“Dancing with the heart” is a phrase that has been so overused that I think it had lost the depth of its meaning for me over time, until… people like Charles Ogar came along. Charles not only reminded me of the true meaning and feeling behind those words, by the connection he creates in his dancing, but he also put a whole other twist to it as he opens up about matters of the heart in this interview. After learning about some of the journey Charles’ heart has been taken on, – from having faith in his passions, to leaving his old career behind, to enduring heart surgery, and following a new path by trusting in where the universe is taking him- I have a whole new appreciation for the power of the heart. Thank you Charles Ogar for opening up with such honesty and authenticity in this interview and allowing us to know a little more about the heart that lies within you as a dancer and teacher.
I know you have danced a few different dances, but what made you choose kizomba as the one you wanted to focus on and teach?
Actually, sometimes I feel like kizomba chose me. I don’t know if there are any other full time kizomba instructors in the U.S. It wasn’t a goal of mine. I didn’t write it down and visualize it happening. But the more I taught, the more popular I got. I was with Kizomba Harmony before, but then we separated at the end of 2013. My thoughts at that time were, okay, let me take a step back from dancing. My performance at my job back then wasn’t as good as it could have been anyway. I was stressed because I was committing more and more time and energy to dance a lot and it was hard to juggle both the kizomba thing and my full time job. So I was actually planning to step back from dance. But then all of these doors of opportunity started opening up for me more and more. People were asking me to come out and travel and teach more.
How did it finally become full time?
I got fired from my job in mid May, but I already had three weeks of travel booked up for dance and teaching in June, and another three weeks in July. I finally told myself, okay, let’s go ahead and go into this full time. If the universe is trying to give me a message, I’m going to go with it. So I started promoting myself more and more. And then my schedule got booked for the rest of the year. And now I’m booking dates for 2015 in September! It’s really a blessing. So when you ask WHY kizomba, I really couldn’t give you a particular answer. But I just know that I went out each day and did my best and I tried to be as authentic as I could be with every workshop I taught. I see myself as just passing along the inspiration that was passed to me. And people really resonate with that.
I really like the musicality and the sensuality of it, and that it is such a smooth, calm and collected dance form. I always kind of had this hint of sensuality in my dancing even before kizomba anyway. For example, with my bachata, I wasn’t afraid to do body rolls and that kind of thing. So kizomba just kind of clicked with my natural flow, I guess you could say. But I didn’t really learn the dance to teach it. I never taught any dance, or anything for that matter, before kizomba.
Were you a natural right from the start? (smiles)
I remember the first time I saw kizomba. I was sitting at a social watching my friend Eric dance kizomba with Jorjet and I was trying to count the steps as he danced. I kept starting on the ‘one’, and I would follow his movement, but then the pattern would change. I couldn’t figure out the pattern because it never looked the same each time I watched him.
A month or so later, the first USA bachata and kizomba festival took place in Houston, Texas. And those classes were my first real introduction to kizomba. I sucked at it at the beginning, as with anything that you start new. But the more and more I got involved with it, the more I started to realize that the counts really don’t dictate your direction in this dance. You can really be musical with it. And then I started to dance and learn more and more of it.
In December of 2012, I flew to Spain to go to my first all kizomba festival. And that’s where I kind of fell in love with the dance. I got to see everybody’s style and all the socials and afro house. There were guys there dancing semba, carrying the girls, lifting them up, and doing all kinds of crazy acrobatic kind of moves. It was insane. Really impressive. It was just a brand new world that really appealed to me.
And then, when I came back to the U.S, there were workshops starting to be offered here and there. Different instructors came in from all over. And I was trying to go to every single one of those events because I wanted to learn more and more.
What do you think really helped motivate you to start growing this even more, and teaching internationally?
Actually, I think Vancouver was one of the places that really allowed me to start to believe that it is possible to do this, FULL time.
Yay! (laughs) And you’re coming back! We are so excited! June 5-7th, right?
Yes! I am excited as well.
Because that month in April, last year, I was in Louisiana, I was in Monterrey, and then I was in Vancouver with you guys out there, and the turnout was awesome, the people were awesome, and the socials were awesome. Yeah, that was the tipping stone that started making me believe that it was possible to do this full time. And from there, I just started to get booked more and more, and make more connections, and people were excited and seemed to resonate with my approach to teaching kizomba.
So now you’re travelling and doing what you love for work, which is great. But I imagine it must also be tiring. What do you do to rest and recuperate in between dancing from city to city, literally? (smiles)
Charles- I read this book about two months ago called The Miracle Morning- by Hal Elrod. It is based on the idea of taking advantage of your mornings and making them YOURS. The author reminds you that as soon as you wake up, but before you start answering facebook messages and emails and posts, you need to start your day off on the right foot. You need to get your mind right for the rest of the day.
The book recommends using what they refer to as ‘Life Savers’. The book uses the word ‘Savers’ from this phrase as an acronym for the steps that you would go through in the morning to do this.
‘S’ stands for Silence. So it is recommended that you spend however much time you feel comfortable meditating in silence without anybody talking to you. Just quieting the mind. This is helpful to me because my mind can get pretty flustered as I often think about everything all at once.
The ‘V’ is for Visualization. So you can kind of start to visualize or pretend that you’re in the place, or you are the person, that you are working towards becoming.
‘E’ is for Exercise. So I usually do 50 push-ups and 50 sit-ups just to kind of get the blood flowing, to get rid of the groggy feeling we can often still have even later in the day if we don’t do something about it.
The’ R’ is for Reading. So you take five or ten minutes, or whatever time you feel comfortable with, reading a book. And just keeping those fresh thoughts coming into your brain helps out a lot.
And then the last ‘S’ is for Scribe. So you have a little daily journal. And you can set up whatever template that you want to record things that you are grateful for, especially experiences from the day before, just to recap them. You can go back and reread them to remind yourself of them later as well.
Interesting. I have never heard of that book. I’ll have to check it out sometime.
Yes. It’s great. It makes a difference. If you don’t have that down time every day, it’s easy to get wrapped up in everything and exhaust yourself or lose focus. And for me, if I don’t take those steps, you can definitely tell. My dance partner can tell if I meditated or not in the morning (laughs).
The phrase “dancing with your heart” is used by many people. And we often make cute little heart shapes with our hands in dancing pictures after workshops and in group photos to show we want to share the love. But I feel like you really live those words more truly than many others. First, because of your decision to just follow what the universe was telling you and really pursue this career in dance wholeheartedly, pun intended (smiles). But also that you have actually had heart surgery, which I don’t think a lot of people know about. I mean, your heart has literally been opened up, if you don’t mind me saying. So what happened?
Yes, that was in August of 2009. Well, the fever of the infection I had started around May. So that was over five years ago. I remember having just a normal fever at first. But it was strange, because before then, I would hardly ever get sick. Or if I was ever sick, it would only last about twenty four hours and then I would be over it. But this time it was really different, and I kept having fevers and fevers and fevers, and night sweats, really bad night sweats. I kept going to my physician, and they kept running blood tests to figure out what was going on. They couldn’t figure it out at first. It was all just kind of crazy. But then finally, I had to have open heart surgery in August of that year. They had to replace my aortic heart valve.
Wow! And you’re so young. How did this affect your life and your perspective on life?
It gave me a new sense of gratitude, because when I was sick, there were times when I couldn’t even get up and take a shower, or go to use the restroom, on my own. There were parts of the infection, since it was in my heart, that had gotten into my bloodstream and traveled to different parts of my body. So there was a part of it that had reached my brain, which affected my coordination. So it was hard for me to even grasp a spoon and feed myself. I couldn’t run or walk or dance after the surgery.
Before I got sick, I was stressed or I wasn’t happy because I wasn’t earning the money I wanted to earn, I wasn’t driving the car I wanted to drive, I wasn’t in the place I wanted to be in. But going through the surgery and not being well for that long helped me forget about all the exterior things and let me be grateful that I have two arms, two legs, and that I can get up and use the restroom and feed myself. Because until you go through something like that, you take all those little things for granted. When you get knocked down, to the point where you can’t do those things and you’re completely dependent upon somebody else, that brings a whole new sense of gratitude to you.
Were you already dancing before the infection and surgery?
Yes, before the surgery and the fever, I was dancing. But I hadn’t been introduced to kizomba yet. I was just dancing salsa and bachata. But I couldn’t dance from about May until around November. I couldn’t dance because my body just wasn’t in any condition to.
So yeah, “dancing with your heart” definitely has a personal meaning to me because of what I went through with my heart. That’s why I chose the slogan – ‘Dance with your heart and let it shine’. What I went through with my heart also inspired my logo. It’s a heart, with a musical clef inside the heart. Music has always been something that’s been close to me, through my musical days in dancing, and also playing different instruments as well. Music is definitely something that’s in my heart. And then I put the wings on the outside of the heart because I feel that that music and dance have given me the freedom to grow as a person and touch the lives of other people.
Dance has helped my self esteem and my self confidence. It has allowed me to meet new
people and travel the world. The first time I got into dance was when I was 21. And I went through a phase of depression. I used to always feel awkward and like I didn’t fit in. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life. And salsa definitely opened up a door for me since it was my first dance. I met new people and started travelling and it helped me forget about the worries and the bills. Dancing really helped me let loose and have fun and be in the present moment.
Dance Me Free is about the power of Dance to heal. Did Dance play a part in your healing after the surgery?
After the surgery, I was definitely itching to get back on the dance floor to help my recovery. I actually took a couple of Zumba classes that were low impact and I did on my own. I wanted to get my heart rate up and get my feet back to moving to music on a dance floor, but in a way that I could feel comfortable, without over exerting myself. I couldn’t go out to the socials and dance for hours and hours like I normally did. My muscles atrophied through the whole ordeal prior to the surgery. So when I finished the heart surgery, I couldn’t run. The spark in my muscles wasn’t there. So dancing helped to wake up my muscles again to help me with the recovery.
How do you think this ordeal with your heart has affected your dancing now? Or do you think it has?
In every dance since the heart surgery, I would definitely say that I’m more perceptive and aware of connection.
I do believe that’s one of the reasons I really connected with kizomba. It’s hard to put it into words. But having that openness with your heart to actually receive somebody and let them in, and really truly connect with them on the dance floor, makes a huge difference. It’s about being inviting, being OPEN and not being afraid, not putting up a wall. And I’m not sure if I’d be able to do that if I didn’t go through the heart surgery.
Kizomba has such a strong foundation in connection, I mean the pillars of the dance are
connection. It’s not something that you always see. It’s something that needs to be felt. So I think I’m able to open up my heart more and internalize it a lot easier because I am more open to the feeling.
If you’ve danced with me, you definitely know what I mean.
Well, maybe you could describe your dancing through an analogy, since you like analogies so much (smiles). If you could describe yourself as a dancer in terms of a musical instrument, which instrument would you be?
Well, people typically say that I’m a really smooth dancer. And I actually have some moves that I’m going to be coming up with that are called the ‘Silky Smooth Groove’. And that’s what I try to create on the dance floor –that smoothness- because kizomba is such a slow dance, so it fits. So if I had to choose a musical instrument that really embodied my style, or at least my personality on the dance floor, I guess I would say a SAXAPHONE.
If you take a look at it, it’s very curvaceous. It’s not rigid. It has smooth edges. And it’s also typically golden and shiny so it has a very nice presentation. Plus, typically, it makes a very smooth, calm sound. Also, it’s one of my favorite instruments to play.
Yeah, I would definitely be a saxophone. (smiles)