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

Why Tango?- Interview with Gabriel El Huracan- Part 1

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I am really impressed at how quickly it seems you have picked up tango and to such a high level. Do you feel that there is something about your life before tango which contributed to this?

For as long as I can remember, I was always more of a physical person.  I was into basketball and into movement in general.  I think if you’re an active person and just more physical in your life in general, you’re used to telling your body to move in certain ways.  You’re used to isolating certain parts of your body and just having more body awareness.  And this is really important, especially in tango.  So perhaps that gave me an ‘advantage’ in terms of learning tango quicker.

And you used to be a bartender before, right?  I think bartending is an art in itself.  A bartender friend of mine even described her job as a dance on some nights.  Do you see any parallels between your life as a bartender and the way you teach or dance now?

I never thought about it before, but probably the social skills I developed while being a bartender helped me with my teaching in some ways.   I mean, I was already used to expressing myself around many people, through bartending.  I was already dealing with so many different types of personalities on a daily basis and in a very busy environment. And I was used to keeping people entertained with humor and stories, and learning how to read what people wanted. It also got me into the habit of navigating around a room full of people. Continue reading

Interview with Bellydancer Ashley Rhianne

Ashley3What sparked your interest in bellydance?

I saw my first bellydancer at age 14. It was at a goddess fair in Langley.  Being a Bohemian hippy teen, I was super inspired and wanted to learn how to dance like those women.  I had studied ballet for several years and then jazz dance, and bellydance was something totally different and up my alley.

I had also been fascinated by Egypt since I was little, and the music seemed to touch a chord deep inside me.  I started to look around White Rock, where I grew up, for classes. And I came across a teacher named Nahida who had danced in Egypt. I started taking her classes in 1995, and the rest is history!

Was dance and performance part of your upbringing? 

I was a natural performer since pretty much from the time I could walk.  My parents and younger sisters don’t dance, but my father loves to perform and be on stage.  He was often organizing lip sync contests at his work where he was the lead singer, and was quite addicted to karaoke for a while!  My paternal grandmother was a dancer and danced pretty much up to her death at 85.  I definitely take after her.  She was one of the brightest sparks I ever knew.

You have been traveling a lot.  Is it usually for dance that you travel? Ashley1

I have traveled a lot in my life and have seen so many amazing sites.  But I started getting a bit lost and aimless when I was traveling for traveling sake.  So I usually only travel for dance now.  Incorporating dance into my trips has really been exciting for me.  Going to train in different cities and countries is my new passion.  I get to meet dancers from all over the world, train with international instructors and see new places.  It’s the best!  I keep saying I need a non-dance holiday but that doesn’t seem to happen! 

How do you decide where to go?

I train with a few Egyptian teachers, namely Randa Kamel, Tito Seif, and Mohamed Shahin, so traveling to where they are teaching is my priority. I used to take individual workshops with teachers from all over. But I realized that it is really important to choose teachers to study with intensely so that they can help you grow and change your dance more.  Randa Kamel has been the biggest influence in my dance, and I make sure to train with her at least four times a year. This often means going to Egypt.  In 2016, I was lucky to go to Egypt twice, as well as to New York, Toronto, and Miami.  2017 is looking very similar!

What were some of the highlights of your most recent trip?

A highlight from my last trip to Cairo in February was being selected as a finalist in the competition there.  The level was really high, and it was a huge honor to have been selected to compete with a live band.  Dancing to a live band in Egypt is about as amazing and scary as it gets!  Another highlight was being able to study with Randa Kamel and Tito Seif for a week.  We were dancing five hours a day.  This immersion helps so much in developing Ashley2my dance, and I feel like I grew a lot in this course.

Sometimes you invite drummers to your classes to drum live for your students.  How does this contribute to your class?

I am fortunate to have met drummer Tim Gerwing right when I started performing.  I was a “baby” dancer and he was a “baby” percussionist. We decided to jam one day and we have worked together ever since.

Having Tim in class allows my students to listen to the rhythm in a skeletal sense – just the drum alone. It helps get the rhythm in their body and understand the feel of the rhythm. We encourage the students to really feel the sounds and shapes from the tabla. Rhythm is the backbone of Egyptian dance, and each rhythm has its own set of technique, emotions, and culture.  So it is important to understand how to dance authentically to the rhythms.

I LOVE the fact that Tim can accompany me when I am teaching – if I need something slower, or with a very pronounced rhythm, he can do that on a dime.  When you have a live musician, you need to interact with them, connect and inspire each other. This is something very valuable, and the earlier you learn it, the easier it will become over time.

Bellydance seems like a very difficult dance to teach to others. Yet you manage to have a good balance between being able to teach the technique as well as the more abstract aspects of this dance.  Were there teachers or influences that were great role models to you in this regard?Ashley5- By Daudi

Wow! That is a huge compliment.  I adore teaching and I am so happy that you had that experience in my class!  I have to honestly say that I didn’t come into my own as a teacher for several years after starting teaching.  I felt that I was regurgitating movements and teaching structure from my instructors.  I wasn’t defined enough in my own dance; therefore, I didn’t know how to translate what I was doing to my students. It took a lot of personal acceptance and confidence to start teaching the way that I danced!

What do you think helped you develop this?

Working on my physiotherapy assistant diploma, and learning how to teach exercise and therapeutic classes, was very helpful for my teaching style.  I was able to adopt what I was doing in school and work, and apply it to my own classes.  I also talked to, and continue to talk to, other dance teachers. You learn so much from others, and realize that you are not alone in your experiences.  I brainstormed with people and asked a lot of questions. I also analyzed video and online material to get alternate examples of explanations, and to grow my ideas.

You seem really invested in your students, which is a beautiful quality to have as a teacher.  Where did this come from?

Ashley4- by DaudiI really love working with people, and I want to see everyone succeed so much in my classes.  So I try to provide as much information as I can, balanced with a strong dose of acceptance and humour.  Dance can be very frustrating if you feel that you can’t get a movement. We have all been there!  So I want to try to limit that kind of discouraging experience as much as possible. The frustration can start to limit our personal perception of what we can do.  Dance is supposed to make you feel good at the end of the day, so I want that to be the strongest take-home feeling.  I am now studying to be a pilates instructor, and I feel that my background in teaching will serve me well in this field.  I have learned a lot from both my physiotherapy work and also my work as a dance teacher.

Randa Kamel has also been a great role model for me in how to approach teaching.  She focuses a lot on the muscular movements, but also on the feeling and energy of the movement. This is equally important in these oriental dances.  I try to embody this in my classes, and remind my students to really feel the move- both in a physical sense but also in an emotional sense.  Dance is more than just the movement of our bodies. There is a feeling to it.

What do you think is one of the benefits of this particular dance for your students?

There is something very magnetic about the movements and the music – very addicting!  But in all honesty, I think this dance allows for a lot of personal expression and self confidence.  I have personally witnessed many of my students come into class for the first time, quiet and shy and hiding in the back of the class. And then, over a period of a few weeks, they are suddenly moving up to the front the class, talking with their classmates and literally transforming in front of my eyes!  It is amazing to see.

What made you choose bellydance as your dance of focus? 

Bellydance just makes sense to my body and spirit.  After years of ballet and jazz, which I Ashley6loved, this dance form spoke to my heart in a very different way.  Learning oriental dance was not, and still isn’t easy to learn. But the dance is so feminine, strong and emotional.  Oriental dance also embraces women of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds.  Through the music, we can each individually express our own stories and emotions, and this is something so powerful!  There is so much intrigue and draw to watching someone perform this dance.

The beauty of the dance is that you can let your life experiences spill out into your dance and you are all the better for this.  Dance has been there for me in some of the most joyous times in my life as well as in the darkest times.  And I hope it continues to always be there.

For more information about Ashley and her classes, please visit

Ashley Dance at http://www.ashleydance.com

Our Perception of What We Can Do

“Dance can be very frustrating if you feel that you can’t get a Ashley4- by Daudimovement. 

But we have all been there!

So, as a teacher, I want to try to limit that kind of discouraging experience as much as possible.

The frustration can start to limit our perception of what we can do.

Dance is supposed to make you feel good, at the end of the day.  So I want THAT to be the strongest take- home feeling for my students.”

                 ~Ashley Rhianne

 

 

 

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.

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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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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.

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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.

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Joan- “When I’m dancing, I am untouchable…I become a moment … that will only happen once.”

joan de los reyes.3jpgFrom 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.

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