How Salsa Got Me In Touch With The Wood Element of Chinese Medicine and the Root Chakra

Photo by Daniel Watson on Pexels.com

Dance moves energy within and around us, with the potential to make space for healing and happiness.

I’ve been learning a lot about different energy systems and the important role they have in our overall healthy and happiness. I have realized how various dances really bring out aspects of these systems because dance itself is energy in motion. It moves energy within and around us, allowing us to make space for healing to happen.

I’ve decided to write a series of articles dedicated to particular dances I’ve experienced and which energy systems they highlight for me and reconnect me to.

This one is about Salsa.

The Root Chakra

Salsa was the first dance I really invested time and energy into. From taking group and private lessons, attending workshops and festivals, learning from international instructors, and going out social dancing on real dance floors, it became a regular part of my life. It was also the first dance where I experienced what it felt like to become part of a dance community.

Because of this I associated salsa with a sense of belonging and the building of a strong foundation.

Salsa was where I first learned about connection, timing, and lead-follow techniques like moving from the core, or prepping a turn, or knowing where your weight is.

Through this dance, I became aware that I even had weight. I was fascinated by how I could feel a great deal ‘lighter’ or ‘heavier’ depending on how I held myself. Was I pushing down on my partner too much, or were my arms noodle like and disconnected from my body? Was I accurately matching the pressure or connection that my partner was giving? And was I engaging the appropriate parts of my body to feel these changes? I never asked myself these question before, but once salsa had me looking into them more, I couldn’t go back. It became something I could take notice of and change whenever I wanted.

Continue reading

Interview With Rod McRae- Nothing Can Stop This Man From Dancing

Rod McRae and Melissa “Birdie Bird” Patterson- Hallowe’en Party

How long have you been dancing?

My first reaction is to be a little circumspect regarding my age. However, one look in the mirror decided my answer: 70 years on and off.

Wow! That’s amazing. I hope I get to say taht one day! I say flaunt it, rather than hide it.

You started dancing at an early age in public school, right? How did that come about?

Well, I am from Saskatchewan. And physical exercise in a Saskatchewan winter wasn’t easily done. Plus, the little three-room school I attended did not have any such thing as a gymnasium. So, a few desks were pushed back and our teacher, Miss Broadfoot, began teaching us the basic dances of the time: Foxtrot, Two-step, Polka, Waltz, Schottische, and some Square Dance.

I am so jealous! Maybe I would have actually liked P.E in school if I had had that kind of class and teacher.  

Well, the community where I was in Saskatchewan was so small it didn’t qualify as a town or village, but as a hamlet. And the community dances drew from the farms in the district.

That’s such a great reminder- how the community we are around influences the kinds of cultural and artistic activities we are exposed to.  

I’m curious if there was any stigma around dancing as a boy at that time.

Well, when these dances occurred, mostly during warmer weather, my ability to do a bit of dancing stood me in good stead, as many of the men usually visited together outside having a drink, leaving their wives/daughters/girlfriends in the townhall for me to dance with.

Haha. They had no idea what they were missing. And how perfect for you!

Continue reading

Age Doesn’t Bring Us Down, It Brings Us Deep. And Dance is the Elixir!

My birthday weekend just passed, and I feel younger and more alive than I did in my twenties. “What’s your secret?” I’ve been asked many times, especially over the past few days.

I have three ‘easy’ answers.

1. My beautiful mom who taught me to walk this earth with simplicity, courage, and authenticity. That kind of beauty radiates from the inside out, and no one can diminish its brightness. Age can actually brighten it.

2. Dancing. Someone reminded me today that it’s not just the physical act of dancing- although that is a huge part of it.

But it’s also how much dance taught me, and continues to teach me, about myself- my body, my intuition, my spirit, my connection to all that’s around me, and how to tap into my greatness and life force energy.

That energy is electric, making Dancing a fountain of youth for our minds, bodies and spirits.

I am so blessed to have it and my mom’s spirit making me better and brighter with age, not dulled or diminished.

and

3. Recognizing that we have been conditioned to believe that aging brings us down and deteriorates us.

Age doesn’t bring us down, it brings us deep. It gives us dimension, character, grace, and wisdom. It is up to us- how we choose to use that and perceive it.

And what you believe, you will see and achieve. So choose your beliefs wisely. Ignore the ones that don’t serve you in reaching your highest potential.

Dance, Dream, and Desire at any age. Don’t let anyone – not even a silly number or wrinkles- stop you. They are just character lines. Proof that you have laughed and loved, expressed and indulged.

I don’t know about you, but I plan to indulge more and more each year, unapologetically. I am actually pretty proud of this self-indulgent girl.

She has finally learned how to give to herself. Dance has helped me see my worth. My much needed presence and energy in this world.

You are much needed here as well. Let’s own it. And celebrate this life, each year, instead of fearing it.

#DanceMeFree#LailasDaughter#TasleemLaila#BirthdayBeauty#Blessed#MySecret#DanceKeepsUsYoung

If I Had My Life to Live Over- Julia Maria Riehle’s Kitchen Dance Version

Poet-Julia Maria Riehle- Stuttgart, Germany

If I had my life to live over I would allow myself to be loved. To feel someone’s heartbeat at night and have crazy kitchen dances in the morning.

If I had my life to live over I would sing songs out loudly and dance through the streets. I would roll down the windows and scream out the lyrics.

I would go up on stage and bring on the karaoke show. Who cares how I’d be singing because at least I’d be brave in my living!

If I had my life to live over I would be less cautious. I would just go for it, just do it. I would worry less, knowing that no matter what happens, it would be worse not to have tried at all.

If I had my life to live over I would read more books. I would read more poems, maybe even share my own. And I would pick more daisies for my flower crown.

If I had my life to live over. ~by Julia Maria Riehle

(inspired by the orignal by Nadine Stair)

Every year, instead of coming up with New Year’s resolutions, I write an “If I Had My Life to Live Over” poem, inspired by the original by Nadine Stair. This year, I am so thrilled to be able to share Julia’s instead!

From what I have read, the orignal by Nadine Stair was written years ago when Nadine was in her mid 80’s. Although it is beautiful and touching, it made me quite sad as it lays out her regrets of not living life as fully, courageously, and as daringly as she would have liked.

I decided I didn’t want to have such regrets, so I grabbed a pen and paper, and used that line If I Had My Life to Live Over repeatedly on the page to find out what my soul was yearning for. What did I still want to do but was scared of? What was I aching to try but wasn’t sure how or whether I was capable? Instead of it being a sorrowful list of what I hadn’t accomplished, what came out of it was an uncovering of my deepest dreams and desires.

That actually became the catalyst to making those wishes come true for that year. It became a map for how I was going to show up in my life. The funny thing is that I didn’t even have to try. It was like the mere act of writing down my version of the poem allowed the Universe to hear it, and know I meant it and was ready. And I was amazed at how it brought me the exact opportunities and people to fulfill the dreams. All I had to do was let it.

I have been doing this for over ten years now, also inviting others to do the same. And I was so excited when this year, one of my Youtube subscribers who lives all the way out in Stuttgart, Germany decided to try the exercise, and shared her poem! She was so brave and vulnerable in her words, and I loved her reference to dance and expression in it. I knew it was perfect for the blog. And I couldn’t help to share it here.

Thank you, Julia, for such an inspiring piece. You’re right- how amazing it is that Nadine Stair’s poem, written so many years ago, connected us. And now, even though I haven’t even met you in person, you have already inspired me so much.

More proof of the power of the arts- the power or expression and connection- which is exactly what Dance Me Free is about.

To see the original poem by Nadine Stair, click here: If I Had My Life to Live Over by Nadine Stair

To see the original Youtube video where I share about this exercise and how to write your own If I Had My Life to Live Poem, click here: Forget Resolutions. Do This Instead

How Dance Revealed to Me My Own Infidelity

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

After taking dance classes for awhile, although I was enjoying them, I felt like I was missing something. How were others getting to such high levels in such short periods of time? Some were joining performance teams or even becoming instructors, while I was still piling up class after class, month after month, and not feeling like I had a lot to show for it. Sometimes, I felt more like I was falling behind than getting ahead.

What was the secret?

I decided to just ask. I approached some of the girls who I was envious of on the dance floor. I asked where they learned or what they did to improve. I wanted to find out who they had taken lessons from and what kinds of practise they would recommend. I guess you could say I was searching for the ‘magic formula.’

But it seemed there was none. Nada. In fact, their responses disheartened instead of encouraged me: “Oh, I just took a few lessons, and then figured it out for myself,” said one girl who looked like a rockstar on the dance floor. Or “I never took lessons, I just picked it up going social dancing.” I wanted to curl up into a ball and hide after that one. And then the final doozy was, “Girl, I’m a natural. It’s in my blood being Latina and all. You either got it or you don’t.”

I guess that meant I didn’t, I concluded.

I should have given up at that point. I mean, all the time and money I had already put into this, maybe I should just pack it in instead of wasting more. But I couldn’t bring myself to stop, to stop wanting it, to stop thinking about it, and to stop going out to the salsa clubs that brought me so much joy. Even though I was getting frustrated with my own dancing, when I would hear the music, and watch all the bodies on the dance floor interpreting it in their own unique ways, moving body parts that I didn’t even know could be moved, I felt so alive.

I wanted more of it. But I wanted to be IN it more, to be a part of it. To be one of them. Not just an observer, but to feel what they were feeling. To be one of the ones that outsiders like me were oohing and ahhing over. To be the one who inspired others to want to dance too. But how?

Despite not knowing the answer, I would still show up and put on my sparkly salsa heels, … just in case…

Continue reading

What Each Dance Brings to Me, Especially In Relation to The Five Elements

I tend to go through seasons of different dances, and sometimes wondered if there was something wrong with me. Why couldn’t I just stick to one dance?

And when people would ask me which was my favourite, I’d have troube answering that question. All the dances- from salsa, to bachata, to tango, to kizomba, to zouk- seemed to bring me something different, but I couldn’t explain what exactly. Until… I heard about the Five Elements of Chinese Medicine. And voila! Just like that, I got my answer. See, the Five Elements- are within all of us, but we are dominant in some, and have different amounts of them within us. Sometimes, they are in balance, and sometimes, they are very out of balance or craving a little bit of a less dominant element for a little while.

I realised that different dances were helping me tap into different elements that were undernourished, or needed revitalizing.

And learning about this system through two beautiful bellydancers- Dondhi and Titanya Dahlin really got me excited to share with you these wonderful insights.

Do you tend to stick to one dance? Or are you a dance dabbler like me?What do you think you get from different dances? And does your choosing them depend on your mood, who you’re with, the city you’re in, or even the DJ who might be spinning that night?


I’d love to hear your comments about this, and any of the elements you might resonate with. I will be giving a brief description of them at the start of the video. But you can always find out more details about this fascinating personality and health system through Dondi Dahlin’s book simply called The Five Elements.

Click on the link below to get into the Youtube Channel and then choose the video with the same title as this blog post:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX_K65HYLIlJWuwSBWGv6rw

The Milonga Mystery

(I do not claim to own this picture. Photographer and source unknown).

I was watching the movie I Feel Pretty the other night. And the main character Renee, played by the hilarious Amy Shumer, was complaining to her girlfriends about online dating. She was emphasizing how the guys only look at the pictures, and so if you’re not pretty in the guys’ eyes, they skip right past you.

She was so passionate in her monologue at that point. Her friends laughed, but you could also feel the hurt she had been holding in for so long, needing to get out. And it was how she ended it that rung inside me over and over: “And you didn’t even want to go out with this guy in the first place. But he’s rejecting you and it’s not fair. I’m sick of it.”

I know that feeling, I thought. But not because of online dating. Because of tango, and not because of the dance itself, but because of my experience of going out to some of the Vancouver milongas in particular.

Okay, I can’t believe I said that out loud, or wrote it out loud, but I am kind of relieved, because like Amy Shumer’s character, I’ve been keeping this inside for way too long. Maybe some of you tangueros out there will be shocked or disagree with my thoughts. But maybe, or I’m thinking most likely, there are people out there who can relate to this. More than they care to admit. So I am admitting it for all of us.

Continue reading

French Flows Like a Dance- Interview with Oceane- French Teacher

Oceane2

Which part of France are you from?

I am from a small city in the North of France called Saint Amand les Eaux, close to Lille.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a French teacher?

It’s funny actually how teaching became my life purpose without me even noticing. My mom was a teacher, and I originally never wanted to become one, as I was seeing all the drawbacks of the job. But when I was 16, I became a French and Mathematics tutor for the younger kids of my neighborhood.

Then, when I was 20, I became a diving instructor as I was completely in love with scuba diving (and still am).  I wanted to transmit my love for this amazing activity to the greatest number of people I could. And teaching was a great way to do so.

After that, when I arrived in Vancouver in 2016, I started my business of teaching French classes online and on-site. I could see there was a big love for the French culture on the West Coast, and it was quite inspiring to help lead and support that. Continue reading

Interview with Anya Grace- on Diving Deep, Surrender, and Freedom

When I first heard Anya Grace speak on YouTube, I felt her authenticity and passion come through right away. She was sharing her insights on the dynamics between men and women in a way that really impacted my view of relationships- not just the romantic kind, but also relationships with friends and family, with our surroundings, but especially with ourselves.

I then listened to a series of ten interviews she conducted with coaches and speakers who shared their expertise on various subjects around love, healing, abundance, the power of our beliefs, and manifestation. I was blown away by the profound knowledge and vulnerability imparted in those interviews. I thought “Others need to hear this!”

I couldn’t help but to reach out to ask Anya to share more of her wisdom with the Dance Me Free community. It is an honor to feature Anya Grace, spiritual mentor and feminine energy coach, in this interview below. 

anya-130

I was really impressed by the interviews from your Elevated Woman series.  What values do you think all the speakers you chose shared? They seemed have a connection in their messages.

I think what you’re feeling is my intention of diving deeper in the interviews. Part of our power and beauty as women is really in our depth – the deeper feelings, the deeper insights, the deeper wisdom we hold.

We’re living in a culture and society where things are very superficial. The superficial exterior has been what’s valued. But that’s only about ten percent of our power as women. I want women to understand, and tap into, the other ninety percent. Once we start going into that ninety percent, we really unplug from the masculine paradigm that’s draining our power.

Why is this important?

When you have that intention, as an individual, to open to that depth within yourself, and you unapologetically bring that depth into your relationships and conversations, other people will go there. I always say that the Elevated Woman is an activator and initiator for higher potential on the planet. Part of that higher potential is this depth- going deeper, really connecting at a heart level, not just a superficial mental level. And that’s when we really access feminine power. Continue reading

Interview With Kathana- Born to Make Music!

Kathana1.jpg

Your artist name- Kathana- is very unique. Where did it come from?

My mom originally wanted to name me Kathana because she wanted to honor my great-great grandmother Katherine and my grandmother Anna. My dad didn’t like Kathana as a name in everyday life. So I used it as a stage name instead.

That’s beautiful. From what I’ve read, you started music from a young age. Which instruments do you play?

I started singing at a very young age. My mom says I was singing ever since I could talk. I would go around the house singing “do do do do,” making up my own little melodies. I picked up the guitar and piano around the time I was in middle school, and just started playing by ear.

Wow! That’s amazing.  Do you have a favorite instrument?

Aside from my voice, it is hard to choose a favorite instrument. The piano is very calming to me and gives me a lot of creative freedom. It best allows me play what I’m feeling, and it’s therapeutic. With the acoustic guitar, overall, I just love the warm sound of it. I do a lot of my songwriting with the acoustic guitar.

How do songwriting classes help you?

They challenge me to approach songwriting from different ways that I had never previously thought about. I used to get stuck with writing songs when I didn’t have the inspiration first. My habit has always been to write a song in the very moment I found inspiration, which I still do. But now, I am able to write songs more consistently, using the tools I learned through class.

You are a beautiful songwriter.  Do you have a particular way you approach your own writing? For example, do you start with melody or lyrics first?  Or is your process of songwriting always different?

Kathana4.JPGMy songwriting method varies. Sometimes, I’ll hear a melody in my head, so I’ll record it on my phone and put words to it later. Other times, I’ll just think of, or say, a phrase and realize it would work well as a lyric so I’ll write it down. I’ve also stumbled across great sounding chord progressions when just freely playing on the piano, and decided to find lyrics to fit to them. Sometimes I’ll journal how I’m feeling, especially in very emotional situations, and then I’ll pick apart my journal entry to find lyrical content. Continue reading