade 10 piano from the Royal Conservatory) and my own likes and dislikes has produced a style that I’ve coined Modern Belly Dance.

 

 

 

 

Class Descriptions

Basic Black

Basic black is the level for absolute beginners who have no experience in any style of belly dance as well as a requirement of those who have previous belly dance experience but are new to classes at The Dark Side Studio (with the exception of the ATS classes). The basic concepts central to tribal fusion style belly dance are introduced at the Basic Black level through verbal breakdown and demonstration. Posture, muscle isolation, and dance movements are taught using stretching and strengthening exercises in the class warm up as well as in the drills used throughout each class. It is here in Basic Black that the concepts of this format used at all levels of the studio is introduced and practiced stationary and with basic footwork. Basic arm positions and hand movements are introduced and paired with isolations.

An introduction into playing finger cymbals is also taught at this level. Students are required to have their own finger cymbals – available at the studio for purchase.

Progression to the next stage, Lavender, is permitted with consultation with your instructor.

Lavender

In the Lavender level, aspects such as the isolations and movements, dance movement and posture that were introduced in the Basic Black level are refined. The speed of the isolations, movements and travel is increased and more complex foot patterns are introduced. The concept of layering is introduced in which movements and isolations are layered on top of one another.

More complex finger cymbal patterns are introduced and the students begin to pair the finger cymbals with dance movement.

Progression to the next stage, Turquoise, is permitted with consultation with Audra.

Turquoise

At this level, more complex layering in both stationary and moving forms and more intricate foot patterns with movements and isolations and arm movements are taught. The dance knowledge of the students is put into combinations which begins to take the technique and put it into dance.

In order to begin to develop personal style, the skill of improvising is worked on through the Turquoise level using a variety of approaches.

More complex finger cymbal patterns are introduced both stationary and with movement.

Progression to the next stage, Lavender, is permitted with consultation with Audra.

Pewter

At the Pewter level, longer drilling sessions with complex foot patterns and arm patters are drilled and refined as we delve into speed, complexity, subtlety, nuance, expression and creation. We’ll work with finger cymbals, shimmies, layering, creating combinations, musicality in this small class, as well as focuses and projects as requested.  This class is by invitation only.

American Tribal Style (ATS)

Learn the movements and cues in this lively group improvisation dance styled after the mad skills of the one and only FatChanceBellyDance. We’ll focus on 2 or 3 movements per week in either the slow or fast families of approved FCBD movements as we drill and dance in small groups. All levels welcome, from absolute beginner through to those with experience in ATS. Bring finger cymbals if you’d like to indulge in those, those are certainly optional.

Dark Side Boot Camp

This multi-level drill style class is designed to assist dancers in refining your technique, in dancing with proper posture and continuing to develop your muscular isolation. Each week will focus on 2 to 3 isolations in stationary and moving drills done at various speeds, alone and paired with various foot and arm patterns in both stationary and moving drills.

This class is not meant to break you, but to develop your skills. Not intended for absolute beginners – some experience in belly dance is required.

The Dark Side Student Troupe
If you’re interested in learning choreography, in developing fluidity and performance skills, learning the ins and outs of group performance dynamics with the possibility of performance at shows, haflas and events like Kensington Market’s Pedestrian Sundays, this is your class!

Those students who are interested in performing, and who demonstrate a suitable understanding of the choreography will be required to attend extra rehearsals as performance dates approaches.

This class is open to anyone who has completed a session of classes at the studio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audra’s Past Classes & Workshops

2013

January to March – Winter session, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

2012

September to December – Fall session, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

September – Dark Harvest Festival, Toronto.  Toronto’s first Tribal Fusion Festival, 6 hours of classes along with International Instructors Heather Stants, Mira Betz and Samantha Emanuel

July – Summer session at The Dark Side Studio, Toronto – condensed schedule – 3 classes per week & private lessons

April – June – Spring session, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

January to March – Winter session, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

2011

September to December – Fall session, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

July – Summer session at The Dark Side Studio, Toronto – condensed schedule – 3 classes per week & private lessons

June & July – Tour with full length production, created, choreographed and directed by Audra, with Lavish – Toronto, Montreal Fringe Festival, and Wakefield Fringe Festival

April – June – Spring session, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsalsJanuary to March – Winter session, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

2010

Dec 10-12 – Triple Charm Workshop (Toronto) Intensive, weekend 2

Nov 12-14 – Triple Charm Workshop (St. John’s, NF) Intensive, weekend 1

Oct 22-24 – Triple Charm Workshop (Toronto) Intensive, weekend 1

Oct 16 – Drills ‘n Layering workshop, Montreal

Sept-Dec – Fall session, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

April 24-25 – Intensive workshop in St John’s, Newfoundland

April 3 – Workshop in Cobourg Ontario

April to June – Spring session, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

Feb 5-7 – Host and Instructor of  2nd annual Winter Sparkle Retreat, Ingersoll

Jan 16 – Arms ‘n Hands & Drilling workshop, Montreal

January to March – Winter session, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

 

 

2009

September to December – Fall session, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

July – Dark Summer Sessions.  3 levels of modern belly dance intensive

April to June – Spring session, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto  4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

March 8 – Arms ‘n Hands workshop, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

March 6 – Suhaila 101 & 201 workshops, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

Feb 6 to 8 – Host and Instructor of Winter Sparkle Retreat, Ingersoll

Jan 24 – Tribal Fundamentals & Dark Dances workshop, Montreal

Jan 18 -  Tribal Plus workshop, BellyUp, Oakville

Jan 5 to Mar 26 – Winter session, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

 

 

 

2008

December 14 – Tribal Fundamentals, Burlington

December 7 – Suhaila 101, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

October 17-19 – Tribal workshops hosted by Neighbourhood Strays, St. John’s, Newfoundland

October 5 – Arms ‘n Hands workshops, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

October 3 – Suhaila 101, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

Sept 8 to Dec 18 – Fall session.  The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

July 13 – The Art of Cabaret one day workshop, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

July 2 to 9 – Dark Summer Session.  3 x 15 hour intensives in tribal fusion belly dance, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

June 8 – Tribal Fusion workshop, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

June 6 – Suhaila 101 workshop, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

May 2 – Suhaila 101 workshop, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

April – Tribal Fundamentals, BellyUp, Oakville

March 7 – Suhaila 101 workshop, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

March 3 – June 19 – Spring session.  The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

February 16 – Tribal Fundamentals, Stratford, Ontario

February 1 – Suhaila 101 workshop, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

January 11 – Suhaila 101 workshop, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

Jnauary – March – Winter session.  The Dark Side studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

 

 

2007

December – Dark Fundamentals & Dark Dances workshop, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

October – Dark Fundamentals & Dark Dances workshop, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

September – Dark Fundamentals & Dark Dances workshop, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

Sept – Dec – Fall session.  The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

July – Dark Summer session.  2 x 15 hour intensives in tribal fusion belly dance, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

April to June – Spring session.  8 weekly classes, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

May – Beginner Tribal Fusion workshop, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

April – Beginner Tribal Fusion workshop, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

March – Beginner Tribal Fusion workshop, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

Feb – Beginner Tribal Fusion workshop, The Dark Side Studio, Toronto

Jan to Mar – Winter session.  The Dark Side Studio, Toronto 4 levels of classes, private lessons & Lavish Dance Company rehearsals

 

 

2004-2006

Weekly classes and workshops in traditional and tribal fusion belly dance

 

2001-2004

Weekly classes, workshops and private lessons at Arabesque Academy, Toronto.  Beginner to Advanced levels in Egyptian style belly dance

 

2 thoughts on “Classes & Workshops

  1. Hi there…
    I am a 60-year old woman, not in the best physical shape but high energy, and interested in learning how to belly dance…a desire that had been within me for a long while.
    Your method sounds intriguing and I would appreciate any info you can send…particularly on beginners classes and whether you cater to us old hippies or not :)
    Peace….
    Marthalee

    • Hi there! We’d love to have you join us at the studio! Our beginner classes are Tuesday 6-7 pm with Heather, and Thursday 5:30-6:30 pm with me. They both start this coming week, the week of Jan 7. You can come out to our free Basic Black (beginner) class on Thursday Jan 10 to try things out to see how we fit! I’d be happy to talk with you afterwards if you have any questions at all. Audra

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