Interview With Nipa Rassam- Dance= Connection. Conversation. And it’s Contagious!

Nipa4What got you into dance?

I was always interested in dancing in general. And partner dancing came along for me about fifteen years ago.  A friend asked me to go to a salsa night. I had no idea what to expect.  We took the lesson. I thought it was pretty intense. I didn’t know what to do.  And after that, the floor opened up for social dancing.  I saw people were dancing together in a way that looked as if they already knew each other, like they were actually couples.  But then when they finished the dance, they said thank you and then went their separate ways.  And I thought how did that happen? How do they know how to dance with each other, without knowing each other? How do they know when to turn and what to do?  That was my first exposure to partner dancing. And so I wanted to learn. Continue reading

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Kizom-what? – Part 2

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 “Afrieddy vents2can 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.

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Kizom-what?- An interview with Eddy Vents- Part 1

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. 

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Photo Feature #2- Nicole Chan, Carlos Molina, and Elina Sumichan

It is my pleasure to share a special photo feature this month involving three fellow dancers and friends from our very own Vancouver dance community!  

Carlos Molina and Nicole Chan are captured here in a beautiful moment of dance by photographer and dancer Elina Sumichan.  The photo was taken at a recent event in Vancouver called Kizomba Temptation.  Thank you Elina for hosting and organizing such a magical night, and special thanks to Nelda Sumichan for providing us with such an elegant, intimate venue in which to get our Kizomba dance on!  It definitely proved to be a great night of mingling, music, and fun memories.   I am thrilled to be able to share one of those moments here as Elina’s shot of Carlos and Nicole will be our new header photo for this season. 

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VIS 2013- The Finale- The question is no longer WILL YOU BE THERE? It’s WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO BE ANYWHERE ELSE?

The Vancouver International Salsafestival (VIS) has easily been one of the most successful, fastest growing, and not to mention hottest dance events to hit Vancouver.  In the few years that it has been running, it has drawn many of the top Latin dance performers, artists, and instructors from around the world.  Moreover, the attendees of the festival come from a range of cities just to dance and learn and socialize with other fellow dance addicts.  The connections that are made between all the dancers just leaves everyone ‘wanting more’- as one of the first VIS slogans so appropriately described it.

So when I heard that next year was going to be the last of the VIS, I was completely surprised.  I couldn’t believe that such an incredible event was soon to be coming to an end.  But when the creator of the event- Cheyenne Kamran- began explaining the reasoning behind the decision, I definitely could appreciate and admire his conviction to maintain the quality of the event.  And I thought it important share his thoughts with others through this interview.  It was great to hear Cheyenne reminisce on the memories he holds of VIS but also to see the utter excitement he feels for the next and final year!  “Make no mistake,” says Cheyenne, “this year will be the craziest most epic event anyone has ever experienced. Because guess what? There is no next year!”

And that’s why it’s easy for me to say that you just all got to be there!

People have often told me they are shocked when they meet you because you’re so young.  It’s impressive that someone your age began what has turned into such a huge and successful event.  How DID the idea come about for you for VIS?

Cheyenne: Oh my God (laughs).  Okay. Well, to back up a bit, I was about twenty one when I tried out salsa at UBC.  But at the same time, I was playing a lot of soccer so I didn’t really have time to dance salsa.  And then, at one of the soccer games, I tore my ACL and I had to have surgery.  And the doctors told me not to play soccer anymore.  And for some reason, I thought that dancing would be easier on my knees (laughs). So I started taking classes, and I just fell in love with the dance.  By then, I was a twenty-two year old kid excited about the dance and I wanted to DO something more with it.   And for me, call it a weakness or a strength, I’m not sure, but when I get excited about something, I’ll take action on it, you know?

So the more I got into dancing, the more I wanted to put on salsa events.  So we started with smaller events first with about eighty people attending, and then it kind of grew from there.

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Life’s intricate connection… in reference to Kizomba

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“Chaotic, kizomba may seem to the spectator, just like the Chaos Theory is to those who don’t understand life’s intricate connection. Chaos is the domain where instability is the rule, the absence of predictable patterns and connections. But the elements of existence, things that some people view as chaos actually follow the inconspicuous laws of the universe…the function of music, in this case kizomba is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought, to release the self, the seemingly isolated solid individual into the connective vibration of the heart.  Dancing kizomba with the feet might be magnificent, but dancing with the heart is an enlightening spiritual experience.

Nietzsche couldn’t have said it better, ‘You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.’ “
-Antonio Vega

Dance is a language

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I love dance, because dance is a language that I can reach the other side of people with.  Because I’m talking to you right now, but your brain is processing many things; it’s thinking.   But with dancing – when you watch someone dance, they’re talking to you, but they are talking through movement.  It’s a language that is so subtle, it’s so smooth and it’s so delicate.  And your heart can reach into it or it can reach your heart.  You can watch people dancing and it can make you cry, because they are talking to you; the dance is talking to you. They are telling you a story with movement.  So for me, dance is another kind of freedom.  It’s about living in a much deeper way instead of living in a superficial way.  That is SO important for me, because in this way, through dance, I can reach a world that we are not really able to reach when we are in our normal, everyday life.-  Kwenda Lima

Kizom-what? (an excerpt)

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?”

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.  The small, subtle movements, as well as the close connection, require a control and sensitivity, as well as a trust and surrender that are not as easily attained as one might think.  And as far as the “newness” of the dance, tell that to the kizombeiros and kizombeiras, as they are properly referred to, who have grown up with the dance in their families for years!   What makes it ‘new’ to us is our lack of familiarity with the dance in this part of the world.   But to the dancers in areas of Angola, West Africa, where the dance originated, as well in Portugal, where kizomba later spread, kizomba has a history. It is not just this dance that we have come to have a fascination for most recently.  It goes back much further with roots from dances that a lot of us here have never even heard of.

That must have been why it didn’t sit right with me one day when I heard an organizer of a dance studio refer to kizomba as simply ‘African tango’.   A couple had walked into the studio inquiring as to what was going on that night.  And after seeing a sign for a kizomba social, they asked, “What is kizomba?”  Of course, I understood that the organizer was trying to give the couple something that they were more familiar with to relate to, in order to picture this ‘mystery’ dance in their mind.  And having danced some tango myself, I could see some of the tango nuances that were often used by kizombeiros in the dance.  But I also knew kizomba was not tango and that not all kizomba dances had tango elements in them.  I definitely did not have all the answers. In fact, I had very few.  But knowing how kizomba had affected me very deeply in such a short period of time, I felt like it deserved to be recognized for what it truly is.   Kizomba made me feel so alive, in a way that was different to anything else I had experienced before.  So I knew it had to have a life blood of its own, an identity, a history, and an essence that was individual.   I was touched that kizomba had invited me in, embraced me, welcomed me with open arms and heart, without even having known me.  And so, I felt I owed it to kizomba, to get to know it, not for what it might resemble, or what people might guess it to be. But for what it really is.  I wanted to learn its story, and help share it, because with every dance, I could hear it whispering that it had a story worth telling. And the whispering just seemed to get louder the further I was drawn in.

But in order to tell the story accurately, I needed to find someone who had years of experience in it, someone who had a deep understanding of kizomba and who knew it well.

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To read the original, full article, including answers to the questions posed above through my in-depth interview with the amazing Kizombeiro Eddy Vents, please visit Industry Dance Magazine by clicking on the following link: Kizom-what?

Kwenda Lima- “To me, dance is a kind of freedom”

“To be honest, I have never seen you dance.  But what I heard you say in a youtube interview- not just about dance, but about Art and life-  told me everything I needed to know to assure me that I would be learning from a great teacher.”

That was part of the email I sent to Kwenda Lima before I met him and just after I booked a flight to San Francisco to take his workshops. 

As I explained to Kwenda, for the past few years, I have been writing about the power of dance to inspire, to strengthen, and to heal.  But I knew I was missing something – someone who could speak deeply about the spirituality aspect of dancing- someone who lived and breathed it.  And I knew instantly- I felt it through his energy actually- that Kwenda would be one of those people.

And I was right.  Not only did he respond very quickly to my message with a few heartfelt words of his own, but he made sure to keep his word by making time, in the middle of his workshops, to discuss with me some of the issues around health, dance and teaching that I had brought up in my email.

Insights into how to live a fuller life were cleverly woven into, and sometimes just outwardly stated, in Kwenda’s teachings during that weekend.  The kizomba movements and exercises we learned were just one aspect of the lessons.  There was such emotion and purpose in every one of Kwenda’s actions, including the moments where he just fell silent.  It was hard not to be captivated by this man’s spirit. 

And for those of us who stayed until the last workshop—when Kwenda

introduced us to Kaizen dance- we went from jumping in utter happiness, holding hands in gratitude, laying on each other’s shoulders in a clump of bodies on the floor, letting our tongues hang out, freeing our inner child, and forming a tight spiral around Kwenda, which reminded me of his belief that we are all in fact one. But it was the final exercise about forgiveness that seemed to have been the most impactful for some. Every single person in that room was moved to tears from it.  But it felt more like a long awaited, giant, collective exhale, a letting go of something heavy, rather than tears of sorrow.  We may not forever remember all the details of the dance steps learned that weekend, but I am sure the depth of feeling through dance that Kwenda left us with, will remain with us for a long time.

Thank you Kwenda, for proving my instincts right, and being that great teacher I felt you would be. And special thanks to Emile Carter for doing an amazing job in organizing Kwenda’s first visit to the U.S. 

The beads on your hand – around your wrist and fingers- are they spiritual or religious or have any particular significance?  You wear them all the time, it seems.

Yes, I wear this all the time (skims his fingers over the beads).  It is a spiritual thing. And it’s something very personal for me.  It reminds me of things that are important to me.

I was curious about that because you have this spirituality about you which was evident well before I met you.  I could feel it even when just watching you in another interview on the internet.  Where do you think that spirituality comes from?

It’s a mix of everything, actually, but it’s not a cultural thing or anything like that.  I would say it comes from my ‘education’.  When I talk about education, I am referring to my parents, I’m talking about my friends, I’m talking about the books I came across, I’m talking about the movies I’ve seen, I’m talking about the situations that I went through.  For me, that is my education.  And it is what has taken me to where I am now.

Have you always been that way? That depth that you convey- has it always been there? Or did something happen in your life to instil that in you so strongly?

As I said, it’s a mix of everything.  Nothing happened to make me change suddenly.  But I’ve always behaved in a different way, even when I was a child. I was different.  My friends would always say to me “You’re complicated,” or, “You’re different”.  They would say, “Okay, you’re talking too much,” or something like that (smiles).  I was the kind of child that would spend a lot of time in my room alone.  And so all of those things- EVERYTHING that surrounds you- of course, will kind of guide you to what you’re supposed to do.  That’s what I believe.

I believe there is a mission for each of us, something we are meant to do.  So probably, those things- the people, the books- those situations, were taking me to where I’m supposed to be, what I’m supposed to do.

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