We could have a reality show with our Blisstory. Instead, we'll lay it all out right here for you. Enjoy!
POSTED ON FEBRUARY 11, 2021
How did the title Precious Gems come about? We have a story to share with you.
Artistic Director, Cassie Begley, was working at the Hotel Los Gatos & Spa as an Executive Assistant to the Sale & Marketing Director and Convention Services Director. One day, a delivery man approached Cassie’s desk and told her that he loved Asian women - beautiful women; “They’re like precious gems.” In the wake of this remark, Cassie felt unsafe, disrespected, and dehumanized. Cassie’s anger and fear simmered inside of her until it boiled over the next day while in conversation with her directors. Cassie was being teased by them about her musical preferences when she started screaming at them, “Just because I’m different than you doesn’t make me wrong or less than!” Cassie was still raw with emotions from the comments of the day before. She was especially feeling her Asian-ness and minority status as her directors were both White and in power. Cassie’s directors stopped teasing her as they realized something was wrong. Obviously, It wasn’t about music. Cassie explained her encounter with the delivery man and her directors immediately took corrective action by reporting the delivery man to his company. Additionally, they made sure he would never be allowed on the hotel property.
The way Cassie’s directors handled this situation made her feel seen and understood. However, the damage was done. The misogynist comparison of women and precious gems stuck with Cassie for a long time. In 2014, Cassie decided it was time to take back the power of those words and that moment. She decided women are, in fact, like precious gems - multi-faceted and beautiful within the depth of their complexities. After speaking with some of her fellow Blissters, the resulting show combined three true stories into one. In Precious Gems, one woman (danced by Senchal Burks) explores four different worlds representing four different facets of her inner womanly spirit - Diamond (purity), Ruby (passion), Sapphire (mystery), and Emerald (erotic).
POSTED ON FEBRUARY 25, 2021
Duets is an original Bliss Dance Company production that revealed the hearts and souls of our company dancers. In typical Bliss fashion, Duets told six different stories that came directly from the members of Bliss, who used the art of dance to express their truths. Bullying, breast cancer, and infidelity were just a few of the topics in this extremely vulnerable production.
“Dealing with my mothers breast cancer and feeling that she didn’t want me around was very difficult for me to express in words. Choreographing a piece in Duets and expressing my reality through dance was extremely therapeutic and powerful.”
BDC Dancer/Choreographer (2010-2014).
Dancer: Cassie Begley
POSTED ON FEBRUARY 4, 2021
Let’s take a look back as Bliss turns 18 this year! These six fierce women are the foundation of Bliss Dance Company. Our OG “Blissters” were led by founder and artistic director, Cassie Begley, who brought women’s issues to the forefront through dance. This took courage and strength during a time when they were continually challenged for dance built on developing feminist values. Cheers to our OG Blissters for paving the way for the rest of us!
Photography: Derik Poquiz Photography
Dancers: Lindy Armstrong, Cassie Begley, Jana Chapeton, Stella Lo, Christy Murray Kiuchi, and Danielle Perez.
Photography: LuLu Photography
Dancers: Cassie Begley, Senchal Burks, Jana Chapeton, Delma Ivonne Hernandez, Joshua Jimenez, Corrine Leon Dictor, Bernard Mamuyac, Felicity Muñoz, Amit Patel, Danielle Perez, Heather Pitruzzello, Janis Valencia, Claudia Hernandez-Villasenor
POSTED ON FEBRUARY 18, 2021
Bay Area National Dance Week is a nationally celebrated week of movement and dance. Dance communities everywhere invite the public to come experience the rich culture dance has to offer. Bliss Dance Company loves to participate in Bay Area National Dance Week which creates an opportunity to share their passion for dance with their community! From holding workshops to being a part of massive flash mobs in San Francisco, BDC is always there ready to move and express ourselves with those who are new and experienced to the art of dance. Bliss plans to host a virtual workshop this year. We hope to see you there!
POSTED ON MARCH 11, 2021
Here we have a fun photoshoot promoting Bliss Dance Company’s 2012 production of Gripped. BDC is known for producing powerful shows on controversial topics. However, all work and no play just isn’t Bliss. We have a silly side and aren’t afraid to show it. Just another part of what makes BDC so incredible.
Photographed: Cassie Begley, Heather Pitruzzello, Ami Doylemason, Cheri Slightam, Janis Valencia, Jessica Farias, Janessa Scott, Onel Higgenbotham
POSTED ON MARCH 4, 2021
Performed at Somarts in San Francisco, Bliss Dance Company’s first production, Wholeness, delved into the topic of depression in women. Director, Cassie Begley, chose Depression as Bliss’ first topic because she had recently moved back from NYC where her own depression struck hard. Rather than using the stage at Somarts, Bliss’ performance was held in the intimate space of the art gallery. BDC hosted a reception and opened the house with these captivating photos that depict the emotions of depression in women. Completely lit by candle light, the members of BDC gave the audience an intimate look of what it’s like being a woman and dealing with depression. Choreography by Cassie Begley and Jana Chapeton were enhanced by two spoken word artists who shared their real-life experiences.
Photography by: Dani Castillo
POSTED ON MARCH 18, 2021
My Secret is the story of a young dancer’s battle with anorexia. Like all Bliss shows, this story came from the dancers’ life experiences. Former BDC member, Michelle Stader, danced the lead in this moving tale taking the audience on a journey not soon to be forgotten. When asked about her experience with this show, Michelle said, “Being the lead of a Bliss show was such an honor. Cassie pushed me to my limits physically and emotionally but it was something I was happy to do and it made me a better dancer and choreographer. The best part of being the lead was the support of the rest of the company. I was fortunate enough to be friends with the entire company and the support they gave me at every rehearsal and during performances is a feeling I will never forget. There were many parts throughout the show that I was given a supportive glance or an extra squeeze in partner work that really helped me make it through the performance. My experience with Bliss will always have the most special place in my heart and I'm so thankful for the person it helped me become.”
Photography by: Derik Poquiz Photography
Dancers: Ami Doylemason, Christina Corbett
POSTED APRIL 1, 2021
Phenomenal Woman was a show born of a collaboration between Bliss and the American Association of University Women (AAUW). In 2015, Director Cassie Begley was approached by AAUW wanting to sponsor a Bliss show with a more academic theme. Cassie suggested a show inspired by Maya Angelou’s works since she was reading a book of Maya’s poetry at the time. Bliss used their personal experiences to create an emotional interpretation of Maya’s works.
As a dancer in this show, former Blisster, Felicity Muñoz, says, “Being a part of honoring Maya Angelou's work in Bliss's production of "Phenomenal Woman" was such an honor and very empowering. I have mainly worked in male dominated environments and had taught myself to blend in with my male co-workers. "Phenomenal Woman" gave me the space to be proud of my femininity and embrace qualities in myself that I had tried to distance myself from because I was told they made me weak. Now, I understand that those "weaknesses" are the things that make me, and all women, beautiful, resilient, and phenomenal.”
Still I Rise, choreographed by Vanesa Morales, was an in-your-face look at being a curvy, real woman. Danced as a duet, this piece challenged people who only wanted ladies and not real women. This was one of Cassie’s favorite pieces to dance because it was “letting me be loud in my womanhood, which was really fun.”
Caged Bird, choreographed by the whole company, was a piece about feeling like a caged bird. In this story, a woman was raped and the audience is presented with the question of who is the caged bird? Is the woman the caged bird or are the men who raped her the caged birds? This was a visually stunning piece as the whole company wore feathers and performed in and around life-sized cages made by Felicity Muñoz.
The Finale, also choreographed by the whole company, was a moving and fitting last dance for this show. With the participation of the whole company, Bliss danced while reciting Maya Angelou’s poem Phenomenal Woman.
Bliss was fortunate enough to perform Phenomenal Woman at 3 locations: Gary Smith Soren Theater, Niles Elementary School (sponsored by AAUW), The Vine Theater in San Diego (sponsored by Yoga Munkey).
Dancers: Cassie Begley, Britney Bindel, Ashley Broers, Kendall Burton, Stephanie Chen, Leah Dorman, Tracey Layden, Bernard Mamuyac, Vanesa Morales, Felicity Muñoz, Amit Patel, Janis Valencia, Anna Weideman, Sonja Wright
POSTED APRIL 7, 2021
Bliss Dance Company celebrates, OG Blisster, Jana Chapeton. This Bliss Sister was there from the very start when Bliss was just a baby idea waiting to be born. Jana’s ambition for dance helped lay-out the foundation of what we experience in Bliss today.
What has this Blisster been up to these days?
Jana is a dance entrepreneur who founded an after school dance program called Small Fry Dance Club with her partner/husband, Carlos Chapeton. Small Fry’s success led them to the opening of their own dance studio in the Peninsula called Principal Creative & Performing Arts.
Cheers to you, Jana, for all you’ve done for Bliss and for dance!
We crush on you!
POSTED APRIL 8, 2021
Have you ever been in a relationship that you knew you had out-grown but felt like you can’t leave? Maybe you’re in love with a close friend at the same time? That’s what Love Triangle was about. Cassie Begley, Kyle Meiers, and Onel Higginbotham danced the leading trio in this tangled web of feelings. Performed at the Gary Soren Smith Center, this show was the first time Bliss had a guest director, Michelle Stader. When asked about her experience directing, Michelle says, “Directing was fun! I had only choreographed a single dance up to that point so it was fun to see a whole production through from concept to performance, especially having the leads I had. They worked so hard and were so open to the direction I saw for the show.”
In the photo, Cassie Begley and Kyle Meiers are dancing a rumba choreographed by Janessa Scott.
POSTED APRIL 14, 2021
Bliss Dance Company celebrates Danielle “Dee” Perez. Have you met Dee? If you have then you immediately fell in love with her no nonsense attitude and her infectious energy! This OG Blisster is one of a kind and we adore her for it! Dee currently works for Kaiser Permanente as a marriage & family therapist. She also has her own practice as a psychotherapist for teens and adults.
What does Dee have to say about her time with Bliss?
“Bliss came into my life at a time where I needed it the most. A transitional period in my life. Bliss helped me heal a broken heart and find me again. A community of sisters and brothers who show love, passion, commitment, loyalty, trust and authenticity. A moment of time I will never forget and always cherish.” -Danielle “Dee” Perez
We crush on you, Dee!
POSTED APRIL 15, 2021
Bliss Dance Festival came from a place of need. A need to truly honor women’s sexuality and the expression of our sexuality. We needed a place to celebrate our womanhood. To take up space. To be free to be ourselves and be loved for it.
The first festival was held at the Truth is Beauty sculpture in San Leandro. Bliss Dance Festival (BDF) always has a theme, challenging the choreographers with questions they can answer with their artistic expression. In 2019, the question was “What Would The World Be Like If Women Were Safe?” Bliss asked Andréa Spearman of A. Spearman & Co. for her thoughts on participating in the festival.
Andréa heard about the Bliss Dance Festival through Dancers’ Group, a non-profit organization where she works and Bliss’ fiscal sponsor. She saw the open call for choreographers and dancers and thought “oh cool, this festival sounds awesome. Me, as an artist, you know, I’m always trying to see ways I can reach different communities that I’m not always familiar with, how I can interact with other dancers, other artists in the field.”
What appealed to Andréa most about BDF was the theme. Once she heard the theme, she thought, “oh ok, I see what they’re about. They’re kind of on the risque side”. Usually, things that are sexy or sensual are not part of her artistic work; this is different. After being given the theme of the festival, Andréa really asked herself, “if women could feel more safe, how do we act? What would we do?” Really taking the question to mind, she feels that “Women are seen as, you know, these creatures to where you can’t be too sexy, but yet men want sex from us all the time. Like, fix it! What are you talking about? So I feel that women always have to have this performative nature when out in public. It’s like I have to be friendly enough but also keep my distance for my own safety. It’s a balancing act. You know? And for me, I was like, well, if women could just go out and do the things and be safe, and not have to worry about, you know, violence or anything like that, I said we would be flirtier. I think we would feel free to be our flirty sexy selves and prance around and move in a way that we felt free and dance and be able to walk down the street and dance down the street and just give all kind of friendly flirty vibes, just out into the world with no repercussion.” Her piece for the festival reflected just that. Danced to Poppy Girls by Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, her three dancers shared incredible movement that aptly reflected the changes in the music. “[Being part of the festival] was such an exciting moment, especially being in front of that statue, oh! That giant lady statue was just amazing and it was so great that the artist was able to be there to talk about it more. That was really great. And there’s something about being outside too, that just tingles your spirit and tingles your excitement to do the work.”
A Bay Area resident her whole life, Andréa has been studying, taking, receiving dance for over 20 years. Her company, A. Spearman & Co., has been bringing the Bay an eclectic blend of contemporary fusion, jazz, hip hop, ballet, modern, with cultural dancing like bachata, Afro Cuban, Haitian, combined with live singers, poets, photographers, videographers, art collaborators since 2012. The Company’s signature piece is Justice/JUSTus, a justice themed number that’s a call to action against police violence towards black women. Andréa and her company also like to do fun things because “that’s what art is - the spectrum from serious to silly”. To learn more about A. Spearman & Co., check out her website http://www.aspearmanandco.org/. Andréa also has a podcast called The Black Landscape - a series of conversations with the black community in a variety of different professions. Three of the episodes are dance specific interviews with Regina Evans, Noah James, Erik Lee.
POSTED APRIL 28, 2021
Bliss Dance Company celebrates celebrates Leianna Acosta!
Dance has brought Leia opportunities to perform at game day sporting events with the San Jose State Spectrums Dance team, The San Jose She-Wolves dance team ( San Jose Wolves indoor football team) and eventually becoming an Oakland Raiderette. Leia reflects on her dance journey and shares with us, “I was fortunate to be part of Bliss Dance Company where I was introduced to the contemporary world of dance and learned so much about me as a dancer. I am so lucky to have these amazing experiences throughout my dance career, and to have met so many wonderful dancers along the way.”
Leia is currently a registered nurse and when she’s not at work, she’s dancing! Forever a ray of sunshine in our hearts, we crush on you!
POSTED APRIL 29, 2021
Sugar Baby shared the journey of a young woman who was struggling to find her identity as she navigated new experiences from the sugar baby lifestyle. Taken from the real-life experiences of a call girl and an online sugar baby, this show was provocative, tantalizing and emotional.
When asked about her experience with the show, Vanesa Morales says, “As the lead, this was the most challenging role I had ever taken on. Although sugaring is not new, it was still a foreign concept for me. The greatest challenge in a show like Sugar Baby was being authentic with my emotion and having the audience feel what I was experiencing. Aside from being the lead, I had the opportunity to choreograph two pieces that would fit into the story. The first piece being around a threesome experience and the second piece (that closed the show) being about the resolution and acceptance that this woman had regardless of her experiences of judgement towards her. Overall the show was well executed, not only through dance but with the support of spoken word as well. Bliss dance company continues to push boundaries and start conversations around women's issues that people are willing to ignore.”
Bernard Mamuyac also choreographed for the show. His piece was titled Wiping Him Off and was based around a quote from one of the interviewees. “He rented me, so I was his for the hour. His lust spilled all over my face and neck and I felt so ashamed. I had nothing left to do but to wipe him off and try to move on.” Bernard’s piece was also performed at the Purdance Showcase Dance Out Loud with accompanying spoken word.
Dancers shown: Jahda Dioum, Patricia Guiterrez, Miranda Kanowsky, Bernard Mamuyac, Christina Silveira, Moriah Grace Oliphant, and Rohith Sankarraman.