About trajwani

Lover of words, cultures, art, magic moments, children, soulful endeavours, dance, and music, music, music.

Dance Connects Cultures- Interview with Masanori Fujita

Masa8Where did you learn to dance? And which style of dance did you start with?

I started breakdancing nine years ago in Osaka, Japan.  From the first time that I saw the amazing technique put in the dance, I was totally hooked.  So, the next day, I went to a dance school to learn and I also practised on the street.

After I came to Canada, I just practised breakdancing first.  I didn’t know Hustle at that time. But at some of the events, some of the dancers were doing hustle. I saw it and thought I really wanted to learn to dance it. Everyone looked like they were really enjoying it. So that’s what made me start dancing Hustle. Continue reading


Faith, Freedom and Truth- Interview With Andra Carmina


Which styles of dance are you into?  Do you have a favorite?

​I started dancing in 2009 after taking some salsa and bachata lessons at McGill. My dancing journey eventually followed me to Toronto, where I got introduced to zouk, and from there on, no other dance has had my heart quite like zouk does. I’ve dabbled into other dances like bellyDancing, kizomba, and dancehall.  While they do bring out certain parts of me, zouk allows me to express myself in ways I almost can’t explain.

Beautiful. I can see that in your zouk dancing. You’re just so there, in the moment. We can see it and feel it.

I remember an instructor in Argentina telling all of us that we should take a shower after any night of tango dancing because it is such an intense and close dance. She said that without showering after, we will end up “sleeping” with all the energies of the people we danced with that night.  She claimed we would have strange dreams if we didn’t- dreams that might not seem like our own, because possibly, they wouldn’t be our own.  


You are a very intuitive, energy/feeling person. Do you feel this enhances or hinders your partner dance experience in any way? 

​I am a highly sensitive person, and can pick up on someone’s feelings before they even utter a word. In some ways it’s a blessing and a curse. Dancing with other people, I can pick up on their disposition, their state of mind and their state of being. It’s true that it can really enhance the connection, and I can sense their intentions, their next step, the very next place they may want to take me in the dance. And there can be this strong synergy and feeling as a result.

​It can also work the opposite way- where if we don’t click, or their intentions are less than honest, it’s easy to feel, and then I sort of bring up my walls and the dance then becomes rigid and forced.

How do you deal with it and still enjoy the dance?

In some ways, sensing others’ energies is a filter through which every single person I dance with goes through. And much like your instructor mentioned, I need to be careful not to take someone’s energetic baggage home with me as a result. There are days when I can be so sensitive, it’s better for me not to go dancing because I know I’ll come home and I’ll carry with me a piece of each person’s story that I danced with. Though most days, it’s an enjoyable process that allows me to connect deeper with someone while dancing with them.


I have taken a lot of dance classes with different people so I am definitely a “learned” dancer. I still feel like I am always seeking learning and guidance in my dancing. You, on the other hand, from what I understand, did not take a lot of dance lessons.  What do you think made you pick up dancing so well and so quickly? 

​To be honest with you, I don’t think it’s a talent that’s exclusive to dance for me. Anything that I really put my mind to, I can pick up very quickly. If I’m passionate about it, my entire being just gets absorbed in it. It’s like that for me with languages, with dance, with anything that makes me feel free and self-expressed.

I have a tremendous eye for detail, and as a former teacher, in my mind’s eye, I can break down something complex into very small bits. So it really helps when I try to be the student, and learn something new, because I understand the process, and I become the process.​ I can pick up a lot just by observing. As an introvert, I’m not exactly the first out on the dance scene. Being more withdrawn has also grown my “sensitivities” to the energies of others, and my observational skills, and this has sometimes taught me more than teachers could have.

dance 2_previewI see you as a free spirit, who really has so much faith in things unseen. This is such an admirable quality. And I feel like it is so related to the underlying idea of Dance Me Free- the power of dance to heal and free a person.  To whom or what do you attribute your free spiritedness?

​Hehehe, well, I may be a bit biased, but I attribute it in part to my astrological chart (I’m a ​quirky, freedom oriented, unconventional Aquarius stellium).

Yay! My fellow Aquarian, AND we have the same birthday. But I do not have that free spiritedness that you have.  It’s lurking there, underneath. But struggles to get out.

Well, I also have an Aries rising, so there is this certain fierceness, and stubbornness about me that just had me pushing for what I believed in. I didn’t give up, no matter how hard things got in my life. I guess I just refused to believe that I had to settle for the conventional nine to five job, the mediocre life, the unexamined life, the life that so many people were prescribing to me. That kind of life never fit in with my soul’s essence, and what I’m about.

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What allows you to have so much faith in the Universe and our connection to something far beyond what is right in front of us?

I fought. I went against the grain, I pushed against my limitations and I followed my heart. In that, I found the strength to always have faith in myself and something bigger than me, no matter how it might look on our minuscule earthly plane of existence. And now I tell my clients all the time, there are our human eyes, and our universal eyes, and how we perceive through them is very different. I think this has given me an edge that helps me to always remain focused on what really is the truth, and to always follow my quest for freedom and being true to myself.

I understand not everyone agrees, and this lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but it has worked for me, and I cannot imagine my life without my faith in myself and my limitless connection to something much bigger than me. I owe that to my struggles, which have been some of my toughest, yet worthwhile teachers in life.

You have a very unique and inspiring job.  Can you tell the Dance Me Free readers a little about what you do and how they can get in touch with you to find out more?

​Absolutely. I’m a transformational coach.  My business, is a gateway to new growth, radical self-renewal and unapologetic empowerment for anyone who wishes to transform their life for the better. Best place to get in touch with me is via email at andra@andracarmina.com

Wow! I love the way you phrased that, especially the “unapologetic empowerment” part.

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Has your job had any influence on your thoughts about Dance? Or has it shaped it in anyway? Or has Dance had any impact on the choices you make in your job, or how you treat your clients?

​The awareness that I’ve built over the years practising my craft simply allows me to observe and be mindful of a person’s state of being when they engage with me. It also allows me to draw boundaries if I need to, or get closer to them, if the synergy feels right for both of us. It lets me know when I can go into someone’s space a little deeper, and when I can’t. Coaching is a lot like that too. You’re always taking a person to a place of deeper inner awareness of themselves. And in turn, you learn about them, and yourself, in the process. Dance is no different in that respect.

Why dance?  What does it mean to you?  

​Dance for me is when my ego goes on vacation, where I lose all sense of self control, where I can just be myself, and allow my soul to take over, and be unhinged, wild, raw, expressed through movement and motion and ardor. Dance brings me to this state of joy and communion with another person, where our minds and bodies are one, intimate, yet not; connected, but able to disconnect at a moment’s notice;  together, yet separate in our own containers of space that we get to dictate.


How does dance make you feel?

I feel free and unencumbered of my worries and my problems when I dance. I lose myself in the embrace of another, and yet, can find myself in that very act. I can be in a sweet state of abandon, and yet honor my deepest desire to just be free, be alive, be moving.   And sometimes, in between all that, there are also the moments of utter stillness that we sink into, and those moments teach me that life is like that too.  There are the twists and turns and bends and surprises when life leads you a certain way.   And then there are moments of standing still, of being held, of just being, existing, listening to your breath, listening to a beat, listening to a heart.

What impact has dance had on your life or how has it shaped you as a person?

Dancing helps me become more connected to myself and to others. It brings me a certain awareness of me, of parts of myself that I sometimes forget, and I’m reminded I need to bring back home to me. It brings me awareness of parts of myself I need to nurture more, listen to more, love more. Dancing is an act of self love, self discovery, and appreciation. It enriches my life endlessly.

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Wow! Your words alone make me want to never stop dancing.  Thank you.  

Following Your Heart- An Interview with Madan Kumar


Where do you live and what styles of dance do you dance?

I live in Mumbai and I dance Salsa, Bachata & Kizomba

What got you into dance?

Dancing was my hobby since childhood, but I never knew I would end up as a full time dancer, teacher and performer.

I remember being asked why, if I’m Indian, I dance Latin dances instead of Indian dance. I I love Indian dance, but it just wasn’t what I gravitated to. And I thought it was a bit of an ignorant question at the time. Haha. But now, here I am, asking you the same question (laughs). Since you are in India and Indian, what made you choose Latin dances instead of Indian dances? 

IMG_20180125_004918_178Haha. It’s like someone asking, if you are Indian, why do you eat burgers instead of Vada Pav? (laughs). Well, it’s a personal choice. I used to dance Bharatanatyam when I was a young kid.

I have been a trained classical dancer since childhood, but as I grew up, I found my interest towards western dance, and then to Latin dances and now African dances. Human interests won’t remain the same forever. As an artist, you will always fall in love with every culture that is new to you. Continue reading

Interview with Kyryl Dudchenko: Paying Attention to the Details


You started dance at a young age. Was dance something you chose yourself?

It was definitely not my choice.  It was my parents’ decision, but at that time already, lots of kids were ballroom dancing. Since then, I think the interest of kids participating in ballroom dancing has grown even more so. I think the number of kids participating in ballroom dancing in the Ukraine, where I am from, is booming now.

Do you have a favorite dance?

I love Rumba- to teach, to dance, to live it.


I love it when I see male dancers who are great role models for young boys.  It’s sad that there seems to still be somewhat of a stigma around boys dancing.  Did you ever have to deal with any friends or family having any sort of negative attitudes towards you dancing because you are a guy?

Not at all.  I cannot recall even one instance when somebody showed a negative attitude towards me dancing. Even though most of my non-dancing male friends are very macho, they still have always respected and appreciated my dancing career. I do believe though, that in our life we attract people that would match us. Those that do not match us do not stay for too long. However, over the years that I’ve been dancing and teaching, I have seen numerous cases in which the idea of boys dancing has been regarded as being sissy or just not taken seriously.


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I find it fascinating that you completed a degree in Criminology and Law and still chose dance and teaching as the career path for you.  Is there any part of your education previously that has an influence on your approach to teaching or to dance? 

Wow, great question. Definitely so. I do believe my interest in jurisprudence has influenced my teaching style.

I have always been drawn to the little details of everything surrounding me. I love jurisprudence for its precision, clarity, and at the same time, its flexibility and openness to interpretation. It’s exactly the same with dance for me – I am a very technical dancer and teacher. I pay attention to the little details and build them up. That can be regarded as a strength or a weakness. Sometimes, it is easy for me to cross the line and get too passionate about the details and a bit too overwhelming. Being aware of that, I am truly trying to pay attention to the reactions of the students and use that to judge whether I need to balance that out a little more.

Did you find that while you were studying criminology that your experience dancing influenced your approach to studying?

I do believe that my dancing career has affected my learning style.

Kyryl2Studying-wise, being extremely busy with dance training and teaching (I was teaching full time and going to school full time), I knew I had only a limited time to complete a project in my studies. This pushed me to be more efficient.  I do think I had a very similar training style in dance– not enough time before a competition- so I had to push it as hard as possible in that area as well.

I think that the more we learn about the outside world, the more we learn about ourselves. And dance helped me to do this.  It taught me that it’s about the process, and dance taught me how to become more aware of that process.  So that helped me appreciate the process in my studying and learning.

Also, looking back on my decision to focus on teaching, I think it was quite natural for me with my academic background.

I think you are an amazing teacher. You just blew me away at how you were able to balance teaching accurate, clean technique, without losing the importance of expression and passion in dancing.  What do you think has helped you maintain this balance?

Thank you, Tasleem. It means to a lot for me to hear that. I think it was built through experience. When I first started teaching, I thought I was much better at it than I actually was. Some lessons were hit, some miss. Even now, I do have to adjust and modify the focus of teaching and the style. But I had to learn to do this with time and experience in teaching.


It is very impressive that you teach students of all different ages. In particular, the way you help youth achieve such high standards in competitions is admirable.  How do you keep the training fun while still pushing the kids with the hard work that is required to compete?

I am extremely passionate about teaching and dancing, and music and body movement, which is what I think people are drawn to (or parents bringing their kids are drawn to). I am more “dance” oriented than “fun” oriented. For me, whether they are kids or adults, and whether they are competitors or just social dancing – it’s all about the fun through knowing and being able to dance. Some students do not stay with me for too long because they might think I’m too detailed, whereas others love that aspect of my teaching. For me it is not about pushing people to dance well. For me, it is all about sharing what dance really is.  And the rest is absolutely up to the students to decide how much of it they would want, or will be able to do. I do not place any limits on age, natural talent or body abilities.

Speaking of natural talent, in one of your classes, you told a story that really stood out to me.  You explained how there were other dancers around you as you were growing up who may have been higher level dancers than you, and could have become amazing teachers.

Yet, they didn’t continue to work and train at it. And eventually, even though you might not have been the strongest dancer at that time, you worked hard and got so much better, while they kind of dropped off the dancing radar and didn’t do much with it. 

I think this is a very important lesson and I still share it years later with others around me.   What was it about dancing that made you put so much time and dedication into it?  


To be honest with you, at different stages of my life there were different reasons why I kept on going. At first – it was about parents and trying to do my very best because they were investing so much into it. Then it was about peers and the competitive nature of dance. Then it was also because I really liked someone and wanted to dance with her. And then it was because of parents again. And only more recently, much later, I have realized, that this is who I am. I love being a teacher of dance. This is how I can be of use to the people around me. There are lots of challenges that come with that. But, at the moment, this is what I believe in.

Were there any teachers who inspired you in a similar way?

There are two main dance figures that truly affected me – my dear teacher Mr. Colin Phillip James, as well as my mentor, colleague, and friend – Mr. Andy Wong. Their presence in my life is most significant. They have helped me to grow and hopefully become not only a knowledgeable teacher, but also a more knowledgeable human being.

Dance and dancing was a way of life for me. Right now, teaching is.  So, for me personally, it is not about my dancing any more. Now, it is all about teaching and making my students grow and become better, more balanced, disciplined, kind and caring individuals. It is about helping them to dance to the best of their abilities.

That’s beautiful. Spoken like a true teacher. Thank you.


To learn more about Kyryl, or to find out more about his classes, please visit Kyryl Dance

Interview With Nipa Rassam- Dance= Connection. Conversation. And it’s Contagious!

Nipa4What got you into dance?

I was always interested in dancing in general. And partner dancing came along for me about fifteen years ago.  A friend asked me to go to a salsa night. I had no idea what to expect.  We took the lesson. I thought it was pretty intense. I didn’t know what to do.  And after that, the floor opened up for social dancing.  I saw people were dancing together in a way that looked as if they already knew each other, like they were actually couples.  But then when they finished the dance, they said thank you and then went their separate ways.  And I thought how did that happen? How do they know how to dance with each other, without knowing each other? How do they know when to turn and what to do?  That was my first exposure to partner dancing. And so I wanted to learn. Continue reading

Interview With Sia Kaskas- Revolutionizing Aging

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I really admire you for your strength and agility as a kickboxer, but also for being in a field that traditionally might have been thought more ‘suitable’ for men.  

Did you find it hard to work your way up in kickboxing, especially as a female, in terms of having support and being taken seriously?

Staying at Champions Martial Arts Academy for all the years that I did- from being a novice student to becoming an instructor and employee- had its challenges. I would say it made it easier having female role models around me- such as Master Ingrid Katzberg and Sensei Anita Katzberg. These two sisters own and run the school (along with Master Farid Dordar). Their strength was so inspiring and motivating for me and thousands of other female students in the city.

Yes. I remember them being highly regarded throughout the school and community. 

Yes, and Master Ingrid and Master Farid welcomed all genders to train and compete. I never felt any judgement from either one of them. The only challenges I encountered were from a minority of younger males who felt uncomfortable around me. I competed early on in my training years in eight tournaments and in five ring-fights and I was always the oldest female among the fight team. So that was tough in terms of judgment. And I later faced another challenge when I began instructing. Once again, some males found it difficult to be instructed by a female. This led me to train harder and to show them I am not as limited as they think. Of course now, after fifteen years of instructing, one builds a reputation and I have not had any issues with this in a long time.

Continue reading

Interview With Vladimir Shmitsman- Part 2: Letting your energy be free

(To read Part 1 of the Interview, click here: Homeopathy recognizes the individual)

Herbal Essence Dropper

What do you think makes some people believe in natural medicine and homeopathy, while others just would never even want to try it?

It’s hard to tell.  Some people already find it easy to accept new concepts.  In the beginning, I thought maybe that comes from their level of education.  But I realized that that’s not the case.

For example, a couple of years ago, I had a patient.  She asked me to see her husband.  He’s a professor.

He had some insomnia case and lots of stress at work.  So she convinced him, after many years of bugging him, to come here and to give me a chance (smiles).

He came in and he asked me, “So, Vladmir, how does this work?”

And I tried to explain it to him. But what do you say?  Meridians? Chakras? How can someone believe in meridians and chakras if they are very scientific in their thinking?  He wanted scientific proof that he could see, but it doesn’t work that way.

That must have been hard.

Well, for him it was hard. And for me, it was very hard, because we don’t have scientific proof. So I understood why he wouldn’t believe it.  I tried my best to explain it to him.  And eventually, he told me “Vlad, I am sorry, if you don’t have proof, I can’t accept that. It must not exist.”  So, we just shook hands, and I never saw him again (smiles).

But a couple of months later, I get a janitor from the same university come in to my clinic.

She never heard about homeopathy.  But she said, I really don’t even care how it works (smiles).  My sister got better with it so I want to try it.

Haha! That’s brilliant! (laughs)   Continue reading

Interview With Vladimir Shmitsman- Part 1: Homeopathy recognizes the individual

“In homeopathy, the personality of the individual determines their prescription,.. because Homeopathy understands that every person is different.


Dr Shmitsman

I think some people might be surprised that you began your medical career with more conventional medicine.  

Yes.  In the beginning, I was a nurse.

I like that your grandma was one of the first to plant a seed for you very early on in terms of natural medicine.  

Yes.  She used to take me with her when she would pick plants and berries in the forest.  She was around me until I was 16 or 17 years old.  So it was a fair amount of time that I spent with her. (For more details about this story, please visit Dina’s Homeopathic)

And you had other people along the way who opened your eyes up to homeopathy?

Yes. It wasn’t just my grandmother’s influence that made me make my change from conventional medicine to homeopathy.

I finished nursing school, and then I went to the military for two years. The doctor who I worked with there was Russian Japanese.  That was a third generation of people who used to practise acupuncture.

For the first time in my life, I saw someone using acupuncture.  This man was a doctor in a hospital, but almost every day, I saw him treating different guys in the military using acupuncture.  He practised acupuncture as he felt he needed. Continue reading

Dancing’s Appeal to the Senses- Interview With Danielle Felices


I know you dance a few different styles of dance, but … is Zouk your favorite (smiles)? 

Oooh that is a loaded question! Currently, yes, Zouk is my favourite. I guess that is pretty clear to people who have met me. (smiles)

 What it is about Zouk that draws you to it?

When I think about what draws me to Zouk, I think first about what draws me to dance in general, and a few things come to mind. To me, dance is about passion, connection, emotion and technique. I was drawn to Zouk because it really resonated with me in those three areas which are important to me. I have found a new level of passion in myself and my dance through my journey so far in Zouk. I am passionate about the music, my personal development, the growth of the Zouk community, and I love learning more about myself and others through this dance. Continue reading

Interview with Jason Haynes of SocialDanceCommunity.com

Haynes Photo 8I was so honored by your message to me a few years ago, reaching out to see if I would be interested in being part of collaboration project between a group of other writers of Dance.  What made you decide to create a site with this kind of collaboration in mind, and with writers from all over the world?

I love being part of the social dance community, and I’m a journalist at heart.  These two personal interests are the fuel that keeps the fire burning.  Around 2013 I started seeking out Latin dance themed sites that I could hopefully join and contribute to.  I was interest in learning more about the culture and influential dancers within the Latin dance community, and I wanted to share my findings with others.  I found a few sites that contained interviews and blog posts.   I was looking for a site that felt more like an online magazine and wasn’t aligned with any particular organization.  I didn’t find one.  I did, however, find one writer named Tasleem (smiles), who had produced wonderful, in-depth interviews with several influential dancers.

That is very sweet. Thank you so much. It really meant a lot to me. Sometimes, especially as a solo writer, I never really know who, if anyone, my pieces are actually reaching or resonate with. So your message to me helped to encourage me and remind me that what I am doing actually has a purpose.  

Well, what you were doing was exactly what I wanted to do! I read several of your interviews, and during this time, I had a lightbulb moment:  I got the idea to build my own website.  So, I brushed up on my WordPress skills and started a site called DancePlanetDaily.com.  My goal was to produce an online magazine catering to the interests of the Latin dance community.  The site had a magazine style feel, but the content was from a single source (me) and lacked the community feel that I wanted.

Haynes Photo 5Yes, I could tell, even from your initial message to me, that you are definitely a people person. I loved the way you obviously enjoy bringing people together, and I imagine you contributing greatly to the welcoming  and friendly atmosphere to dance communities around you.

Thank you.  Well, I knew that if I ever wanted to create a site with global appeal, that I would have to collaborate with others.  I simply couldn’t do it all myself and accomplish my greater goal.  This was the inspiration that led to SocialDanceCommunity.com (formerly LatinDanceCommunity.com). Continue reading