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.

 

New Photo Feature- Marilou and Alessandra Quaglia!

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“When I dance, I forget the bad times and I feel free.“- Marilou

Dance Me Free has been on a bit of a hiatus over the past few months. But we are so happy to be back, not just with some new and exciting interviews, videos and events, but also with an outstanding young dancer as our new photo feature for this season!

All the way from Provence, France, the beautiful Marilou caught my attention with her stunning features, her passionate poses and the way she makes dancing look so effortless and freeing. Continue reading

Help Send Ryan to Italy!

DANCING WITH CYSTIC FIBROSIS
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Ryan Morissette is truly an inspiration to us all. This young dancer not only
rips it up on stage when he performs, but he spends time sharing his art through teaching other kids. He also helps raise money for various charities, AND, what a powerful role model he is to guys who might want to dance but are not always encouraged to because of old gender stereotypes.
Ryan dances at a very high level, competing, training, performing, all the while battling a disease that he has had since he was a child.  But Dance, for Ryan, is healing. It is his medicine.
“I have tattooed on my arm ‘Music is my cure’ and that’s exactly how I feel when I am dancing,” says Ryan Morrissette.
[When I am dancing], “I feel like I don’t have CF. I can just be myself.”

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Reminisce on VIS- Interview #5- DJ Ricky Campanelli

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It was such a pleasure to find out first hand from Ricky Campanelli what makes a good DJ. He was so down to earth and approachable, and I loved his enthusiasm towards sharing his thoughts.  Find out in this interview what this grammy nominated producer and DJ is working on next, and why Vancouver is one of Rickys favorite cities!

[Note: This is the 5th and final part to a series of 5 brief interviews under the title Reminisce on VIS (Vancouver International Salsafestival). To start at the beginning, at interview #1, and to learn why and where these interviews were conducted, click here: Reminisce on VIS- a series of five brief interviews)]

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Reminisce on VIS- Interview #3- DJ Montuno

montuno8I’ve heard so much about DJ Montuno and his music, and have often been tempted to travel to Montreal to experience his art first hand. Well, thankfully, he has been travelling quite a bit, even outside of his home city, and we were lucky enough to have him join us at VIS!  It was a pleasure to find out a little about how he got into DJing and what he loves about it.

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Kizom-what? – Part 2

Kizom-what?– Part 2 –Interview with Eddy Vents- discussing Kizomba Dancing (continued) To view Part 1, click here

Tasleem: At the end of Part 1 of this interview, you talked about the importance of the connection in this dance.  Because it IS more about that connection and energy, it’s really hard to describe kizomba to someone else.  Often, I hear it being described in terms of other dances. The description “Afrieddy vents2can tango” has come up a few times, and I’m wondering what your thoughts are on that.

Eddy: I think people describe kizomba that way because they need to refer to the dance with something that is more familiar.  If I explained kizomba to you by talking about the other dances it’s connected to or came out of, you probably won’t know what I’m talking about, because you’ve never seen those dances.  So ‘African tango’ makes it easy for people on this side of the world, who have not experienced those African dances, to imagine the dance using something they already know.

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Kizom-what?- An interview with Eddy Vents- Part 1

Kizomba. What is it, and why are more people talking about it?  The word itself seems to stir up a whole range of reactions from those who have never danced it.  Some of my favorites are:

“Oh, is it related to Zumba?” 

“You’re referring to that NEW dance, right?” 

“Yeah, I think I’ve seen it and it reminds me of high school dancing. Not much to it.” 

“Oh, I can’t do THAT, being glued to a partner that way?”

“It looks so simple.”

I laugh, not just at the reactions, but at how I can relate to them because, before I started learning kizomba myself, I’m sure some of those thoughts ran through my head as well.  But it didn’t take long for me to realize that there is so much more to the dance than what it appears to be from the outside.   In fact, all of those perceptions above disintegrate when the magic of the true kizomba takes a hold of you. 

Continue reading

Joan- “When I’m dancing, I am untouchable…I become a moment … that will only happen once.”

joan de los reyes.3jpgFrom the moment I met Joan at Danzaire Studio, I noticed a unique energy about her.  At first, it seemed like a kind of quiet, friendly, charisma on the outside.  But the more that we talked, the more I understood that there was an even bigger and ‘louder’ depth of character looming inside of her.  And boy was I right.  I soon learned that there was remarkable story of strength and resilience behind Joan and her dancing, a story of courage and inspiration that I am so honoured to be able to feature in the form of an interview here on Dance Me Free.

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Thank you VIS for connecting us even deeper to Celia Cruz and her music!

celia_cruz“You would give up your career if you lost your voice for good, or if the impresarios stopped calling, or the audiences stopped coming. But as long as those things are there, I don’t plan to stop. There is nothing that makes me feel better than to be with my public.”- Celia Cruz

Yesterday, I was running around trying to get too many things done, in what seemed like not enough time. And then I thought, what am thinking, heading downtown from North Vancouver during rush hour traffic to go see… a movie? Really?  The cars were at a standstill and my mind was telling me to turn back and just head home.  So I started slowing down but … I missed the first turn, and then couldn’t get myself to take the second for some reason.  It was as if something kept nudging me to keep going, even though I had no space to move forward to.  But somehow, I actually managed to get over to the Van City Theatre just in time to catch the screening of the Celia Cruz movie that the Vancouver International Salsafestival (VIS) were putting on. And boy, it was so worth the traffic I had to get through to get there.

What an inspiring way to start off the week of the festival.  Not only did the screening begin with an amazing promotional video for VIS- recapping some of the highlights of VIS over the past four years- but, I was blown away by the touching details about Cruz’s life and personality that I didn’t know before. Artists of many genres were commenting on the
legacy that Celia left behind.

Celia was described as “pure breath”, “born of rhythm,” and “possessing an energy that you couldn’t help but to be drawn to” by artists such as Quincy Jones, Eddie Torres, musicians connected to the Fania All Stars, and even modern artists such as Pitbull.  The way Celia captivated her audiences not just by her music, but also by her persona- her connection to people and her songs of happiness and positivity- shown in the movie, was a great reminder of how one person can have a huge influence on millions of people of all generations.

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Thank you VIS for continuing to give Celia an audience long after her life and passing on her legacy not just as an artist but as an inspiring woman in history.  This legendary artist lives on in many hearts all over the world, and I know that after what I learned from the movie last night, her music will carry an even deeper meaning to me and all those who came out to watch it and to dance a little before and after the screening!

Looking forward to more fantastic dancing, learning, and unforgettable memories this weekend at VIS!

Check out the site for tickets and schedules and the amazing line up of instructors and performers from all over the globe!  You don’t want to miss this.  It’s the last one!

Vancouver International Salsafestival

February 2nd- Lungleavin Day- Celebration of Life!

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This weekend coming up I’m excited to once again celebrate my birthday because it’s the one time when my friends from all different parts of my life gather together on one night in one place and get to know each other.  Plus, we get to catch up, have great food, enjoy awesome birthday cake, and hopefully, dance it up a bit because that is one of my favorite ways to celebrate anything!

But little did I know that the day of my birthday party- February 2nd (which falls one day before my actual birthday) is also the date of a new special ‘holiday’ that I had only heard about recently- a day that has such a heartfelt, touching story behind it that I believe it deserves to be shared with everyone out there.   It’s called Lungleavin Day. And I’m looking forward to adding it to the celebration I was already planning on the 2nd.

Though I have not met the creator -Heather- of Lungleavin Day in person, she contacted me with her story through the Dance Me Free site after being inspired by the posts she read.  Heather saw a connection between what she has gone through and the purpose of Dance Me Free and asked if she could share her story with all of you.

It is an honour for me to help Heather spread the word of her inspiring story of strength, courage and hope around a very serious medical condition she was faced with years ago and has so miraculously overcome.

Health and healing are a huge aspect of what makes up Dance Me Free. And I believe that Heather’s story, though not directly related to dance, represents the more metaphorical idea of stepping out on the dance floor of life, that our other posts discuss.  And that is an integral part of what Dance Me Free is all about.

So what is Lungleavin Day you ask?

Here is Heather’s email to me in which she describes the holiday and why this day deserves so much recognition:

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I am 44 and a mother to a quirky little 7 year old, Lily. She is my only child and I couldn’t overcome-fear (1)imagine my world without her. When Lily was just 3 ½ months old, I was diagnosed with Mesothelioma; a rare type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure, which kills 90-95% of those who have it.

After intense treatment and a long recovery, almost 7 years later I’m still here and cancer free! My journey through cancer was quite a terrifying one and I’d like to turn my struggles and obstacles into inspiration and hope for others. One of the many things that came out of my battle with cancer is a holiday I created called Lungleavin Day. This is the anniversary of my surgery (Feb 2nd) in which my entire left lung was removed.

breaking platesLungleavin Day is a celebration of life and facing your fears. Each year we celebrate with nearly 100 loved ones. The idea of this day is for everyone to fill a blank plate with their fears and smash it into a bonfire at my Lungleavin day party, symbolizing people throwing their fears to the fire. I also use Lungleavin day as a fundraiser for mesothelioma research.

I recently wrote on my blog about this holiday. (To read Heather’s blog, click here). 

I would love if you’d be willing to pass this on to others and give a shout out to Lungleavin day!

                                                                                                    – Heather

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I was so touched not just by Heather’s amazing story, but also by the way she shared it with such openness and honesty to someone out there she had never even met before.

You can bet that we will be thinking about you on the 2nd, Heather.  In fact, I have already shared this email with my friend Wendy and she is planning to hit a few thrift stores in the next couple of days to buy some old plates, because we are looking forward to smashing our fears on those plates on February 2nd as well!  It actually fits in very well with the original theme of my party- “It’s never too late to become what you might have been!”

Thank you for giving even greater significance to what was already going to be a big day for me on the 2nd. And thank you for trusting Dance Me Free to spread the word about your very important holiday.

Here’s to Lungleavin Day!  Mark your calendars – February 2nd- and help spread Heather’s  beautiful idea to celebrate life and all that she, and we, can overcome!