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

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 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

“Work It Out”- Interview With Reuben Avery

Reuben on Trumpet

I know you first as a musician – specifically as a keyboardist and trumpeter. You have been playing music since you were a child, right? 

Yes, I’ve been playing music since I was very young. I grew up on a farm and in our home there, my family had an old upright baby grand piano. When I was a toddler, I would crawl over to the piano and pound on the pedals. This would shake the sound board enough to make some noise. My mom eventually figured out that I was interested in the instrument, so she popped me in my high chair and sat me in front of the keyboard. I would happily plunk away for hours on end.

Wow! That’s amazing.  And kind of adorable (smiles).

Yeah, I think I have improved a bit since those days (smiles), but we’re not sure since we can’t find the cassette tapes that contained my recordings that were made on our small Fisher Price recorder.

Aww… haha (smiles).

I love how it seems that you chose the instrument, and your mom saw your interest in it and just encouraged it, rather than you being pushed into it. I think forcing kids to take music lessons can sometimes actually make them lose all enjoyment in it.

Yes, well I did eventually start taking piano lessons in grade 2, and was off and on with them throughout my grade school days. I always enjoyed improvising on the instrument and creating my own music…often much more than practising what was assigned to me by my various teachers. As such, piano, has always been my first love and I can still entertain myself for hours on it. I just love being able to create lush harmonies and lay creative melodies over them.   Continue reading

Strength in Diversity- Interview with Gabriel El Huracán- Part 2

In Part 1 of this interview- “Why Tango?” Gabriel El Huracán  discusses what it was about Tango that drew him into the dance so deeply.   I have begun this second half of the interview with some of the words Gabriel left us off with at the end of Part 1. They just seemed so fitting to the theme of Part 2 of this interview:  celebrating the beauty of differences, the strength of diversity.

Gabriel:   In tango, you’ll have a kid who is twenty years old who is still in college or university and he’s beginning his life. And in the same room, you will have this older tanguero who might be eighty years old, dancing right next to him.

And you might meet a lawyer and a plumber and a stay at home mom all in the same room doing the same dance, sharing the same passion. You have people from all social classes in the same space. You have people from all ages, and people of all different cultures connecting through this common passion.

Tango allows me to make these unlikely encounters that I never would have made in my daily life otherwise. Continue reading

Interview with Bellydancer Ashley Rhianne

Ashley3What sparked your interest in bellydance?

I saw my first bellydancer at age 14. It was at a goddess fair in Langley.  Being a Bohemian hippy teen, I was super inspired and wanted to learn how to dance like those women.  I had studied ballet for several years and then jazz dance, and bellydance was something totally different and up my alley.

I had also been fascinated by Egypt since I was little, and the music seemed to touch a chord deep inside me.  I started to look around White Rock, where I grew up, for classes. And I came across a teacher named Nahida who had danced in Egypt. I started taking her classes in 1995, and the rest is history!

Was dance and performance part of your upbringing? 

I was a natural performer since pretty much from the time I could walk.  My parents and younger sisters don’t dance, but my father loves to perform and be on stage.  He was often organizing lip sync contests at his work where he was the lead singer, and was quite addicted to karaoke for a while!  My paternal grandmother was a dancer and danced pretty much up to her death at 85.  I definitely take after her.  She was one of the brightest sparks I ever knew.

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Jessica Lamdon- Why Zouk? Photo Feature

I love how my passion for dance has allowed me to meet people from all over the world-people who, I’m sure, I might not have met otherwise. Some of these individuals are inspiring teachers, others literally take my breath away on the dance floor, and a few have an infectious energy about them that is so uplifting for any who are around them.

Jessica Lamdon happens to be one of those rare souls in the dance world that demonstrates all of these qualities.


Not only is Jessica a beautiful dancer and performer- invited to congresses and dance festivals throughout many different countries, but she is also an encouraging and warm hearted individual. Her personable, welcoming nature motivated me to want to learn Zouk more.  But it also helped me feel connected to something at a time when I was feeling lost and heavy hearted.

Sometimes, the right words at the right time can lead us to places we didn’t even know we would go. Continue reading

La Época Interview- Part 2

Part 2- Josué Joseph- On Family, Freedom and Inspiration

(Click here to read La Época Interview Part 1- Josué Joseph- On Faith, Music and Talent)


In Part 1 of this interview, you talked about growing up with the influence of your father- the great bassist Alfonso Panamá. You mentioned how he was always practising and surrounding you with music, making it just a part of your everyday life.   But did you ever go through that stage of NOT wanting to be a musician BECAUSE your father was one?  Often, kids try to purposely get away from doing what their parents did.  Did you ever go through that or was it always just something that you wanted to do?

I feel like I’m in that movie Slumdog Millionaire, because every answer that I give you comes from a story (laughs).  So here’s another one:

When I was growing up, my parents did not force any of us to study music.  But when I was four years old, we moved to a new house. And in this new house, there was a piano already there.  So music just came to us.  Taking piano lessons was just normal. My brother did it, my other brother did it, and it passed down to me. It became something that I thought was just something you do.

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