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.

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World Dance- by Ryan Morrissette

“My goal is

just to make

the whole world


~ Ryan Morisette



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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

Why Tango?- Interview with Gabriel El Huracan- Part 1


I am really impressed at how quickly it seems you have picked up tango and to such a high level. Do you feel that there is something about your life before tango which contributed to this?

For as long as I can remember, I was always more of a physical person.  I was into basketball and into movement in general.  I think if you’re an active person and just more physical in your life in general, you’re used to telling your body to move in certain ways.  You’re used to isolating certain parts of your body and just having more body awareness.  And this is really important, especially in tango.  So perhaps that gave me an ‘advantage’ in terms of learning tango quicker.

And you used to be a bartender before, right?  I think bartending is an art in itself.  A bartender friend of mine even described her job as a dance on some nights.  Do you see any parallels between your life as a bartender and the way you teach or dance now?

I never thought about it before, but probably the social skills I developed while being a bartender helped me with my teaching in some ways.   I mean, I was already used to expressing myself around many people, through bartending.  I was already dealing with so many different types of personalities on a daily basis and in a very busy environment. And I was used to keeping people entertained with humor and stories, and learning how to read what people wanted. It also got me into the habit of navigating around a room full of people. 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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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)


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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Intro to Interview with Josué Joseph, La Época- Of the Time,… But Also Transcending Time

IMG_8595-2No hay que llorar; el tiempo pasará, tú verás.

(There’s no reason to cry; the time will pass, you’ll see.)

Podrás abrasarme de nuevo, tú veras.

(You’ll be able to hug me again, you’ll see.)

Que no hay que llorar! Que conmigo estarás de nuevo!

(That there’s no reason to cry! That you’ll be with me, again!)

Que podrás adorarme de nuevo! Yo se que no me olvidarás!

(That you’ll be able to adore me, again! I know that you won’t forget me!)

Each of these lines is written in aqua blue across my bathroom, hallway and closet mirrors. The words are the lyrics to the song Verás, which I was introduced to in a live performance at the 1st Vancouver Mini Congress this fall. I don’t remember ever making it to the early parts of any dance congresses before. I usually like to save my energy for hanging out with friends and then social dancing later. Yet, something that weekend compelled me to skip out on a good friend’s pre-party and show up early for a film being shown at the congress instead.

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A Heart to Heart With Charles Ogar

charles10“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.

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