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
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 “African 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.
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.
From 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.
“Those who say it cannot be done shouldn’t interrupt the people doing it.”
– Chinese Proverb
This is definitely one of my favourite quotes because it continues to remind me of the power of our own inner strength, despite the obstacles we might face. But what I love the most is meeting people who prove to be amazing examples of this- those individuals who, because of their own will, passion, and courage, manage to go beyond what they might normally be thought capable of doing, and then often inspire others to do the same.
Little did I know that one of these individuals, who I had the pleasure of meeting recently, would be a young teen- Ryan Morrissette. Ryan, a member of the hip hop crew Freshh, is a talented, charismatic dancer whose energy is well, … contagious, to say the least. His hard hits, quick and clean moves, and overall enthusiasm on stage definitely draw the attention of his audiences. But even off stage, Ryan seems to often be found smiling and sharing a positivity with friends and strangers alike that is truly refreshing. So when I heard that this young dancer has been dealing with a serious health condition since the age of two, I couldn’t believe it. You’d just never know that Ryan has Cystic Fibrosis if you saw him out there – the way he always seems to be giving it his all- whether on stage dancing, or co-emceeing and event, or just hanging out with his friends.
But that’s what Ryan does- he gives his utmost to this passion he has for dance, and to life in many ways, it seems. In fact, rather than letting CF stop him from pursuing his love of dance, Ryan uses dance as a way to heal his condition and to reach others out there to remind them to live life to the fullest. “I wasn’t supposed to be able to do a lot of cardiovascular exercise,” says Ryan. But if you saw him out there, training, leaping, doing flips and tricks- well, Ryan has pushed through many physical obstacles that might otherwise cause another person in his shoes to not even attempt any of it. And that kind of perseverance is extraordinary . Continue reading
Part 1: “Dancing has really taken me to a place of healing that I never imagined.”- Yesenia Peralta
Yesenia Peralta has always been one of those dancers who really stood out to me because of her flavor and natural movement both in her social dancing and stage performances. But her talent as a dancer has come to mean even more to me after getting to know Yesenia on a more personal level over the past few months. Through an in-depth interview with Yesenia, first conducted in July of this year,* I learned what a strong, courageous and fun loving woman lies within this dancer, this individual. Most of all, I was touched and deeply inspired by the passion for living that Yesenia shows off the dance floor as much as, if not more than, she has demonstrated in her years on the dance floor.
It is an honor to help her, through this interview, to share for the first time Yesenia’s story about her recent diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis (MS,) and how it has affected her perspective and growth in many areas of her life. Thank you, Yesenia, for trusting me to help send your message out to all the people out there who want to know how you’re doing. I know you will continue to inspire others with your positivity and charisma wherever you go. You have definitely had a huge impact on my life from just a few months of knowing you.
*Note: This interview was conducted on July 23rd, 2012; therefore, any reference to time and location is reflective of Yesenia’s experiences up to that date.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Yesenia, especially with everything you’re going through right now.
That’s okay, girl. Like I wrote to you, la gente estan pendiente (laughs)
(Translation: the people are waiting, they are waiting to find out what is happening with me)
People know I’m sick but they don’t understand what’s going on and what my mission is in my head. But this is my moment to talk a little more personally about myself. And even though you might be asking me questions about dance here, this interview is still different than others in the past. Every interview I’ve ever done before has always been about ‘what’s next’. People are always concentrating on what is GOING to come- “Oh, when is your school going to be opening up? When is your dance company going to perform?” they always ask. It’s always about what I am GOING to be doing.
But this time, it’s a little different, you know? This is the first time I’m doing an interview since I’ve been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. And, to be honest, at first, I wasn’t interested in talking on a personal level to anyone. Three weeks ago, I would not have done this interview. A month ago, I would not have done this interview because I hadn’t found ‘my place’ yet, you know? (*see reference note at the start of the interview)
Part 3: “EVERYONE- the world- is helping me through this. You guys are my strength.”- Yesenia Peralta
I found out about your health condition when your brother sent me an invite to the fundraiser that was put on for you earlier this year. I was shocked. I had no idea you were even suffering through anything, let alone multiple sclerosis. How did the diagnosis come about for you?
In 2007, I had tingling in my arms and my legs. And the tingling got worse. I went to Singapore with my brother, but I wasn’t being very social there, and I wasn’t dancing as much as I used to. I didn’t know why, but I just wasn’t feeling good. When I came back from Singapore, it got worse. It went from my hands to my arms and to my legs. The tingling got so bad that I couldn’t unbuckle my belt, I couldn’t brush my hair, and I couldn’t write the receipts for my students. Eventually, I couldn’t teach!
I had to go to three different hospitals before I got admitted because nobody could figure out what was going on. So I finally get admitted and they released me five days later, without telling me what was wrong, because they said they didn’t know. And because I didn’t have insurance, they couldn’t continue to just keep me there. So they let me go. And then little by little, I got better, so I just thought, “Oh, it’s gone. All right. Back to work!” I opened up another school and didn’t think twice about what had happened.
Then, in 2010, I get this feeling again- tingling, numbness, and all that stuff. And then finally, I got diagnosed in August of that year. But when we finally saw the paperwork from 2007, it said ‘possible Multiple Sclerosis’ on it! 2007! Why couldn’t the doctors have just mentioned that word to me then? But no, they didn’t. And that’s how I found out three years later.