How Salsa Got Me In Touch With The Wood Element of Chinese Medicine and the Root Chakra

Photo by Daniel Watson on Pexels.com

Dance moves energy within and around us, with the potential to make space for healing and happiness.

I’ve been learning a lot about different energy systems and the important role they have in our overall healthy and happiness. I have realized how various dances really bring out aspects of these systems because dance itself is energy in motion. It moves energy within and around us, allowing us to make space for healing to happen.

I’ve decided to write a series of articles dedicated to particular dances I’ve experienced and which energy systems they highlight for me and reconnect me to.

This one is about Salsa.

The Root Chakra

Salsa was the first dance I really invested time and energy into. From taking group and private lessons, attending workshops and festivals, learning from international instructors, and going out social dancing on real dance floors, it became a regular part of my life. It was also the first dance where I experienced what it felt like to become part of a dance community.

Because of this I associated salsa with a sense of belonging and the building of a strong foundation.

Salsa was where I first learned about connection, timing, and lead-follow techniques like moving from the core, or prepping a turn, or knowing where your weight is.

Through this dance, I became aware that I even had weight. I was fascinated by how I could feel a great deal ‘lighter’ or ‘heavier’ depending on how I held myself. Was I pushing down on my partner too much, or were my arms noodle like and disconnected from my body? Was I accurately matching the pressure or connection that my partner was giving? And was I engaging the appropriate parts of my body to feel these changes? I never asked myself these question before, but once salsa had me looking into them more, I couldn’t go back. It became something I could take notice of and change whenever I wanted.

Continue reading

Interview With Rod McRae- Nothing Can Stop This Man From Dancing

Rod McRae and Melissa “Birdie Bird” Patterson- Hallowe’en Party

How long have you been dancing?

My first reaction is to be a little circumspect regarding my age. However, one look in the mirror decided my answer: 70 years on and off.

Wow! That’s amazing. I hope I get to say taht one day! I say flaunt it, rather than hide it.

You started dancing at an early age in public school, right? How did that come about?

Well, I am from Saskatchewan. And physical exercise in a Saskatchewan winter wasn’t easily done. Plus, the little three-room school I attended did not have any such thing as a gymnasium. So, a few desks were pushed back and our teacher, Miss Broadfoot, began teaching us the basic dances of the time: Foxtrot, Two-step, Polka, Waltz, Schottische, and some Square Dance.

I am so jealous! Maybe I would have actually liked P.E in school if I had had that kind of class and teacher.  

Well, the community where I was in Saskatchewan was so small it didn’t qualify as a town or village, but as a hamlet. And the community dances drew from the farms in the district.

That’s such a great reminder- how the community we are around influences the kinds of cultural and artistic activities we are exposed to.  

I’m curious if there was any stigma around dancing as a boy at that time.

Well, when these dances occurred, mostly during warmer weather, my ability to do a bit of dancing stood me in good stead, as many of the men usually visited together outside having a drink, leaving their wives/daughters/girlfriends in the townhall for me to dance with.

Haha. They had no idea what they were missing. And how perfect for you!

Continue reading

How Dance Revealed to Me My Own Infidelity

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

After taking dance classes for awhile, although I was enjoying them, I felt like I was missing something. How were others getting to such high levels in such short periods of time? Some were joining performance teams or even becoming instructors, while I was still piling up class after class, month after month, and not feeling like I had a lot to show for it. Sometimes, I felt more like I was falling behind than getting ahead.

What was the secret?

I decided to just ask. I approached some of the girls who I was envious of on the dance floor. I asked where they learned or what they did to improve. I wanted to find out who they had taken lessons from and what kinds of practise they would recommend. I guess you could say I was searching for the ‘magic formula.’

But it seemed there was none. Nada. In fact, their responses disheartened instead of encouraged me: “Oh, I just took a few lessons, and then figured it out for myself,” said one girl who looked like a rockstar on the dance floor. Or “I never took lessons, I just picked it up going social dancing.” I wanted to curl up into a ball and hide after that one. And then the final doozy was, “Girl, I’m a natural. It’s in my blood being Latina and all. You either got it or you don’t.”

I guess that meant I didn’t, I concluded.

I should have given up at that point. I mean, all the time and money I had already put into this, maybe I should just pack it in instead of wasting more. But I couldn’t bring myself to stop, to stop wanting it, to stop thinking about it, and to stop going out to the salsa clubs that brought me so much joy. Even though I was getting frustrated with my own dancing, when I would hear the music, and watch all the bodies on the dance floor interpreting it in their own unique ways, moving body parts that I didn’t even know could be moved, I felt so alive.

I wanted more of it. But I wanted to be IN it more, to be a part of it. To be one of them. Not just an observer, but to feel what they were feeling. To be one of the ones that outsiders like me were oohing and ahhing over. To be the one who inspired others to want to dance too. But how?

Despite not knowing the answer, I would still show up and put on my sparkly salsa heels, … just in case…

Continue reading

Following Your Heart- An Interview with Madan Kumar

IMG_20180125_005543_327

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

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)

IMG_8595-2

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.

Continue reading

Reminisce on VIS- Interview #2

James and Alex8James and Alex

(Interview #2 of 5.  To read interview #1- Giana and Nery- click here)

I walked into James’ and Alex’s cha cha workshop a little low in energy. I was tired and wasn’t sure I would make it through the class.  But it turned out to be one of my favourite workshops because Alex and James were so fun. In fact, the combination of the music they chose, the playful choreography they put together for us, and their own charisma, made me forget about my sluggishness earlier.  Instead, I found myself laughing and enjoying myself all the way through, and I also left reenergized!

I really enjoyed your cha cha workshop today.  Is it one of your favorite dances? You seem to have a lot of fun with it.

James: More and more now, it almost seems like we prefer cha cha over salsa (smiles).  And it helps that because of our cha cha performance, we are getting asked to do more and more cha cha workshops.  You can play with the timing a little more. You can put your own routines together for it in a way that can be a bit more interesting and more unique than the regular old patterns. But really, we like both.

Alex: But the energy does often seem to be much higher in cha cha workshops. It’s fun. You can have a laugh with it. Cha cha is very loose. As long as you feel it, you can do whatever you want in it, really.

Continue reading

Celia Cruz’s Cure For Headaches…

Quote

celia c“My life is singing. I don’t plan on retiring. I plan to die on a stage. I can have a headache but when it’s time to sing and I step on that stage there is no more headache.”- Celia Cruz

Interview with Yesenia Peralta- Part 2

Part 2: “Learning about the history of salsa- how can you not be moved?  I mean, it’s like yesenia1planting a seed in your soul!”  – Yesenia Peralta

(To begin at Part 1 – “Dancing has really taken me to a place of healing that I never imagined“- click here)

What has stood out to me about your dancing is that it is much deeper than just steps. You have that heart and passion for it….

SOUL! It’s called SOUL, baby! (smiles).

Yes, exactly (laughs)!  So did you grow up with lots of music and dancing in your family? Where did that SOUL (smiles) come from?

Well, yes, we did listen to A LOT of music.  And my sister –Irene Otero- and my brother – Ismael Otero – are six and seven years older than me.  So imagine, when I was seven, they were in their teens.  What do you think they were blasting? – Music EVERYWHERE.  They were really into breakdancing and all that crazy stuff.  And with the dancing, well, my brother and sister used to battle- in breakdancing battles, on the street.  And THEY WERE BAD ASS!  My sister was a beast!  Don’t mess with her.  Don’t even try (laughs).  The way she is now in salsa is the way she was then in breakdancing, and of course, my brother too.  They were the best.  And I was the little sister.  And so for me, oh my God, that was all normal to me (smiles).  It was what I grew up with.

So at a certain point, did you start taking formal classes in any type of dance at all?

I’ve never taken formal dance classes except for learning salsa from my brother. My yesenia2brother learned from Luis Zegarra, ‘cause Luis lived upstairs from us and we grew up with him.  And then my brother decided to start doing his own thing.  And I would just go hang out, ‘cause salsa was not my thing, in the beginning.   But I learned the basics, and I caught on very quickly.  Within the first three months, I was winning competitions with my brother.  It was unbelievable- me and my brother were on a rampage, taking over the WORLD, just winning competitions, street-style.  No rehearsals. None of that stuff.  It felt like it was in us already.

But it’s not until NOW that I notice that I had a talent.  The way I look at my videos now, I never looked at them like that before.  So I’m kind of looking at them with different eyes now.

Wow. That must be interesting for you.

It is. It is. And I’m in awe, because I never realized I had talent then.  I was grateful that people enjoyed watching me. But I never understood why.   I just enjoyed dancing.  You know, I never did it for attention.  I’m gonna be honest, my intentions were NEVER to be in the public eye because I AM a private person.  And I am a little shy, believe it or not (smiles).

And I’m learning about myself through all this stuff that I’m going through now with the MS.   I didn’t really know that I had impacted so many people.  And it makes me feel good right now.  It makes me feel amazing to see so many people write me- oh my God- so many emails!  And it’s too much for me to even respond to. That’s why I like that I’m even doing this interview, because people will also get to know me a little better through this. Up until now, they know me for my name, but they don’t know my story or who I really am.

Continue reading

“I didn’t even know that I needed dancing so much… until now.” -Yesenia Peralta

Quote

“I love dancing, and everything in my dancing career has been spectacular.  But… I never had time to sit down and think, about… about ANYTHING to do with dancing until now.

… I’m doing better because dancing has really taken me to a place of healing that I never imagined.  I didn’t even know that I needed dancing so much.

…  It’s  like everything kind of makes sense now.”

-Yesenia Peralta

 

(Stay tuned for the in-depth, candid interview from which this excerpt was taken.  The full interview with Yesenia Peralta will be published here in a few days, and the link will be posted on Dance Me Free’s facebook page as well.  Follow us here, or ‘LIKE’ us on facebook to be updated on this and other future posts by clicking here: Dance Me Free on Facebook)

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. 

Continue reading