Brought to you by the letter Z for Jazz, baby!

Zap! …I really can’t believe the month is over and this is the last A-Z challenge post! No more daily Nita in your inbox!

I love the letter Z. There are a lot of great things I could have written about that actually start with a z, but I found out just a few minutes ago that today, April 30th, is actually International Jazz Day!

Jazz hands, everyone!  Yeah!







Today I’m going to show you a couple of original fusion pieces I choreographed for the dancers to perform to LIVE Big Band music back in 2011. Bellydance meets Big Band!

OMG it’s the most amazing feeling to be on the big stage with a full 18-piece big band behind you. Amazing! I wish every dancer could experience it.

First, here is a new one that hasn’t hit my website yet (because I only uploaded it to YouTube about 10 minutes ago). Orange Colored Sky!

And here they are again, dancing to another great big band standard: Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.

And last but not least…and entirely appropriate for the very last post of the A-Z in April challenge: our Rockin’ the Casbah FINALE done to New York, New York.

Phew! Can’t believe it’s over.  It’s over, baby!

I hope you had as much fun this month as I did!

I’d love to hear from you…which post was your favourite?

ZI’m participating in the Blogging From A-Z challenge.  One blog post for each letter of the alphabet, each day of April (except Sunday).

…but don’t go away! I’ll still be blogging, just not every day, regular as clockwork!

Y: Yukon meditation

In 2012 I did a series of one minute films that I called “one Yukon minute.” The idea was to spend one minute in meditation, looking at a photograph…except it would be a living photograph, with movement and sound. Serene. Tranquil. Something to reflect on and calm the mind. A moving meditation, so to speak.

Taking a moment – even just one minute – to stop and mediate on something beautiful helps to bring balance to our lives. Each film is one minute long. Here are two of my favourites:

Filmed October 7, 2012. Sunset at the Fox Lake house.


One month later, November 10, 2012. The beginning of freeze-up at the Fox Lake house.

YI’m participating in the Blogging From A-Z challenge.  One blog post for each letter of the alphabet, each day of April (except Sunday)

X is for Xylophone!


C’mon…raise your hands. How many of you think of this little toy when you hear the word xylophone?

Actually, the term xylophone also includes instruments such as the marimba, the semantron and the vibes. BUT (for you purists – I’m talkin’ to you, Mr. C…) while vibes are often called xylophones, they aren’t actually a true xylophone. This is because, unlike the xylophone, each vibraphone bar has a resonator tube with a motor-driven valve at one end that produces a tremolo. Also unlike a true xylophone, the vibraphone also has a sustain pedal like a piano.

Does hearing the xylophone have the same effect on you that it does on this cat?

I hope not, because I’ve assembled a few very short clips for your enjoyment:

Take a breath and hold onto our seat for Ralph Heid, the worlds fastest xylophone virtuoso playing the Flight of the Bumblebee!

Do you prefer jazz? How about the  master of the vibraphone, jazz-giant Lionel Hampton!

How about the William Tell Overture featuring Dan Marquis on xylophone with the Indiana Wind Orchestra:

Perhaps you prefer your xylophone to be more…organic?

Or maybe you prefer zen-xylophone (this is actually very neat and worth the watch)…

And how about a piece of classical music written especially for the xylophone:

Would you like to make your own xylophone?

XI’m participating in the Blogging From A-Z challenge.  One blog post for each letter of the alphabet, each day of April (except Sunday)

the letter W is brought to you by…Geraldine?

Lets take a little walk down memory lane, shall we?


Lets visit …







1965 with Johnny Cash, June Carter & Bill Russell:

1971 with Ray Charles

1970 on the Ed Sullivan show. The Devil made me Do it.

I remember watching Flip Wilson when I was a kid. Do you remember?


WI’m participating in the Blogging From A-Z challenge.  One blog post for each letter of the alphabet, each day of April (except Sunday)

V is for Vincent

Mr. C and I visited the National Art Gallery in Ottawa in 2001, and lucky for us, several Vincent van Gogh paintings were in residence at the time.

177px-VanGogh_Bedroom_Arles1Van_Gogh_-_Still_Life_with_AbsintheVincent van Gogh’s paintings are breath taking, especially – especially! – in person. If you haven’t stood in front of a van Gogh yet, please put it on your bucket list. It’s worth every effort.


One of the paintings was Wheat Field with Cypresses (below). It was hard to walk away from it.










Did you know that Vincent van Gogh was also a prolific writer? He wrote the most wonderfully descriptive letters.


waterHere is an excerpt from a letter Vincent van Gogh wrote from Ramsgate, England to his brother Theo van Gogh in Holland, 28th April 1876:

…Now let me tell you about a walk we took yesterday. It was to an inlet of the sea, and the road to it led through the fields   of young wheat and along hedgerows of hawthorn etc. When we got there we had on our left a high, steep wall of sand and stone, as high as a two-storey house, on top of which stood old, gnarled hawthorn bushes. Their black or grey, lichen-covered stems and branches had all been bent to the same side by the wind, also a few elder bushes.

The ground we walked on was completely covered with large grey stones, chalk and shells.

To the right the sea, as calm as a pond, reflecting the delicate grey sky where the sun was setting. It was ebb tide and the water was very low.”

Aspringnd another, excerpted from a letter written from London, England to his brother to his brother Theo van Gogh in Holland, 30th April, 1874:

“… I walk here as much as I can, but I’m very busy. It’s absolutely beautiful here (even though it’s in the city). There are lilacs and hawthorns and laburnums &c. blossoming in all the gardens, and the chestnut trees are magnificent.

IfVincent_Van_Gogh_0021 one truly loves nature one finds beauty everywhere. Yet I sometimes yearn so much for Holland, and especially Helvoirt.

I’m doing a lot of gardening and have sown sweet peas, poppies and reseda, now we just have to wait and see what comes of it.

I enjoy the walk from home to the office and in the evening from the office back home. It takes about three-quarters of an hour.

If you would like to read his letters, they are archived at


Don McLean wrote his famous song Vincent as a loving tribute. And then the Dr. Who show did a beautiful tribute in two episodes. Later, a brilliant woman named Camille Ibarra put clips of the episodes and the Don McLean song together to produce this beautiful montage:

Dearest Vincent, the world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.



VI’m participating in the Blogging From A-Z challenge.  One blog post for each letter of the alphabet, each day of April (except Sunday)

the alliterative letter U and an Undertaking

University undergraduate Ursula underestimated her uniquely ugly Ukranian uncle Ulric as he ululated and undulated under his umber-coloured umbrella. 

Phew! Now for the undertaking:

Yesterday I took it upon myself to make a small gift for our egg lady. Every couple of weeks either Mr. C or  I knock on her door and buy a dozen or two fresh farm eggs. She’s usually baking something and her kitchen always smells wonderful. The last time I bought eggs, I told her that I was baking a red velvet cake for Michael’s 30th birthday and she asked me what kind of food colouring I was using. I told her and she said “no, no…use this instead” and she gave me a little jar of paste. There would be just enough left in the jar for one cake, she said. The cake turned out beautifully, thanks to her unselfish generosity. 


To say thank you, I made this little mat for her coffee cup to sit on while she’s in the kitchen. I’ll take it up next time I go for eggs. Since I only have one egg left, it won’t be long. 


   I’m participating in the Blogging From A-Z challenge.  One blog post for each letter of the alphabet, each day of April (exceptSunday).


The letter T is brought to you by Winnie the Pooh, because Today is Thursday, and isn’t it amazing that the letter T should fall on a Thursday?

winnie_the_poohNow one autumn morning when the wind had blown all the leaves off the trees in the night, and was trying to blow the branches off, Pooh and Piglet were sitting in  the  Thoughtful Spot and wondering.

“What I think,” said Pooh, “is I think we’ll go to Pooh Corner and see Eeyore, because perhaps his house has been blown down, and perhaps he’d like us to build it again.”

“What I think,” said Piglet, “is I think we’ll go and see Christopher Robin, only he won’t be there, so we can’t.”

“Let’s go and see everybody,” said Pooh. “Because when you’ve been walking in the wind for miles, and you suddenly go into somebody’s house, and he says, ‘Hallo, Pooh, you’re just in time for a little smackerel of something,’ and you are, then it’s what I call a Friendly Day.”

Piglet thought that they ought to have a Reason for going to see everybody, like Looking for Small or Organizing an Expotition, if Pooh could think of something Pooh could.

“We’ll go because it’s Thursday,” he said,  “and we’ll go to wish everybody a Very Happy Thursday. Come on, Piglet.”

Happy Thursday, everyone!

R: Raqs Bedaya

In 2011 I choreographed and produced a full theatre production that featured the Big Band, the Saba Middle Eastern Dance Ensemble and ensemble soloists. If you’ve watched any of the videos I’ve re-posted about the show during the A-Z in April blog posts,  you’ll have noticed right away that this was a really fun show.

Everything about it was fun!

Including this dance.  And there is a story behind this dance (of course!). As you may know, I have quite an extensive DVD library. I often buy a DVD and then find that I already know the material. But that’s okay because even if the material isn’t new to me, I can glean a new perspective on it or find a different way of presenting the material in class. And I enjoy just putting on a DVD and dancing along … it’s nice to follow somebody else’s lead instead of being the leader all the time. Makes for good drills.

So anyway, at the back of one of these DVDs there was a very nice choreography taught to a song that I have liked for a long time called Raqs Bedaya off of one of the Yousry Sharif Wash ya Wash CDs.When I heard the song, I said “I know that song -I LOVE that song!” So I watched the performance. While the technical material was intermediate, the choreography that she tied it all together with was quite advanced.And I loved it! I absolutely loved everything about it! I loved her cheeky attitude. I loved her lightness of step and heaviness of hips.

I could see myself in that dance.

So … I learned it! I followed the chapters and learned the combinations one by one. While I was learning each combination, I allowed myself the freedom to change it as I pleased. In the end, parts are definitely Jenna’s and parts are definitely mine.

The piece is a hybrid of choreography that I had an absolute blast learning & doing. And – best part yet – it is a blast to dance! Fun fun fun!

The Big Band makes an interesting back drop, eh?

And of course there is the perk of being able to wear that outfit. Today, 4 years and 30 pounds later I don’t know if I could squeeze my big toe into it!

One of my favourite moments in the dance…a cute undulating backwalk, Saiidi style.
If you’ve made it this far, maybe you’d like to see the actual dance?

Raqs Bedaya from Rockin’ the Casbah, Act I: Casbah Cabaret. March 19, 2011.

RI’m participating in the Blogging From A-Z challenge.  One blog post for each letter of the alphabet, each day of April (except Sunday).


I bet you thought that today I’d write about quilts. Or about the rock group Queen. Or maybe about how much I loved that movie about drag queens, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
How about a few quizzical things I believed when I was a kid, instead?
  • I believed that if I forgot to include someone in the “God bless so-&-so part of my bedtime prayer, something terrible would happen to them. Which made for a bit of stress, as you can imagine!
  • When I was about 6, I baptized a bath toy and then lived in fear for days (It was a Fuzzy Wuzzy bear bath sponge. Remember the rhyme? “fuzzy wuzzy was a bear, fuzzy wuzzy had no hair, fuzzy wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he.”)
  • I believed that if I said my bedtime prayer as fast as I could, I wouldn’t die in my sleep. “nowilaymedowntosleepipraythelordmysoultokeepifishoulddiebeforeiwakeipraytheLordmysoultotake.” Maybe I thought that if I said it fast enough, I could fly under God’s radar.

(Obviously my family only went to church often enough to terrify the bejeezes out if me!)

  • I believed that if I ate a handful of dirt and then an apple seed, a tree would grow in my stomach.  I was very careful never to eat dirt.
  • I believed in the spontaneous combustion of houses (and other things.)
  • I believed that if you swallowed your gum, it would stay in your stomach for seven years before being digested.
  • When I was in elementary school, my friend Diane’s grandmother said to me, “you’re really quite the chubby little girl, aren’t you?” I believed her for the rest of my life. What a wicked old woman!

and okay…you twisted my arm. Here’s a Because you Matter quilt I finished about a month ago:


…and yes, Queen is my favourite rock group.

What quirky things did you believe when you were a kid?

QI’m participating in the Blogging From A-Z challenge.  One blog post for each letter of the alphabet, each day of April (except Sunday).

the Letter P: The Partridge Family still makes my little hippy heart go pitter patter

I was nine years old when the show first aired in 1970 and 13 years old at the final episode in 1974. Talk about the formative years!

Did you know that The Partridge Family show was actually based on the real live Cowsills family, who were one of the most musically gifted American Families to hit the top of the pop charts in the late sixties?

The Cowsills:

Of course every girl in the world was in love with David Cassidy. But I kind of liked Danny Bonaduce. He was only a year older than me. And he played the bass. I like the bass.

Hello, world, hear the song that we’re singin’

C’mon get happy! A whole lot of lovin’ is what we’ll be bringin’ We’ll make you happy!

We had a dream, we’d go travelin’ together,

We’d spread a little lovin’ then we’d keep movin’ on. Somethin’ always happens whenever we’re together We get a happy feelin’ when we’re singing a song.

Trav’lin’ along there’s a song that we’re singin’

C’mon get happy! A whole lot of lovin’ is what we’ll be bringin’ We’ll make you happy! We’ll make you happy! We’ll make you happy!

PI’m participating in the Blogging From A-Z challenge.  One blog post for each letter of the alphabet, each day of April (except Sunday).

O is for Old MacDonald’s Daughter!

…performing to a little something by Frank Sinatra at Saqra’s Showcase, November 2009

OI’m participating in the Blogging From A-Z challenge.  One blog post for each letter of the alphabet, each day of April (except Sunday). 

N is for North: a poem

On Spring, North of 60

The seeking rays of the sun, golden in the perfect clearness of the returning morning light have found the hippy-heart crystals in my window and are casting rainbows of colour onto my walls and kitchen floor, causing the cat to dance madly from spark to spark of sapphire, emerald, ruby, tangerine and turquoise…

Bohemian Waxwings, those chirruping, silky, summer-time fly catchers, winter-time fruit-eaters, flit in undulating flocks from blue-red mayday to orange-red mountain ash and back again, solely to brighten my afternoon with their soft, mysterious calls.

When daylight finally agrees to stay for supper and when the evening meal is done we will toast ourselves cherry-red by the fire and admire the stars shining valiantly through the rippling green fingers of the Northern Lights.

Let us go to bed and browse the seed catalogues.
Winter begins in spring.

~Nita Collins, September 2014

 NI’m participating in the Blogging From A-Z challenge.  One blog post for each letter of the alphabet, each day of April (except Sunday).