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.  

Interview With Vladimir Shmitsman- Part 2: Letting your energy be free

(To read Part 1 of the Interview, click here: Homeopathy recognizes the individual)

Herbal Essence Dropper

What do you think makes some people believe in natural medicine and homeopathy, while others just would never even want to try it?

It’s hard to tell.  Some people already find it easy to accept new concepts.  In the beginning, I thought maybe that comes from their level of education.  But I realized that that’s not the case.

For example, a couple of years ago, I had a patient.  She asked me to see her husband.  He’s a professor.

He had some insomnia case and lots of stress at work.  So she convinced him, after many years of bugging him, to come here and to give me a chance (smiles).

He came in and he asked me, “So, Vladmir, how does this work?”

And I tried to explain it to him. But what do you say?  Meridians? Chakras? How can someone believe in meridians and chakras if they are very scientific in their thinking?  He wanted scientific proof that he could see, but it doesn’t work that way.

That must have been hard.

Well, for him it was hard. And for me, it was very hard, because we don’t have scientific proof. So I understood why he wouldn’t believe it.  I tried my best to explain it to him.  And eventually, he told me “Vlad, I am sorry, if you don’t have proof, I can’t accept that. It must not exist.”  So, we just shook hands, and I never saw him again (smiles).

But a couple of months later, I get a janitor from the same university come in to my clinic.

She never heard about homeopathy.  But she said, I really don’t even care how it works (smiles).  My sister got better with it so I want to try it.

Haha! That’s brilliant! (laughs)   Continue reading

Interview With Vladimir Shmitsman- Part 1: Homeopathy recognizes the individual

“In homeopathy, the personality of the individual determines their prescription,.. because Homeopathy understands that every person is different.


Dr Shmitsman

I think some people might be surprised that you began your medical career with more conventional medicine.  

Yes.  In the beginning, I was a nurse.

I like that your grandma was one of the first to plant a seed for you very early on in terms of natural medicine.  

Yes.  She used to take me with her when she would pick plants and berries in the forest.  She was around me until I was 16 or 17 years old.  So it was a fair amount of time that I spent with her. (For more details about this story, please visit Dina’s Homeopathic)

And you had other people along the way who opened your eyes up to homeopathy?

Yes. It wasn’t just my grandmother’s influence that made me make my change from conventional medicine to homeopathy.

I finished nursing school, and then I went to the military for two years. The doctor who I worked with there was Russian Japanese.  That was a third generation of people who used to practise acupuncture.

For the first time in my life, I saw someone using acupuncture.  This man was a doctor in a hospital, but almost every day, I saw him treating different guys in the military using acupuncture.  He practised acupuncture as he felt he needed. 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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Choosing Music Over Meds

One man’s quest to retrain his brain- through movement and dance-to overcome a severe movement disorder. Federico Bitti suffers from dystonia, a disease that affects a person’s ability to control their muscles. He is using a new therapy involving neuroplasticity, and specific exercises to retrain the brain, which for Mr. Bitti, includes …DANCE!

It’s stories like these that keep Dance Me Free growing and remind me why the site was born in the first place. There is proof, all over the globe, of how Dance and Music really do heal. You’ve got to watch this one! Incredible! What an inspiration.

And Dance, you’ve done it again!

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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New Photo Feature- Marilou and Alessandra Quaglia!


“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!

Ryan2 - 2015
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.”

Continue reading