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.

You have been traveling a lot.  Is it usually for dance that you travel? Ashley1

I have traveled a lot in my life and have seen so many amazing sites.  But I started getting a bit lost and aimless when I was traveling for traveling sake.  So I usually only travel for dance now.  Incorporating dance into my trips has really been exciting for me.  Going to train in different cities and countries is my new passion.  I get to meet dancers from all over the world, train with international instructors and see new places.  It’s the best!  I keep saying I need a non-dance holiday but that doesn’t seem to happen! 

How do you decide where to go?

I train with a few Egyptian teachers, namely Randa Kamel, Tito Seif, and Mohamed Shahin, so traveling to where they are teaching is my priority. I used to take individual workshops with teachers from all over. But I realized that it is really important to choose teachers to study with intensely so that they can help you grow and change your dance more.  Randa Kamel has been the biggest influence in my dance, and I make sure to train with her at least four times a year. This often means going to Egypt.  In 2016, I was lucky to go to Egypt twice, as well as to New York, Toronto, and Miami.  2017 is looking very similar!

What were some of the highlights of your most recent trip?

A highlight from my last trip to Cairo in February was being selected as a finalist in the competition there.  The level was really high, and it was a huge honor to have been selected to compete with a live band.  Dancing to a live band in Egypt is about as amazing and scary as it gets!  Another highlight was being able to study with Randa Kamel and Tito Seif for a week.  We were dancing five hours a day.  This immersion helps so much in developing Ashley2my dance, and I feel like I grew a lot in this course.

Sometimes you invite drummers to your classes to drum live for your students.  How does this contribute to your class?

I am fortunate to have met drummer Tim Gerwing right when I started performing.  I was a “baby” dancer and he was a “baby” percussionist. We decided to jam one day and we have worked together ever since.

Having Tim in class allows my students to listen to the rhythm in a skeletal sense – just the drum alone. It helps get the rhythm in their body and understand the feel of the rhythm. We encourage the students to really feel the sounds and shapes from the tabla. Rhythm is the backbone of Egyptian dance, and each rhythm has its own set of technique, emotions, and culture.  So it is important to understand how to dance authentically to the rhythms.

I LOVE the fact that Tim can accompany me when I am teaching – if I need something slower, or with a very pronounced rhythm, he can do that on a dime.  When you have a live musician, you need to interact with them, connect and inspire each other. This is something very valuable, and the earlier you learn it, the easier it will become over time.

Bellydance seems like a very difficult dance to teach to others. Yet you manage to have a good balance between being able to teach the technique as well as the more abstract aspects of this dance.  Were there teachers or influences that were great role models to you in this regard?Ashley5- By Daudi

Wow! That is a huge compliment.  I adore teaching and I am so happy that you had that experience in my class!  I have to honestly say that I didn’t come into my own as a teacher for several years after starting teaching.  I felt that I was regurgitating movements and teaching structure from my instructors.  I wasn’t defined enough in my own dance; therefore, I didn’t know how to translate what I was doing to my students. It took a lot of personal acceptance and confidence to start teaching the way that I danced!

What do you think helped you develop this?

Working on my physiotherapy assistant diploma, and learning how to teach exercise and therapeutic classes, was very helpful for my teaching style.  I was able to adopt what I was doing in school and work, and apply it to my own classes.  I also talked to, and continue to talk to, other dance teachers. You learn so much from others, and realize that you are not alone in your experiences.  I brainstormed with people and asked a lot of questions. I also analyzed video and online material to get alternate examples of explanations, and to grow my ideas.

You seem really invested in your students, which is a beautiful quality to have as a teacher.  Where did this come from?

Ashley4- by DaudiI really love working with people, and I want to see everyone succeed so much in my classes.  So I try to provide as much information as I can, balanced with a strong dose of acceptance and humour.  Dance can be very frustrating if you feel that you can’t get a movement. We have all been there!  So I want to try to limit that kind of discouraging experience as much as possible. The frustration can start to limit our personal perception of what we can do.  Dance is supposed to make you feel good at the end of the day, so I want that to be the strongest take-home feeling.  I am now studying to be a pilates instructor, and I feel that my background in teaching will serve me well in this field.  I have learned a lot from both my physiotherapy work and also my work as a dance teacher.

Randa Kamel has also been a great role model for me in how to approach teaching.  She focuses a lot on the muscular movements, but also on the feeling and energy of the movement. This is equally important in these oriental dances.  I try to embody this in my classes, and remind my students to really feel the move- both in a physical sense but also in an emotional sense.  Dance is more than just the movement of our bodies. There is a feeling to it.

What do you think is one of the benefits of this particular dance for your students?

There is something very magnetic about the movements and the music – very addicting!  But in all honesty, I think this dance allows for a lot of personal expression and self confidence.  I have personally witnessed many of my students come into class for the first time, quiet and shy and hiding in the back of the class. And then, over a period of a few weeks, they are suddenly moving up to the front the class, talking with their classmates and literally transforming in front of my eyes!  It is amazing to see.

What made you choose bellydance as your dance of focus? 

Bellydance just makes sense to my body and spirit.  After years of ballet and jazz, which I Ashley6loved, this dance form spoke to my heart in a very different way.  Learning oriental dance was not, and still isn’t easy to learn. But the dance is so feminine, strong and emotional.  Oriental dance also embraces women of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds.  Through the music, we can each individually express our own stories and emotions, and this is something so powerful!  There is so much intrigue and draw to watching someone perform this dance.

The beauty of the dance is that you can let your life experiences spill out into your dance and you are all the better for this.  Dance has been there for me in some of the most joyous times in my life as well as in the darkest times.  And I hope it continues to always be there.

For more information about Ashley and her classes, please visit

Ashley Dance at http://www.ashleydance.com

Our Perception of What We Can Do

“Dance can be very frustrating if you feel that you can’t get a Ashley4- by Daudimovement. 

But we have all been there!

So, as a teacher, I want to try to limit that kind of discouraging experience as much as possible.

The frustration can start to limit our perception of what we can do.

Dance is supposed to make you feel good, at the end of the day.  So I want THAT to be the strongest take- home feeling for my students.”

                 ~Ashley Rhianne

 

 

 

The Signs Are Everywhere!

Thank you to my beautiful friend Michelle for connecting me to the Sufi Poets again, particularly Hafiz’s collection- “I Heard God Laughing”.

How fitting that the very first poem focuses on the Freedom to Dance!  Dance Me Free- I’m telling you, the signs are EVERYWHERE!

“You are with a Friend Now

Hafiz describes some of the preparations required for the inner ‘Journey of Love’. He urges us to let go of habitual negative attitudes and unnecessary attachments, which only weigh us down.  To make this Journey, we must be light, happy and free to go Dancing!” by Daniel Ladinsky- translator

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I wish I could show you

When you are lonely or in darkness,

The Astonishing Light

Of your own Being!

~ Hafiz

…I say use dance to not only help you bring out this light in yourself and others around you, but to also dance out the darkness.

Even the Sufis, from hundreds of years ago, knew the power and magic of Dance to Heal!

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.

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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. And Jessica’s words and compassion have stuck with me so much that they have inspired me to get out to events in Toronto, New York and Los Angeles.  They have shaped some of the personal decisions I have made in my life since I have met her as well.  She has reminded me that it’s not just the dancing that is healing, but also the connections with people we make along the way in this Dance Journey. Sometimes, it’s just a touch, a word, and even just a breath or a moment of silence held together. But each of those moments can make a huge difference.

Jessica made this difference to me. And so I am so honoured to be able to feature her on Dance Me Free.  Photos of her will be gracing our header page for the next few months. And to find out a little more about this dancer, check out this mini interview in which Jessica shares with us what Dance, particularly Zouk, means to her:

Where are you from?Jessica Lamdon4

Jessica: I was born and raised in Brooklyn:)

What is your dance background?

I used to be a competitive 10 dance international ballroom dancer for roughly eight years before falling in love with zouk. I took a break from dancing in the middle of high school and throughout college.  I was pursuing learning about acting for theater and film, and was also working on a degree in psychology.  I LOVED IT!

Yet, there was something missing. Zouk stumbled into my life and I made sure it stayed there. And turned it into my life!

What is it about Zouk that stands out to you compared to other dances?

To me, Zouk has a beautiful and seamless relationship with movement, music, connection, and community.

It’s a social dance that anyone can do– and that everyone is encouraged to participate in! You can dance with multiple partners, you can be celebrated with many people circling around you, you can perform, you can support, you can bring people together, you can find yourself and help find others through this dance.

Who helped encourage and support you as far as getting into this dance more seriously?

Jessica and Henry- Magical Zouk

Jessica Lamdon and Henri Velandia of ZenZouk

I am so grateful that Kim Rottier brought Zouk to NYC and grateful to Hisako for helping to spread Lamba Zouk in NYC.

I am beyond grateful to have found Henri Velandia, my mentor, and to train with him and dance with him. Without him, I wouldn’t have had nearly as rich of an experience with Zouk.  And for this, I am forever loyal to him 🙂

What has Zouk taught you?

Zouk has taught me so much about myself and others. And it will continue teaching me. Zouk has created moments for me that I never thought I could experience or feel.  It  gave me a family all over the world. Zouk will never make you feel alone. It is about beautiful energy moving to beautiful music.  It helps us connect to ourselves in order to connect with others. I am so excited to continue this journey.

Videos of Jessica Dancing Zouk:

Fall For Zouk:

Note, the video below is without sound because there was a copyright against the song being used on youtube. But it’s one of my favorites of Jessica and Henri so I thought I would share it.  The song, by the way, is “Frozen”- by Madonna.

Solo Performance:

Note: Jessica is based out of New York, but she travels to many different Zouk Congresses and Festivals throughout the world.

In fact, you can catch her next weekend teaching with Henri of ZenZouk at the L.A. Zouk Congress– April 28th to May 2nd, 2016.

 

Showing Me the Way… Through Dance

“Good Lord, show me the way.”

Thank you for choosing Dance as one of those ways…

This video is beautiful. It truly embodies what I think Dance Me Free’s Message.

(Please note, Dance Me Free is not claiming any rights to the video. We just want to share it to thank the creators, choreographers, and artists behind it. Thank you for inspiring more writing, more dancing, and more magic with this breathtaking piece).

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)

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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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La Época Interview- Part 1

Josué JosephOn Faith, Music and Talent

Dance Me Free is all about the power of Dance- and the Arts – to move, inspire and heal. What an honour it is to feature an individual who understands and embodies this concept through a variety of artistic disciplines. Josué Joseph is an award- winning musician, composer, film producer, dancer and international instructor. He is an all around inspiration.  It has been a pleasure to get to know more about what drives this artist, and I am thrilled to be able to share his insights and passion for the arts in this in-depth, two-part interview.

Thank you, Josué, for your openness and authenticity. I am grateful to have met you and I know you will continue to inspire people wherever you go.  

(Click here to view the full Interview Introduction)

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Why the name La Época?

The idea came to me immediately after the death of Tito Puente.  I was talking to my father- Alfonso Panamá –who is a legendary bassist of the Palladium. After talking to him, and to Johnny Pacheco, Celia Cruz, Cachao (another famous bassist), and to some other well-known musicians and dancers, I noticed that no one else had created a film which put all of these legends together,  to document their legacies.  And my concept was different from other films that were done about the Palladium.  I didn’t want my film to be about the Palladium.  I wanted it to be about “the time” of the Palladium, and to allow people to see the musicians that supported the major orchestras.  For example, Tito Puente and Celia Cruz were in other films about the Palladium.  But Tito Puente and Celia Cruz were individuals, they weren’t an entire orchestra.  So who were the musicians who made these individuals?  That’s what I wanted to focus on.

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Lights. Camera. … DAUDI!

Lights, Camera, DAUDI! That’s how I think the saying should go sometimes. If you’ve ever worked with this extraordinary photographer featured here, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  It seems only natural to think about Daudi, the creator of Daudi X Photography, when talking about camera and light. Daudi is extremely creative with both. For him, photography is not just a job.  It is his art, it his passion.  He not only expresses the way he sees the world through this art, but he also brings pieces of it to us, capturing special moments and bringing out what is unique in each of his subjects. Daudi covers a range of photo types but his greatest fascination is with people.  He is probably best known for his work in the dance community. His professionalism and attention to detail in his work is impressive, as is his friendly, charismatic nature. While Daudi has spent much of his time showcasing the talent and beauty of the artists that he photographs, it is my pleasure to finally celebrate Daudi’s talent and inspiring story with all of you. Thank you Daudi for your enthusiastic and thoughtful responses.daudi

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How Art Inspires Art- The Depths of Dance- by Linda Strathdee

DANCE1-INKOver a year ago, I had participated in a master class blues workshop in which each of us were critiqued individually about our dancing by both the instructors and the other participants.  We were then given tips on what improvements we could make and then were to dance in front of the audience again, this time keeping in mind these suggestions in order to see and feel how they could transform our dancing.

I learned so much from that workshop, but unexpectedly, one of the most memorable components of it was a dance by two student participants I had never met before- Patrick and Linda.  They didn’t do anything particularly fancy or flashy in their dance, but their connection to each other and the music was so sweet and heartfelt. Continue reading