“…But those unheard are sweeter”

Heard melodies are sweet,

but those unheard are sweeter.”

~John Keats

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Recently, I saw this quote from Ode to a Grecian Urn tattooed on a girl’s back shoulder.  I am glad there was a huge treble clef attached to it, which drew my attention to the words.

So many memories of English Literature class, and falling in love with Romantic poets were brought back to me in that moment. And Professor Lee Johnson, my favorite professor, who instilled such a passion for poetry and words in me, even though I was actually in sciences at that time.

Those words meant something in particular to me at that time, according to what was going on in my life then. I wasn’t dancing, and I definitely wasn’t singing when I first read those poets and Keats’ ode.  But I understood and got a taste of those “unheard melodies” in the form of pauses and breaths in the middle of certain sentences or poetry lines.  Writing and reading took on this whole other sensation for me because of this.   So did fine art, as I would notice not just the strokes and colours on the canvases I painted or drew on, but also the negative space within those creations.  I could see the beauty of the “unheard” melodies in the artwork I studied in art history classes as well. To me, they were the spots that the artist chose to purposely leave blank.   The blank spaces often said as much, if not more, than the ones full of swirling brushstrokes.

It’s amazing how now, the words take on another layer because of these newer passions of mine, especially dance.

Because it is the breaths and pauses in dancing and singing that I live for the most in these disciplines.  Very often, we concentrate on the hits, the strong beats, the parts in the music where your feet want to step the loudest or strongest.  But when someone breathes with me at the beginning of a dance, or when suddenly, there is a pause in the music, and we stop together to take in that moment, that’s what makes the hits and sharper, quicker movements so memorable.

It’s also what gives me goosebumps- those “unheard” melodies in between the musical notes, in between the dips and spins and waves.  I can name particular dancers over the course of my dancing experience who have made me feel those moments, those pauses, between the pulses and traveling sequences.  It is the leaders who have stopped me in my tracks to be so present in those moments, to experience the sweetness of what is not heard but felt so deeply, that remain in my memory forever.  Although those moments can never be replicated again exactly as they were, that is also what is beautiful about them.  They linger within us, long after they happen, because of their magic to bring us into that very instance.

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It’s like nothing else exists in those moments except for that feeling. And that is the part of dance that makes me crave more of it.  These captured moments of ‘stillness’ that we often don’t take the time for in our daily lives, these instances of total surrender to our senses- the feel of our partner’s hands or arms around us, the touch of our feet pushing through the floor, or the floor pushing back up into us to ground us and keep the motion flowing, or the deep breaths taken at the same time as the pause in the music.

It is this that draws me to the dance floor again and again, no matter how tired I might feel beforehand, no matter how many other life issues are on my mind.  Dance takes me out of this and into the moment.  It feels like something otherworldly, orchestrated not by us but by something divine. Or to remind us of our connection to Spirit and the Divine. We just have to be open to it, to allow ourselves to listen and believe in the “unheard” melodies that capture our hearts and let our souls soar. It is the pauses and the breaths in the dances that enliven me and convince me that we are connected to something so much greater than ourselves. We just have to let that connection flow to and from us.

Dance allows us to hear the unheard, to experience something out of this world while still remaining in it.

Dance is divine.

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Awakening to Your Dreams

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For the past few nights, I have fallen asleep with my guitar.

“Wait, you play the guitar?” those of you who know me might be asking.  Others of you might be thinking, “I think she needs a man.”  Yeah, that’s a topic for a whole other blog post.

But yes, I actually own three guitars now.   But I rarely play them. I thought I just couldn’t figure out HOW to. I would try every once in awhile, take a couple of lessons, but nothing would stick. If any of you have tried playing the guitar, especially as an adult, you know it’s not that easy.  Getting your fingers to coordinate and stretch enough but also be delicate enough to get right into the exact spots on the frets is pretty tricky stuff.

Each time I would pick up the guitar again, I would get frustrated and think that this whole guitar thing is so far from… well, who I am.  So I would give up.

But the universe has this way of bringing you back to something that you might need to give another chance to. Plus, there are guitars all around me- from the guitar paintings I did years ago, still hanging on my wall, to the guitar piggy bank I have in my kitchen, to the little guitar decoration on my bookshelf. Oh, and what about that guitar keychain I owned for a few years? Not to mention that one of the most inspiring and life changing movies I have ever seen is also, quite frankly, called The Guitar.

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Watch and Learn

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You can learn a lot from someone just by watching, especially if you learn HOW to observe.

On some nights, when I am out at a dance social or even at a practica, I might not have the energy to dance every song.  Sometimes, I am not even sure I have the energy to dance at all.  But I try to remind myself that the learning doesn’t just come from what you do, it also comes from what you see.

My initial fascination with dance definitely came from seeing people dancing, seeing the movement, the expression, witnessing the joy and energy that came from dancers who were feeling the music. Yes, their inspiration stemmed from the feeling that came from within them. Something I couldn’t see in a tangible sense.  But, it poured out from them through their connection to the floor, to their partner, to their smiles, to their gritty, passionate style and flavor. And THAT- what I saw, was what drew me into wanting to dance. The desire to do what those dancers were doing came out in me because I saw that desire in them.

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Faith, Freedom and Truth- Interview With Andra Carmina

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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. Continue reading

Following Your Heart- An Interview with Madan Kumar

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Where do you live and what styles of dance do you dance?

I live in Mumbai and I dance Salsa, Bachata & Kizomba

What got you into dance?

Dancing was my hobby since childhood, but I never knew I would end up as a full time dancer, teacher and performer.

I remember being asked why, if I’m Indian, I dance Latin dances instead of Indian dance. I I love Indian dance, but it just wasn’t what I gravitated to. And I thought it was a bit of an ignorant question at the time. Haha. But now, here I am, asking you the same question (laughs). Since you are in India and Indian, what made you choose Latin dances instead of Indian dances?  Continue reading

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

Interview With Sia Kaskas- Revolutionizing Aging

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I really admire you for your strength and agility as a kickboxer, but also for being in a field that traditionally might have been thought more ‘suitable’ for men.  

Did you find it hard to work your way up in kickboxing, especially as a female, in terms of having support and being taken seriously?

Staying at Champions Martial Arts Academy for all the years that I did- from being a novice student to becoming an instructor and employee- had its challenges. I would say it made it easier having female role models around me- such as Master Ingrid Katzberg and Sensei Anita Katzberg. These two sisters own and run the school (along with Master Farid Dordar). Their strength was so inspiring and motivating for me and thousands of other female students in the city.

Yes. I remember them being highly regarded throughout the school and community. 

Yes, and Master Ingrid and Master Farid welcomed all genders to train and compete. I never felt any judgement from either one of them. The only challenges I encountered were from a minority of younger males who felt uncomfortable around me. I competed early on in my training years in eight tournaments and in five ring-fights and I was always the oldest female among the fight team. So that was tough in terms of judgment. And I later faced another challenge when I began instructing. Once again, some males found it difficult to be instructed by a female. This led me to train harder and to show them I am not as limited as they think. Of course now, after fifteen years of instructing, one builds a reputation and I have not had any issues with this in a long time.

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Dancing’s Appeal to the Senses- Interview With Danielle Felices

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I know you dance a few different styles of dance, but … is Zouk your favorite (smiles)? 

Oooh that is a loaded question! Currently, yes, Zouk is my favourite. I guess that is pretty clear to people who have met me. (smiles)

 What it is about Zouk that draws you to it?

When I think about what draws me to Zouk, I think first about what draws me to dance in general, and a few things come to mind. To me, dance is about passion, connection, emotion and technique. I was drawn to Zouk because it really resonated with me in those three areas which are important to me. I have found a new level of passion in myself and my dance through my journey so far in Zouk. I am passionate about the music, my personal development, the growth of the Zouk community, and I love learning more about myself and others through this dance. Continue reading

“Work It Out”- Interview With Reuben Avery

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I know you first as a musician – specifically as a keyboardist and trumpeter. You have been playing music since you were a child, right? 

Yes, I’ve been playing music since I was very young. I grew up on a farm and in our home there, my family had an old upright baby grand piano. When I was a toddler, I would crawl over to the piano and pound on the pedals. This would shake the sound board enough to make some noise. My mom eventually figured out that I was interested in the instrument, so she popped me in my high chair and sat me in front of the keyboard. I would happily plunk away for hours on end.

Wow! That’s amazing.  And kind of adorable (smiles).

Yeah, I think I have improved a bit since those days (smiles), but we’re not sure since we can’t find the cassette tapes that contained my recordings that were made on our small Fisher Price recorder.

Aww… haha (smiles).

I love how it seems that you chose the instrument, and your mom saw your interest in it and just encouraged it, rather than you being pushed into it. I think forcing kids to take music lessons can sometimes actually make them lose all enjoyment in it.

Yes, well I did eventually start taking piano lessons in grade 2, and was off and on with them throughout my grade school days. I always enjoyed improvising on the instrument and creating my own music…often much more than practising what was assigned to me by my various teachers. As such, piano, has always been my first love and I can still entertain myself for hours on it. I just love being able to create lush harmonies and lay creative melodies over them.   Continue reading

Strength in Diversity- Interview with Gabriel El Huracán- Part 2

In Part 1 of this interview- “Why Tango?” Gabriel El Huracán  discusses what it was about Tango that drew him into the dance so deeply.   I have begun this second half of the interview with some of the words Gabriel left us off with at the end of Part 1. They just seemed so fitting to the theme of Part 2 of this interview:  celebrating the beauty of differences, the strength of diversity.

Gabriel:   In tango, you’ll have a kid who is twenty years old who is still in college or university and he’s beginning his life. And in the same room, you will have this older tanguero who might be eighty years old, dancing right next to him.

And you might meet a lawyer and a plumber and a stay at home mom all in the same room doing the same dance, sharing the same passion. You have people from all social classes in the same space. You have people from all ages, and people of all different cultures connecting through this common passion.

Tango allows me to make these unlikely encounters that I never would have made in my daily life otherwise. Continue reading