Faith, Freedom and Truth- Interview With Andra Carmina


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.

Beautiful. I can see that in your zouk dancing. You’re just so there, in the moment. We can see it and feel it.

I remember an instructor in Argentina telling all of us that we should take a shower after any night of tango dancing because it is such an intense and close dance. She said that without showering after, we will end up “sleeping” with all the energies of the people we danced with that night.  She claimed we would have strange dreams if we didn’t- dreams that might not seem like our own, because possibly, they wouldn’t be our own.  


You are a very intuitive, energy/feeling person. Do you feel this enhances or hinders your partner dance experience in any way? 

​I am a highly sensitive person, and can pick up on someone’s feelings before they even utter a word. In some ways it’s a blessing and a curse. Dancing with other people, I can pick up on their disposition, their state of mind and their state of being. It’s true that it can really enhance the connection, and I can sense their intentions, their next step, the very next place they may want to take me in the dance. And there can be this strong synergy and feeling as a result.

​It can also work the opposite way- where if we don’t click, or their intentions are less than honest, it’s easy to feel, and then I sort of bring up my walls and the dance then becomes rigid and forced.

How do you deal with it and still enjoy the dance?

In some ways, sensing others’ energies is a filter through which every single person I dance with goes through. And much like your instructor mentioned, I need to be careful not to take someone’s energetic baggage home with me as a result. There are days when I can be so sensitive, it’s better for me not to go dancing because I know I’ll come home and I’ll carry with me a piece of each person’s story that I danced with. Though most days, it’s an enjoyable process that allows me to connect deeper with someone while dancing with them.


I have taken a lot of dance classes with different people so I am definitely a “learned” dancer. I still feel like I am always seeking learning and guidance in my dancing. You, on the other hand, from what I understand, did not take a lot of dance lessons.  What do you think made you pick up dancing so well and so quickly? 

​To be honest with you, I don’t think it’s a talent that’s exclusive to dance for me. Anything that I really put my mind to, I can pick up very quickly. If I’m passionate about it, my entire being just gets absorbed in it. It’s like that for me with languages, with dance, with anything that makes me feel free and self-expressed.

I have a tremendous eye for detail, and as a former teacher, in my mind’s eye, I can break down something complex into very small bits. So it really helps when I try to be the student, and learn something new, because I understand the process, and I become the process.​ I can pick up a lot just by observing. As an introvert, I’m not exactly the first out on the dance scene. Being more withdrawn has also grown my “sensitivities” to the energies of others, and my observational skills, and this has sometimes taught me more than teachers could have.

dance 2_previewI see you as a free spirit, who really has so much faith in things unseen. This is such an admirable quality. And I feel like it is so related to the underlying idea of Dance Me Free- the power of dance to heal and free a person.  To whom or what do you attribute your free spiritedness?

​Hehehe, well, I may be a bit biased, but I attribute it in part to my astrological chart (I’m a ​quirky, freedom oriented, unconventional Aquarius stellium).

Yay! My fellow Aquarian, AND we have the same birthday. But I do not have that free spiritedness that you have.  It’s lurking there, underneath. But struggles to get out.

Well, I also have an Aries rising, so there is this certain fierceness, and stubbornness about me that just had me pushing for what I believed in. I didn’t give up, no matter how hard things got in my life. I guess I just refused to believe that I had to settle for the conventional nine to five job, the mediocre life, the unexamined life, the life that so many people were prescribing to me. That kind of life never fit in with my soul’s essence, and what I’m about.

brazilian beat congress_preview

What allows you to have so much faith in the Universe and our connection to something far beyond what is right in front of us?

I fought. I went against the grain, I pushed against my limitations and I followed my heart. In that, I found the strength to always have faith in myself and something bigger than me, no matter how it might look on our minuscule earthly plane of existence. And now I tell my clients all the time, there are our human eyes, and our universal eyes, and how we perceive through them is very different. I think this has given me an edge that helps me to always remain focused on what really is the truth, and to always follow my quest for freedom and being true to myself.

I understand not everyone agrees, and this lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but it has worked for me, and I cannot imagine my life without my faith in myself and my limitless connection to something much bigger than me. I owe that to my struggles, which have been some of my toughest, yet worthwhile teachers in life.

You have a very unique and inspiring job.  Can you tell the Dance Me Free readers a little about what you do and how they can get in touch with you to find out more?

​Absolutely. I’m a transformational coach.  My business, is a gateway to new growth, radical self-renewal and unapologetic empowerment for anyone who wishes to transform their life for the better. Best place to get in touch with me is via email at

Wow! I love the way you phrased that, especially the “unapologetic empowerment” part.

dance 6_preview

Has your job had any influence on your thoughts about Dance? Or has it shaped it in anyway? Or has Dance had any impact on the choices you make in your job, or how you treat your clients?

​The awareness that I’ve built over the years practising my craft simply allows me to observe and be mindful of a person’s state of being when they engage with me. It also allows me to draw boundaries if I need to, or get closer to them, if the synergy feels right for both of us. It lets me know when I can go into someone’s space a little deeper, and when I can’t. Coaching is a lot like that too. You’re always taking a person to a place of deeper inner awareness of themselves. And in turn, you learn about them, and yourself, in the process. Dance is no different in that respect.

Why dance?  What does it mean to you?  

​Dance for me is when my ego goes on vacation, where I lose all sense of self control, where I can just be myself, and allow my soul to take over, and be unhinged, wild, raw, expressed through movement and motion and ardor. Dance brings me to this state of joy and communion with another person, where our minds and bodies are one, intimate, yet not; connected, but able to disconnect at a moment’s notice;  together, yet separate in our own containers of space that we get to dictate.


How does dance make you feel?

I feel free and unencumbered of my worries and my problems when I dance. I lose myself in the embrace of another, and yet, can find myself in that very act. I can be in a sweet state of abandon, and yet honor my deepest desire to just be free, be alive, be moving.   And sometimes, in between all that, there are also the moments of utter stillness that we sink into, and those moments teach me that life is like that too.  There are the twists and turns and bends and surprises when life leads you a certain way.   And then there are moments of standing still, of being held, of just being, existing, listening to your breath, listening to a beat, listening to a heart.

What impact has dance had on your life or how has it shaped you as a person?

Dancing helps me become more connected to myself and to others. It brings me a certain awareness of me, of parts of myself that I sometimes forget, and I’m reminded I need to bring back home to me. It brings me awareness of parts of myself I need to nurture more, listen to more, love more. Dancing is an act of self love, self discovery, and appreciation. It enriches my life endlessly.

dance 3_preview

Wow! Your words alone make me want to never stop dancing.  Thank you.  


Interview With Vladimir Shmitsman- Part 1: Homeopathy recognizes the individual

“In homeopathy, the personality of the individual determines their prescription,.. because Homeopathy understands that every person is different.


Dr Shmitsman

I think some people might be surprised that you began your medical career with more conventional medicine.  

Yes.  In the beginning, I was a nurse.

I like that your grandma was one of the first to plant a seed for you very early on in terms of natural medicine.  

Yes.  She used to take me with her when she would pick plants and berries in the forest.  She was around me until I was 16 or 17 years old.  So it was a fair amount of time that I spent with her. (For more details about this story, please visit Dina’s Homeopathic)

And you had other people along the way who opened your eyes up to homeopathy?

Yes. It wasn’t just my grandmother’s influence that made me make my change from conventional medicine to homeopathy.

I finished nursing school, and then I went to the military for two years. The doctor who I worked with there was Russian Japanese.  That was a third generation of people who used to practise acupuncture.

For the first time in my life, I saw someone using acupuncture.  This man was a doctor in a hospital, but almost every day, I saw him treating different guys in the military using acupuncture.  He practised acupuncture as he felt he needed. Continue reading

The Signs Are Everywhere!

Thank you to my beautiful friend Michelle for connecting me to the Sufi Poets again, particularly Hafiz’s collection- “I Heard God Laughing”.

How fitting that the very first poem focuses on the Freedom to Dance!  Dance Me Free- I’m telling you, the signs are EVERYWHERE!

“You are with a Friend Now

Hafiz describes some of the preparations required for the inner ‘Journey of Love’. He urges us to let go of habitual negative attitudes and unnecessary attachments, which only weigh us down.  To make this Journey, we must be light, happy and free to go Dancing!” by Daniel Ladinsky- translator


I wish I could show you

When you are lonely or in darkness,

The Astonishing Light

Of your own Being!

~ Hafiz

…I say use dance to not only help you bring out this light in yourself and others around you, but to also dance out the darkness.

Even the Sufis, from hundreds of years ago, knew the power and magic of Dance to Heal!

What Dance Teaches Me

live to danceI have been so lucky to have some of the most inspiring teachers  come into my life.  Little did I know that Dance would be one of them.

Dance has influenced the decisions I make, the places I go, the people I meet, the perceptions I have about life, the values I cherish the most, my awareness of myself as a body and a soul, as well as how I interact with others and the world around me.

Someone recently asked me why I dance, and the first thought that came to my mind was, ironically, NOT thinking.  Dance, as I explained to this person, is one of the first places I learned not to lead (or follow) with thinking, but to feel.  With Dance, I shut off my brain, and engage, or turn on, my senses.  This is huge for someone who is constantly thinking and processing and analyzing like myself.  And wow, what it has done for my writing.  As a writer, I need to be much more in touch with my senses, and to be able to capture moments when my senses are really heightened. Dance makes me much more aware of those moments and plants the images of them deep within my memory.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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. 

Continue reading

Reminisce on VIS! – A series of 5 brief artist interviews from the Vancouver International Salsafestival 2013.

VISIt’s been four months since The Vancouver International Salsafestival (VIS) 2013.  And I still smile an extra big smile whenever I run into one of the team members or even just think about the great time I had over that weekend in March.  Keeping in touch with some of the out of town guests and instructors that I met over the course of the festival weekend also brings back good feelings of the time we shared.  I know I made some amazing new friends and connections through VIS, and also gathered memories that I will carry with me for a long time.

In particular, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to speak to some of the artists personally, asking them questions about what inspired them, and what drives them to continue in their various art forms.

I am excited to share with you some of their words, in a series of short interviews that were conducted over during the VIS 2013 festivities.  Each interview will be presented under the larger title ‘Reminisce on VIS.’  Thank you so much to each of the interviewees for the time and thoughtfulness you put into your responses.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce the first of the series of five interviews: 

INTERVIEW 1: Giana Montoya (of Shiva Latina), and Nery Garcia (of Elegant Rumba)- from Fort Myers, Florida.

Giana and Nery5

How I made it to the 9am workshop on the Friday morning of VIS, I have no idea. But I’m so glad I did.   Acro- Yoga with Nery and Giana was not just a yoga or dance class, but a lesson in balance – physical and inner- and how to use this to make our connection with our surroundings more meaningful.  If only we could wake up to this kind of learning every morning!

How did the yoga become a part of your dancing?

Giana: I’ve been a yoga practitioner for eleven years now.  I started yoga when I was sixteen, which is about the same time that I started salsa.  But I danced many years before that.  My degree is in dance and theatre.  But yeah, my whole family is really into yoga.  My dad is also a yoga teacher. I got him into it.

Continue reading

Yesenia Peralta Shares Her Story of Dance, Growth and Healing- Interview- Part 1

Part 1: “Dancing has really taken me to a place of healing that I never imagined.”- Yesenia Peralta

yesenia4Yesenia 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)

Continue reading

Interview with Yesenia Peralta- Part 3

Part 3: “EVERYONE- the world- is helping me through this. You guys are my strength.”- Yesenia Peralta

(Click here to begin at Part 1 and Part 2)

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?

MS poster advertIn 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.

Continue reading