The Empowered Women of Envision Festival 2020 (Festival Review)

Parking Volunteers at Envision Festi val
Photo Credit, Jess Bernstein

Envision Festival‘s vibrant 10th year provided an experience that demonstrated just how beautiful it can be when women are given equal representation in the festival space. In a crowded festival landscape where men can usually be seen as the “power players”, Envision challenged that by injecting femininity into all aspects of the 7 day event.

One look behind the curtain and you could see how women were empowered to take charge at Envision. Women were hustling at the hospitality kitchen and the driving force behind media operations. Women were given the headlining spots on the lineup that they deserve, and added hypnotic movement to DJs’ sets. Women were fire spinners and healers, workshop leaders and production gurus, volunteers and bartenders. Envision is nothing less than inspiring and was a welcomed glimpse of how balanced a festival should look.

Sarah Wu at Envision Festival
Photo Credit, Jess Bernstein

Sarah Wu, Envision Festival Co-Creator, permaculture teacher, and head Village Witch is a force of nature that has planted many of the seeds for Envision to be the influential festival that it is today. Her passions are varied, but working towards a world that is regenerative, not just sustainable, is her foundation. Sarah is responsible for the creation of the Village Witches Healing Sanctuary, where Envision Festival attendees can indulge in alcohol-free herbal tonics and receive holistic first aid onsite. The Village Witches experience also offers an on-site herbal first aid training program that to date has already graduated over 100 students.

When Sarah couldn’t be found teaching workshops on permaculture or leading the charge at Envision’s 2nd annual Pride parade, she could be seen MC’ing one of the six stages that she had curated. Sarah has no problem using her voice and challenging the status quo, either. While praising Envision for being a “place of diversity” and giving everyone a chance to “fill out different niches” to show what their “shiny gifts” are, she was also the first to acknowledge the elephant on the dancefloor: “DJ’s get paid too much.”

Every workshop curated at Envision Festival was thoughtful and diverse, while offering something for everyone to fill up their reusable cups. Rhama Dashuri, former owner of festival fashion store Black Sheep Market, now Mindset and Business Coach, held down the Village stage with her uplifting talks. With a tell it like it is attitude, Rhama was there to help women in the crowd break through their fears and encourage them to take leaps in their businesses. In her Sunday session “She Rises Up”, Rhama provided the Envision audience with actionable tips to manifest abundance in their everyday lives: insisting we walk into a designer store to try on expensive items and see how it feels, carry around a journal 24/7 to work out our limiting beliefs, and simply remember to walk with our shoulders pulled back and heads held high.

red tent at envision festival
Photo Credit, Jess Bernstein

One journey to The Red Tent and all could experience the beauty that occurs when biblical era traditions mix with the modern world. Typically a ritual reserved for menstruating women, men eager to show up as allies for the women in their lives were welcomed into the Red Tent at Envision this year. While this nontraditional practice was received with mixed emotions by many who treasure the tradition, there is no doubt that this opened up everyone in attendance to perspective-bending mindset shifts. Powerful workshops covering topics from sexuality to self love were hosted each day, and gave all attendees the opportunity to ask vulnerable questions and receive honest answers.

Sabrina Vedete, a Venice, California based Certified Vaginal Steam Therapist and 8 year Envision Festival Producer, got real with everyone during her “Pleasure and Sacred Initiation” workshop. Sabrina candidly discussed everything from using Yoni Eggs to the lifelong implications that come from male circumcision. She passionately talked about subjects that would normally seem “taboo” and happily enlightened the men in attendance on these subjects, too.

Ashleigh Sergeant at Mundo De Luz
Photo Credit, Jess Bernstein

Now when it was time to get moving, there was no shortage of fantastic Yoga and dance classes. Ashleigh Sergeant is the feminine force who has curated all offerings in Mundo De Luz, Envision’s movement zone, for the past 5 years. She could also be found leading her own unique classes, including a juicy slow flow accompanied by The Human Experience.

Ashleigh expertly brought in passionate instructors from around the world, including the vivacious Los Angeles based Cristi Christensen. Christi flipped the script with offering her Journey Dance class, a change from the Yoga offerings she usually brings to festivals around the world. In this hour and fifteen minute class, Christi happily broke everyone out of their shells by having us dance like leaves in the wind, crawl like slinky cheetahs, and shout loving affirmations at each other. It was an emancipating dance session that shook out self-consciousness and ushered in an overwhelming sense of community.

While the musical lineup was undeniably male-heavy, there were some legendary women holding it down. CloZee, otherwise known as the Queen of Envision, was one of the few female artists with a headlining spot. She also earned herself two sets during the festival, only joined by Nahko in holding this honor. CloZee’s sound is best described as World Bass, and rightfully so. Everyone in attendance, no matter nationality, origin, or gender, was always ready to unite for a moment with CloZee.

Fire Dancer at The Luna Stage
Photo Credit, Tyler Allix

Alongside CloZee and many other artists gracing the fiery Luna Stage, world class performance artists were sharing their own unique gifts. Envision has carved out a unique niche in the festival world in that the performance artists are just as visible and important to the festival’s vibe as those who are curating the sound. One journey to the Luna Stage, and you would find yourself entranced by belly dancers, fire spinners, and yes, even bondage artists, from around the world.

“When I listen to a song, I discover all of its layers and nuances that tell me stories and dreams. As a wild landscape, music is, for me, a mystery that my body feels the need to translate into fine movements.” -Haza Aheli

Haza Aheli is a dynamic dancer, choreographer, retreat organizer, and dance company founder whose performance is best described as a fusion between bellydance, Indian, Contemporary, and Hip Hop. This year was Haza’s 5th year attending Envision as a performer, accompanying CloZee, Tipper, Symbolico, Soohan and Of The Trees, to name a few. Haza views dance as “a beautiful therapy that clears the emotions holding (her) back.” She draws her inspiration and motivation from Nature, and thoughtfully notes, “When I listen to a song, I discover all of its layers and nuances that tell me stories and dreams. As a wild landscape, music is, for me, a mystery that my body feels the need to translate into fine movements.”

Ishani Ishaya another Luna Stage staple brought her talents to the likes of CloZee, Tipper, Antennae, and DJNaughtyPrincess. Ishani has been a Bellydance Fusion performer and teacher for 20 years, and added fire flow to her repertoire 11 years ago. While she draws much of her inspiration from the unity in the intentional festival scene, stating that so many “workshops, movement arts, music, visionary paintings, and people working together creates a truly transformative experience for everyone,” she echoes the same concern that Sarah Wu had voiced: “Although (Envision) features performance artists in their media and built the Luna Stage specifically to feature performers on either side…they pay little to nothing.”

While it is clear that Envision honors, respects, and welcomes the feminine spirit with open arms, it is also apparent that pay is an issue that transcends even into the festival realm. Representation does not equal compensation, and this seems to be a qualm that many of the women involved with Envision share. However, each year is an opportunity for growth, and I look forward to Envision Festival ensuring that all performers, co-creators, and artists are equally valued in future installments. After all, the empowered women of Envision are a huge part of the distinctive magic that the festival has become known for, and a pivotal part of why I will be choosing to return to this festival again.

Ishani Ishaya
Photo Credit, Jess Bernstein

One Comment

What Do You Think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.