Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Ederlezi Spring Celebration


Spring is officially here and dance classes are in full bloom at the Abbey Studio in Cumberland. Currently I am working on an exciting new project with guest teacher Edith Jacob and an awesome group of women, the Romany Dance Training Project. Over a six week period (three hours per week plus extra rehearsals), dancers will learn Romany dances from Rajasthan, North Africa, Spain, Turkey, Eastern Europe and beyond. These dances as well as, solos and duets by special guests will be performed at The Ederlezi Spring Celebration on May 5th 2018 at the Waverley Hotel in Cumberland. The evening will also feature live pre show Romany music by Bollard and, after the performances DJ Beatfarmer will take you on another dance journey with Ederlezi inspired global beats. Expect the atmosphere to be festive and the dance floor hopping, big skirts, flowers and bright colours are encouraged! 

Ederlezi is a festival celebrating the return of springtime, especially by Romani people in the Balkans, and elsewhere around the world. Ederlezi is the Romani name for the Bulgarian, Macedonian and Serbian Feast of Saint George also known as Hidirellez in Turkey and throughout the Turkic world. Since ancient times around the globe people have celebrated the mid point between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice when Spring magic is at its full bloom. Celebrations often include bonfires, decorating the home with flowers and blooming twigs as a welcoming to spring, taking baths added with flowers and of course eating, music, singing and dancing.

We intend to invoke the spirit of this Spring rite with Romany music and dancing in village style. Tickets $15 available at the Waverley Hotel in Cumberland and at Bop City in Courtenay.  Doors open 9PM, dance performance start at 9:30PM. 

For more info about this event contact Cathy at (250) 218-0704 or

bio: Deep in the woods of a rugged little island, beatfarmer plays the music that drives him to dance. His love for dance carries him through many different styles of music and his passion is mixing organic world music sounds with beats that will move your body to dance and your spirit to soar. Like his Dj sets, his original productions are filled with natural sounds, chanting, and organic percussion, connecting the listener with the traditions of the past, through the sounds of the future. Whether it's a world fusion set, a deep trance journey, or sacred downtempo....
Beatfarmer plays for the dancers

Currently my favourite version of Ederlezi

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Dance'full Summer on the Horizon

  Its a dance'full time of year with upcoming Summer events/dance performances and festivals on the horizon. At the Abbey Studio weekly classes are wrapping up and dancers are preparing for performances at the Abbey Stuido Hafla on Fri. June 16th. Also, my group Arcana Dea Dance and Farima's Simorgh Dance Collective are getting ready for upcoming performances at the following events.
Arcana Dea Dance, Atmospher 2016

Friday, June 9th-Vancouver Island Herb Gathering, Royston B.C.
Friday June 16th-Abbey Studio Hafla, Cumberland
Fri. and Sat. June 23-Tree of Life Project, Denman Island
Sat. June 24th- Vancouver Island Belly Dance Bazaar, Nanaimo
Friday June 30th- Multicultural Festival, Simms Park, Courtenay
Sat. July 1st- Canada Day Celebration, Courtenay
Sat. July 22nd- Huma Wing of Light, sacred dance show featuring Farima Berenji and Simorgh Collective, at the United Church, Cumberland
Sunday, August 20th, Atmosphere Gathering, Cumberland

photos from past workshops and events with Farma Berenji

Those looking to keep moving through the Summer, here is what's planned at the Abbey Studio-

Odissi Study Group with Bridgit Salas, Tuesdays 7-9PM, June 20th- Aug. 15th/ 8 weeks
FMI contact Bridgit at

Haft Sema- A Journey to the Heart retreat with Farima Berenji. Four intensive days of Sufi whirling, sacred dance, shamanic rituals, healing therapy and more. For more visit

Tribal Fusion Belly Dance Workshop with Bridgit Salas, Sunday Aug. 6th, more info coming soon.

Cumberland Culture and Arts Society Life Drawing will continue to meet every second Wed. 7-9PM through the Summer season (Simorgh Collective member meet for practices every other Wednesday).

Simorgh Collective members will also be meeting Monday evenings in July to prepare for the Huma Wings of Light performance on Sat. July 22nd.

Belly Dance Summer Drills and stretch class with Cathy Stoyko TBA

Arcana Dea Dance will be meeting for practice again on Mondays in August.

Keep dancing!

Haft Sema~Journey To The Heart with Farima Berenji

Join Farima Berenji for a journey deep into the heart through sacred circles and sufi whirling practices based on the sacred number 7 in Iranian mystical traditions and Sema rituals, Zikr (sufi prayers), and Shamanic healing, music, and sohbet (Sufi spiritual talk). The retreat and training will be focused on Farima’s intensive breath work technique, Farima’s unique whirling technique and styles based on the 7 Pathways of Love.

photo by Varol Ozkaner

The number seven has been a sacred and symbolic expression among the ancient Persian mystic culture. For Indo-Iranians, Mesopotamians, and Zoroastrians, the number 7 means “Seven Creations” or “Yazatas.” For that reason, it is believed that a mystical seeker must manifest the 7 Creation of Life to be one with the Divine. These sacred movements and healing rituals later became the traditions of Iranian Sufi path in Greater Khorasan (Land of the Iranian Mystics) and are the origins of Sacred Dance and Sema (Sufi Whirling) movements.

The retreat and workshop will focus on 7 Styles of Sema:
1. Ancient Indo-Iranian Sema (Sun/ Mithraism) and Sema of Planets
2. Khorasan and Uyghur Sema
3. 7 Sacred Birds Sema
4. Sacred Flower and Sacred Geometry Sema
5. Whirling in Silence and Whirling with Poetry
6. 4 Element Sema
7. Turkish (Mevlavi) and Baktashi Sema
*If time, Farima will also teach her new research 7 Senses Sema, whirling based on the 7 Senses.

The retreat/festival will also include Farima’s healing therapy sessions; Whirling Techniques (Iranian, Turkish, and Central Asian Styles), stone therapy, element therapy and breath work, 7 Makham (7 modes music therapy), meditation and visualization. Nightly activities and healing ceremonies include; drum circles, Zar, Gwati, and Zikr (Sufi Prayer and Indo-Iranian Shamanic Rituals and Medicine Dance), Sema Gatherings and Sohbat (Farima’s Sufi talk based on the 7 Pathways of Love).

About Farima~
Farima Berenji is an award winning Dance Ethnologist and internationally acclaimed dance artist, choreographer, instructor, and an archaeologist specializing in ancient, sacred, classical, and folkloric dances of Persia, Ionia, and the Silk Road. Recognized as one of a few world scholarly experts of ancient and mystical Iranian dance ethnology by UNESCO, she travels worldwide to record, research, lecture, perform, educate, and to inspire dynamic creativity and rejuvenation through dance and movement.
As a Magi (Iranian Shaman), Sufi and Semazen (from St. Fatemeh Bloodline), Farima is an exceptionally inspiring instructor strongly connected to spirituality and healing. She seeks to lead people to the historic beauty and richness of Persia and the Silk Road culture and to aid them find inner bliss through dance, music, and spirituality. FMI about Farima Berenji and the upcoming retreat in Cumberland visit

The retreat will take place at the Abbey Studio in Cumberland B.C. (2687 Penrith Ave. entrance on 1st Street) with outings into Cumberland Forest, nearby lakes and beaches for rituals and shared food. The studio is located within walking distance to cafes, parks, Cumberland Forest, Allan Lake, a natural food store and several guest house and B&B options. Contact Cathy Stoyko if you require help making travel arrangements and/or finding accommodations. Retreat fee is $385, deposit of $150 will secure your registration. Balance to paid upon arrive. Contact Cathy Stoyko to register and for more information and details.

Abbey Studio Hafla June 2017

     Mark your calendars, the next Abbey Studio Hafla is happening on Fri. June 16th. This bi-annual Solstice celebration/recital/dance party/studio fundraiser has become a tradition in Cumberland. Dancers, dance lovers, friends, family and community are encouraged to come and enjoy a warm, casual evening of dance performances by local dancers (teachers, students, groups) from the Comox Valley and beyond. 'Hafla' is simply the Arabic word for party. Haflas have become a tradition in belly dance communities world wide. At the Abbey Studio Hafla you can expect to see a variety of dance styles including; Oriental and tribal fusion belly dance as well as, Romany 'gypsy' dance, Persian dance, modern, ballet, contemporary, burlesque and much more! 

     The evening starts with a finger food/dessert potluck followed by 2 sets of dance performances, followed by jamming and dancing for all. Doors open at 8PM, suggested donation $10 at the door, all ages are welcome. Feel free to bring food and drink to share and instruments for jamming/dancing after the performances. Dancers, teachers and students of all styles are encouraged to share their latest dance creation. If you are interested in performing or need more info contact Cathy Stoyko at (250) 218-0704 or  The Abbey Studio is located in Cumberland B.C. at 2687 Penrith Ave. (entrance on 1st Street). Hope to see you there!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Winter/Spring 2017 Class Offerings

Snake Charming 101 with Cathy Stoyko
Monday evenings 6-7:15PM
Classes start on Mon. Feb. 13th 
*No class on March 20th, Easter April 17th, and May 22nd long weekend
8 week session/$80 or $15 drop in
Mixed level class. Min 5, max 10. Register in person at the first class.  
Explore the ancient mythology and symbolism of the serpent through movements that draw on Middle Eastern and Indian traditional/scared dances. Focus will be on slow sinuous movements, undulations, isolations, floor work (bring knee pads if you have sensitive knees), building core strength, working with partners and in a group. Over the next 2 week sessions we will learn a ‘snakey’ fusion choreography by building on combinations practiced in class. Students that commit to attending until June will have the opportunity to perform the dance learned in class at the Abbey Studio Halfa on June 17th (performing is optional).
This is a continuation from last session but new students are welcome to join. Participants are welcome to bring offerings and/or special personal objects to class for the altar.

Arcana Dea Dance Performance Group
Mondays 7:30-9PM
Starting Jan. 30th, ongoing until the Hafla on June 17, 2017
*Closed group practice for continuing students only

Morning Shimmy Shakedown with Cathy Stoyko
Tuesday mornings 9:30-10:45 AM
Classes start Feb. 10th, drop in $15 or $60 /6 classes
Start the day with a fun, high energy dance workout that draws on various styles of bellydance, ecstatic dance and Romani dance with focus on shimmies, shaking, vibrations and rocking movements. No complex choreography just dancing for joy, health and release!
A great way to energize your body/spirit and sample a variety of dance styles. Come and try the first class, classes will run ongoing if there are at least 5 people registered for min. 6 weeks. 
Beginners and new students welcome! 

Adult Ballet with Laurie Montemurro
Thursdays 5:45-6:45PM
Starting Jan. 26th, ongoing until June 2017 
$15 drop in, $72 / 6 weeks, 12 weeks $130
Words from Laurie~ 
Ballet is the physical art of moving in geometrical precision with grace and dignity. Using traditional and non traditional ballet techniques we will be ballerinas within our own bodies, safely. Focus points for the class will be physical alignment, dancing as a corps and personal style. 
Comfortable clothing and cotton socks are suitable garb.
$15 drop in, $72 / 6 weeks, 12 weeks $130, min 5, max 10

Romany aka ‘Gypsy’ Dance with Cathy Stoyko
Thursdays 7:30-8:45PM 
Weekly classes start Feb. 9th, ongoing until the June Hafla 2017, 8 week/$80 or $15 drop in
Explore dances from the Romany trail (North India, N. Africa, Eastern Europe, Turkey and beyond). 
A fun high energy class that combines technique, excersices and combinations that built to a choreoraphy. Some review in class of dances from previous sessions. Opportunities to perform and create costumes for those who commit for the full Winter/Spring session. New students are welcome to join but some related dance experience is recommended. 
Plans for the Winter/Spring session are to review Russian Rom and Kalbelia dances and, learn a new Berber choreography that celebrates the beauty and power of women and community, lots of shimmying and zagareets!
No drop ins after March 30th as we will be focusing more on choreography and upcoming performances after that date. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Dance, Poetry, Whirling and Prayer

   Soon my dear friend and teacher Farima Berenji will be here in Cumberland for a weekend of dance, poetry, whirling and zikr. This time our magical weekend with Farima falls near Imbolc/St. Brigid's Day/Candlemas/Groundhog Day all festivals that celebrate the awakening of Spring and mark midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox (between the 2nd & 7th of February when calculated as the mid point between the astronomical Winter Solstice and the astronomical Spring Equinox). 

     On Friday February 3rd we will celebrate the returning light and new life emerging with dance performances by Farima, her Comox Valley Simorgh Dance Collective, Arcana Dea Dance and visiting dancers.  Following the dance performances, with Farima’s guidance we will learn personal and spiritual Sema or Sufi Whirling as well as other turning practices, while listening to sacred poetry and music. Feel free to bring a percussion instrument or a poem to share. People that wish to participate in the Sema Gathering are encouraged to wear white or light coloured clothing and, socks or soft soled shoes are recommended for whirling. Doors open at 7:30PM, performances 8PM-9PM, Sema Gathering 9-10PM. All are welcome and admission is sliding scale $10-$15 payable at the door. 

     Also, plan to join us at the Abbey Studio on Saturday, Feb. 4th for a Zikr led by Farima. Zikr is a sufi meditation practice which uses repetitive simple movements and rhythmic chanting as a form of devotion. This evening event is also open to everyone and is done seated, either on the floor or on a chair making it accessible for those with mobility issues. All are welcome to attend on a pay at the door/by donation basis. For more information about these upcoming events call Cathy at (250) 218-0704 or email cdstoyko@uniserve.comThe Abbey Studio is located at the corner of 1st & Penrith Ave. in Cumberland and is wheel chair accessible. 

      Farima is a dance artist and scholar who travels worldwide to perform and teach dance and wellness. Farima and I met four years ago in Turkey when I was there for participating in her 'Awakening Artemis' retreat, since then the Comox Valley has been a stop on her international touring schedule. It's been exciting for me to see the interest in her work  and Persian dance grow and blossom here in the Comox Valley! For more information about Farima and Simorgh Collective visit

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Farima Berenji Weekend Intensive Feb. 3/4/5, 2017

Hello dancers, 
I am excited to announce that Farima Berenji will be here in the Comox Valley February 3/4/5, 2017 for dance performances, a Sema Gathering aka Sufi whirling, Zikr healing circle and, two full days of dance workshops. On Saturday Farima will be teaching Raqs-e-Pari or Dance of the Fairies a veil/canapy dance and, on Sunday we will take a dance journey along the legendary Silk Road to UzbekistanRegistration is now open for Farima's upcoming weekend intensive at the Abbey Studio in Cumberland. Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to learn dances, sufi whirling, history... from a master teacher, international touring artist and scholar. Register soon, space is limited to 16 max. See full details below and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions.
Hope you can join us, 

About Farima~

Farima Berenji travels worldwide to perform, teach dance and wellness. Her love and passion for dance and history has led her on an extraordinary life-long journey throughout the world, from her home countries Iran and Azerbaijan to other neighboring Silk Road countries such as Armenia, Kurdistan, and Turkey. Farima is strongly connected to spirituality & healing and is under the guidance and teaching of Mevlana Order Sufi master and dervish Dr. Rahmi Oruç Güvenç of Turkey. She hopes to guide people to the historic beauty and richness of the Silk Road culture and to help people find their inner bliss through dance, music, and sacred healing. For more info about Farima visit

Schedule of events and details~

Friday Evening Show and Sema Gathering Feb. 3rd, 2017

The Abbey Studio in Cumberland welcomes back international dance artist and scholar Farima Berenji for an evening of dance performances, poetry and sufi whirling. We will start the evening with Persian traditional, classical and sacred dance performances by Farima and Simorgh (Farima’s Comox Valley Dance Collective). Following the dance performances, with Farima’s guidance we will learn personal and spiritual Sema or Sufi Whirling as well as other turning practices, while listening to sacred poetry and music. Feel free to bring a percussion instrument or poem to share. People that wish to participate in the Sema Gathering are encouraged to wear white or light coloured clothing and, socks or soft soled shoes are recommended for whirling. Doors open at 7:30PM, performances 8PM-9PM, Sema Gathering 9-10PMAdmission is by donation at the door, all welcome, suggested donation sliding scale $10-$15 (included when you register for the full weekend). 

Dance Workshop Sat. Feb. 4th 11AM-4:30PM
Raqs-e-Pari, Dance of the Fairies and Veil Dance 
In Persian folktales the 'Pari’s' were beautiful, fairy-like creature that sometimes visited the realm of mortals. They are known to be the fairest creation of poetical imagination. They are hidden among the flowers or gardens in “Shahr Zarin” (Golden Land) and can be found in the world of angels. No description can equal the beauty of the female Peri and the highest compliment a Persian poet can pay a lady is to liken her to one of these lovely aerial beings. In this workshop we will enter the enchanting world of the Pari’s and learn the beautiful, gentle movements of Persian dance which portray fairy creatures. Using hand scarves, veils and canopy to tell their magical stories. Workshop includes a background history and costuming, followed by a beautiful Fairy Dance Choreography. Please bring silk veils, large silk veils are better, and hand scarves, there will be some extras here at the studio to lend as well.  We will take a 1 hour break for pot luck lunch/Q&A

Sufi Healing Circle aka ZIKR with Farima Berenji
Sat. evening Feb. 4th 7:30PM-9:30PM

On Saturday evening February 4th,  Farima be leading a Zikr aka healing circle. Zikr is a sufi meditation practice which uses repetitive simple movements and rhythmic chanting as a form of devotion. This evening event is also open to everyone and is done seated, either on the floor or on a chair making it accessible for those with mobility issues. No need to pre register, by donation at the door, suggested donation $10

Workshop Sunday, Feb. 5th 11AM-4:30PM
Dances of Uzbekistan, Samarkhand and Bukhara

We will take the legendary Silk Road to Uzbekistan and learn about Central Asian dance traditions, culture, and history that have existed for two thousand years. These dances traded influences with the dances of India, China, Persia, Arabia and all the way to Europe.  In this workshop you will get an introduction to various styles of Central Asian dance techniques mainly focusing on dances and styles from Uzbekistan. We will learn the beautiful facial expressions, hand and body movements and, various central Asians turns.  We will sample various forms of Uzbek dances such as Bukharan, Ferghana and Khorezm. The workshop will also include a short background history of culture, music, and costuming and, will be followed by a fun choreography.  We will take a 1 hour break  for pot luck lunch/Q&A

Total fee for the full weekend intensive (includes Friday evening event and dance workshops Sat. & Sun.) is $200 OR $225 after Jan. 1st, 2017
Farima would prefer that students do the full weekend intensive!
Fee for one day workshop is $115 before Jan. 1st OR, $125 after Jan. 1st
To secure your place in the weekend intensive, send a deposit of $100 to Cathy Stoyko. 
Dancers in the Comox Valley area can drop off their deposit in person at the Abbey Studio, 2687 Penrith Ave. Cumberland
OR send a cheque made to Cathy Stoyko, Box #1196 Cumberland BC, Candada, V0R 1s0  
OR via email money transfer 
Contact Cathy Stoyko at (250) 218-0704 or email  
*When your deposit has been received, your place will be held. The balance is due in cash on the first day of workshops, by Sat. Feb. 4th, 2017 at the latest. Your deposit is non refundable. If the workshop sells out and there is a waiting list, we will do our best to fill your place and provide a refund. 

SORRY, the weekend intensive/workshops are now SOLD OUT.
FYI, all are welcome to attend the Friday and Sat. evening events, no need to preregister, pay at the door, sliding scale.