"Izzy, why is it so hard to connect with you? Trying to find your contact form is like navigating a labyrinth. Grrrr..."
Yes, it is.
Living with Traumatic Brain Injury is an overwhelming ocean that routinely engulfs me and drags me down to the Underworld.
One of the most difficult things I do is balance my health, my work/passion projects, and connection with the world outside my mostly-silent home.
Before you email me, please check out this list of Frequently Asked Questions. If, by the end of it, you're still inspired to contact me, your patience with my sporadic response times will be deeply appreciated.
Do you still teach? I want to study with you!
I absolutely do! Here ya go.
Do you still perform?
Yup. Just rarely onstage or live. Stage lights, travel, jet lag, crowded auditoriums, big events - all these melt mah brains, so I don't do it very often. (Currently amidst a pandemic, I don't do it at all.) Now I mostly create dance performance videos. You can see a bunch of them HERE on my site, or HERE on my new YouTube Channel, which also has some of my instructional material and vloggy musings.
Why don't you belly dance anymore?
Welllll...did I ever really? That's up for debate. I have studied so many different forms of movement from around the world in dance, martial arts, fitness, expression, and wellness, and I've loved every single style. They all blend together when I start creating, and that's the way I prefer it. It is my essence. Dichotomy, variety, opposition, balance.
Okay, so what style DO you dance now?
Mine. 😜 This is the more comprehensive evolution of my old Tejedora Style:
It is called the Dance of Elemental Alchemy, inspired by my System of 5 Natural Elements:
Alchemy is when they all work together to form the whole.
Its purpose is not to focus on the fusion of cultural or traditional forms. Rather, it explores personal expression through movement, inspired by the building blocks that make up our planet and Universe, and those that make up ourselves:
2) Spirit (soul, chi, life force, energy, etc.)
This is a storytelling form, from a tale as simple as, "This is how this music makes me feel right now," to a full-blown, full-cast, full-length ballet. As such, characters, creatures, costumes, setting, and plot line are vital elements we explore, along with musicality, body language, emotional expression, communication, and the mindset conducive for both artistic creation and the protection of our artistic babies so they can grow up into artistic Badasses.
How long/how did you get started dancing?
Long story begins HERE.
Short story is HERE.
I have been obsessed with dancing pretty much since I could walk. In high school, I substituted cheerleading for my wish that I could study dance officially. I had to wait for college for that, where I started out in Theater and Dance. Along the way, I switched to History and Dance. I also discovered belly dance while sitting on the theater stairs, waiting to rehearse onstage with a gal who performed at the local Greek restaurant. She suggested that, because I had so easily caught onto the Polynesian dance we were learning, I should take belly dancing, and then take her spot at the restaurant once she graduated and moved away.
Over the next six months, the Muse kept bwonging me on the head until I finally said, "All right, already! I'll take belly dancing! Sheesh!" And so I did. And the rest is history. (And dance.)
Many dances, in fact.
So what types of dance HAVE you studied?
--Cheerleading American pop-culture shtuff
--Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Tap
--Ballroom, Latin, Square, Swing, Salsa
--Ecstatic, Expressionist & Spontaneous Dance
--Various American Cabaret belly dance styles
--ATS, Dunyavi, Gothic, and other Tribal & Fusion styles
--Hahbi'Ru and other Renaissance Festival & SCA folksy styles
--Turkish Oryantale and Romany
--Ghawazee, Guedra, Saidi, Tunisian, Egyptian Folkloric
--Flamenco, Mexican Folklorico, Irish
--Bollywood & Odissi
--Polynesian, Hula, Tahitian
--Dance of the Kama Sutra
--Sensual Flow & Flow Yoga
--Other stuff that infiltrates my dancing--see Martial Arts below
What's your favorite style?
Maaaannn...I'm a Sagittarius. I don't really do favorites. Like...with much of anything.
What kind of skirts do you dance with and where did you get them?
My dance skirts range from 10 to 25 yard, multi-tiered skirts. Two of them are even bigger--my Mexican folklorico practice skirts.
Here is the pattern:
Where do I get them? If I don't make them myself, whuff...all over! Ebay, Etsy, and other shops you can find just by Googling them. They are made of satin, polyester, brocade, cotton or gauze, some are embroidered, and I have one that is cotton with thin mirrors and cowry shells weighting each tier.
What kind of swords do you dance with and where did you get them?
All three of my dance swords were gifts. Two of them are thin dancing sabers with decorative scabbards. One has a brass lion-eating-fox hilt, and was passed down to me from a dancer who began in California in the 80s. The other is cut similarly but with plain decoration and came from an antique shop. The last is one of those big, heavy suckers, often advertised as Fire Dance Moorish Scimitar like this.
I also have been known to dance with any of my martial training weapons, like my wooden bokken and its wooden sheath, my 9-ring broadsword, a bo staff (I have a light, black fiberglass one with a tiger, the big, thick wooden beast, and my glamazon staff: shiny silver with a pink grip--RAWR). When music is on and I have dagger(s) and/or stick(s) in my hand, dancing sometimes happens then, too. (Sticks-of-many-names designed for Arnis/Kali/Escrima.) Oh, yeah. And then there are my Moroccan daggers with the gorgeous, droolable hilts that I only carefully and hesitantly dance with because I am a klutz and don't work with them often enough to not feel confident that I won't eviscerate myself.
Any advice on sword dancing?
YES. I highly advise against dancing with weapons that still possess a sharpened edge or point. I always beg my friends with machine or hand grinders to help me out so that I don't stab myself or cut off anything I need and like. There are horror stories of dancers who have sliced off their fingers after dropping an antique (still sharp) sword, and I personally know another dancer who possess a scar on her thigh from not grinding off the point of her scimitar.
Also: Whether sharp or dull, Swords Are Weapons. Be careful not to kill the chandeliers in your restaurant, that patron (or waiter or spouse or child or pet) sneaking up behind you, the light fixtures in your home, the mirror or sprung wood floor in the studio you rent, or the expensive Swain mats of your dojo.
They may be strong and fierce, but they are delicate. If you drop your sword, you may have to readjust its balance.
If you want to balance it on your head, start with a book to build up the isolation. Progress to the scabbard or a cane because it's much lighter and it will be actually harder to keep balanced. If you have baby-fine, slippery hair like mine and don't want to wear a head covering, ratting and hair-spraying the hair on your crown helps. So does beeswax--although be aware that beeswax melts with heat - i.e. stage lights, body heat, etc.
If you balance the sword on bare skin, especially sweaty places at the top of the body like chin or forehead, I recommend doing those early in the performance so as not to coat the balance edge with sweat and/or melt your beeswax.
Constantly work to elongate the neck while you have the sword on your head, and especially if you're in a cranked-back position like balancing on the chin. LOTTTTS of space between the vertebrae. Think twice about doing this if you have neck injuries.
Will you come dance for my birthday/wedding/bachelor party/private entertainment?
Birthday, wedding, anniversary: Maybe. But not until the pandemic is...done doing what it's currently doing.
Bachelor Partay: No. I assure you, I won't be nearly as fun as you think I will be.
Private Entertainment: Well, I dunno. Are we currently dating? No? Then you're funny. Yes? Game on.
Yer real hawt. Are you married? Got a boyfriend? Can I ask you out? (Or...IN...or in-n-out? Heh-heh.)
Are ya sure?
How did you get into/how long have you been doing martial arts?
Honestly? Back in 2005, I got tired of being a doormat and a punching bag, so I opened up the phone book one afternoon (yes, back when phone books were still a prominent Thing), flipped it open to Martial Arts, closed my eyes, and asked the Universe where I needed to go. Then I pointed. And I went. And I've never stopped training.
Of course, there were all those years around college when I put on heavy Medieval armor and whapped many large bruisers with duct-tape rattan weapons. That would have been in the early 90s.
What styles have you studied?
In the SCA, I did sword-n-board, single sword, and had just started playing with two weapons of varied length when my life altered trajectory. I also fought with glaive, and 6 or 9 foot spear, which I really loved.
For classical martial arts: Kenpo, Kempo, Kombatan Arnis, Kali/Silat/JKDish combo, BJJ, and there was that amazing summer that I got to learn the more self-defense oriented aspects of Wing Chun. Blisssss... I also fell in love with Judo for the three classes I got to take, but alas, my back and neck said, "Absolutely NO."
What's your favorite style?
Just like with dance: The one I'm currently doing. And the ones I did yesterday. And last year. And last century. And all the ones I haven't gotten to learn yet.
When/how did you start writing?
Same as with dance. As soon as I started understanding how to put sentences and paragraphs together, I started writing down the storylines and characters I was already playing with in the bathtub, my forts, with Barbies and Dawn Dolls and S/He-Men and Star Wars action figures and...my imagination. Gradually, I learned how to do it as a skill.
After a brief tangle with Writing & Academia, piggybacked by some unkind comments about how female warrior women were unbelievable characters or simply something that nobody wanted to read about, I dove into the writer's closet for 20 years. Eventually, martial arts and some other heart-healing adventures convinced me that perhaps I really did want to publish my writing someday, so I won a scholarship to a writer's conference, which I attended for three years, learning the arts and craft of writing.
In my third year, I also pitched to an editor. I came out of that conference with an agent and a brief flirtation with one of the Big 5 publishers, but alas, one month after pitching I had a seizure onstage. Some stuff had happened, and more stuff ensued and I had to fire my agent, and finally decided that, with my brain injury, traditional publishing is just not an option. So I've been looking into self-publishing since then.
Last winter, I decided to get back on the horse and learn the deeper business of that job. I won another conference scholarship, where I learned that self-publishing is pretty much the same job as the one I'm trying to replace: that of unmanaged, touring dancer and instructor. Just...you know...in a way bigger ocean with way more sensory overload, way more monetary expenses, and some other tasks that make my Dain Bramage say, "Sit down before you hurt yourself."
So I'm currently looking into options for just posting the darn things in their unedited versions into a platform like Patreon. Or heck, maybe I'll just post them here on my site with the tagline: "Hey, yo. Like that book? Cool. Send me a buck. Thanks."
I dunno. In the meanwhile, I continue to play with my favorite characters, and I'm finally putting my gobs of autobiographical and educational and thoughtful-musey-inspirational stuff into my Blog. I had experimented with Medium for a time, but I don't think it's really the platform for me, so I may or may not keep it.
One fun (and ginormous) project that came out of this last conference: I've decided that, yes, I am going to take all the fantastical worlds that I've created and merge them into one, just at different periods along the timeline, and in various locations. This includes my Gladiators, my Elemental Mystical Islands that have Brigadooned themselves, and the two more modern timelines I've been tinkering with for awhile now.
So that's been...gulp...a Thing.
My retelling of the Persephone & Hades myth is something completely different. Oh yeah. And They have also determined that there need to be other books in this vein. But I'm keeping that on the down-low for now.
DAIN BRAMAGE, INJURY & RECOVERY
What/When was your accident?
1) Which one?
2) The big one in 2000 was not an accident. It was a drunk driver.
3) The other big one in 2012 was domestic violence...
4) Which resulted in additional neurological damage from a year of chronic seizures.
5) The one in 2014 WAS an accident--rammed from behind by a dude not paying attention at a stop sign.
6) And then there are the other smaller incidences of domestic assault that...didn't help. Anything.
What was injured?
1) I have trauma-induced scoliosis and lopsided hips, as well as a backwards curve and sideways swing in my neck from severe whiplash.
2) Traumatic Brain Injury (permanent brain damage) from those 4 head traumas.
3) Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from those incidents and many others since the age of 4.
4) A twice-torn meniscus from my hip injury, from the times that my knees have been damaged in the smaller incidences of assault, and the fact that I demand a lot from them.
5) A bone in my opposite foot that pops out of place after having to pogo-stick on one leg for a week after I re-tore my meniscus (they neglected to send me my crutches)
6) Post-Traumatic Visual Syndrome: my eyeballs were stretched out of my skull when the drunk driver rammed me from behind, resulting in warped peripheral vision and wonky depth perception.
7) The minor assaults have also injured both my knees, both elbows, one shoulder, and additional neck/brain damage.
8) All the hair on the parts of my head that received the worst damage suddenly went silver
9) Asthma - they're not sure if this is from brain or diaphragm/rib damage
10) All sorts of varied and sundry, annoying maladies
Wow! You should write about all this!
I am. If you want all the gory details, I'm starting to deliver them on my Blog (see below). I've decided that, rather than trying to compartmentalize these interrelated and tangled up threads so that they can be divvied up into Memoirs, I'm just putting them all up here. Plus, I really like this format of having access to photo and video and musical soundtrack, since these things are so much a part of my journey.
Music, movement and beauty are such a huge part of my healing that to tell these tales without in just a 2D written medium?
--The tale begins with the night I was hit by a drunk driver.
--The full details of my injury prognoses from that night, and some myth-busting I only recently learned was necessary.
--With my initial brain injury, I lost the ability to compartmentalize decades of previous trauma, which made navigating TBI far more onerous than it needed to be. Those tales start HERE.
--And I am currently in the process of telling the tales of my adventures in Dance & Martial Arts
What healing modalities have you used for bodily injury?
--Ice & Heat
--Acupuncture (which, alas, my body is too sensitive for)
--My dance, martial arts, and PT regimen
What's this new chiropractic you're doing?
Traditional rack-n-crack doesn't work for me, except for limbs from my Sports Medicine Chiropractor. Upper Cervical was better, but Neurological-Based using this little device called the Integrator is actually beginning to change the structure of my spine.
I just had X-rays (July 6 2020)--next update post is coming soon. Here is what we learned:
--My hips are almost level for the first time in 20 years
--My scoliosis is reduced--low back curve is less, and I only have a curve, not a jag in the middle of my spine
--I only have one place in my neck that is still causing nerve impingement
--I no longer have a C2/3 that bulges out to the side of my neck
--The backwards curve is beginning to move forward
Do you still have seizures? Do you take medication for them?
Almost never for the past 4 years, and only under extreme circumstances. (Like going to a writers' conference of 350 people in a loud, crowded convention center and fire hosing my brain in publishing ins and outs.)
I do not take medication. I also do not have grand mal seizures. (Thankfully!!!) I have only ever seen one after 13 years of living with this condition, and it was an utter nightmare. If you want the gory details, you'll have to wait for the blog post about it. I'll get to it. Just not yet.
What finally stopped them was getting my neck put back in alignment--first from Upper Cervical Chiro, and more so from Neuro-Chiro. We're pretty sure that my cerebrospinal fluid was backing up from the subluxations in my neck.
Oddly enough, I think the gray hair is also beginning to reduce. For sure, the big spot on over my right Occipital bone (where my backup would have been, and where I can always feel the distinctive itching before a seizure) has grown smaller and is no longer a coarse iron gray that even dark permanent dye had a hard time with. Fascinating...
What sort of other healing modalities do you use?
As detailed a bit in this post:
I am not at all religious, but deeply spiritual.
My spirituality is deeply influenced by science, and I suspect that religion, philosophy, mysticism, etc. is all trying to explain many of the same things: the stuff we don't yet have the science for, and may never acquire.
I practice the Law of Attraction, but I'm more curious about it than anything.
That could pretty much be said of how I am about most things.
I believe that where the mind goes, the body will follow.
And vs. versa.
I believe in being as tenacious as a weed.
I believe in the dichotomy of following your heart, and being very practical.
I believe in being a perpetual beginner. (Laughter, growth, humility, and neuroplasticity.)
I believe in miracles. I've lived enough of them, and I'm finally starting to gain a tiny inkling of how to share some of it. This site, like my life and my journey, is a big, messy splatter-factor. A constant series of derailments and pivots.
But isn't that what life is?