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.
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: 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?
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.
Note: Jessica is based out of New York, but she travels to many different Zouk Congresses and Festivals throughout the world.
Excerpt taken directly from the original article-
Making Dance/Movement Therapy the Therapy of Choice for Autism Spectrum Disorder By Danielle Fraenkel:
“Phillip Martin-Nelson, principal dancer of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, who was diagnosed with severe autism, credits ballet with saving his life. Similarly, dance classes have been a driving force for Leon*, a 15 year old, high functioning, home schooled male, diagnosed as a young child, with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
Here is the link to see the original article in its entirety from its original source- The American Dance Therapy Association:
You’ve got to read this in depth article about the power of Dance to ward off certain diseases. This is an excerpt taken directly from
Thinking on Your Feet: Dancing Wards off Neurodegenerative Disease By Rewiring the Brain by Lizette Boreli
(Please note that the photo is directly from the original article as well. I have literally copied and pasted the link and photo because it is a must read and I just want to promote the page and message. I am in no way claiming any of this one article or photo to be mine).
“Strengthening Muscle Memory
Dancing improves brain function on a variety of levels. For one, our muscle memory allows us to learn how to perform a dance without thinking about the steps. According to neuroscientist Daniel Glaser, this happens because “the movements become thoroughly mapped in the brain, creating a shorthand between thinking and doing,” he told The New York Times.
In other words, we memorize how to do things so efficiently that they require no conscious effort. In dance, this is done by constantly repeating movements, which are practiced to the point that they can be performed automatically.
Although muscle memory can’t really distinguish a correct movement from a wrong one, some research suggests the endorphins released after performing a successful move cause the brain to store it as the correct way of moving — a process that constantly rewires the brain’s neural pathways.”- by Lizette Boreli
Click here to read this article in full from its original source- The Daily Medical:
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!
No 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.
DANCING WITH CYSTIC FIBROSIS
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.”
“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.
Over 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