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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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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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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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.

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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.

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Dance Floor Diary- by Joan de los Reyes

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“Dance and Hip Hop have been my constant saving graces.  Dance is the best way I can communicate.  Hip Hop is the language that my soul speaks. The marriage of the two on the dance floor is where I feel most “myself”.

In my recent exploration of expressive art therapy, I have discovered even more about dance and movement and its ability to heal. Before I even knew what this therapy was, I was already doing it, without even realizing it.  Spending countless hours alone in the studio in my own thoughts, I was expressing- through dance- what I cannot say in words.

The dance floor is my diary, my confessional, my haven.”

                        – Joan de los Reyes