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

Lights. Camera. … DAUDI!

Lights, Camera, DAUDI! That’s how I think the saying should go sometimes. If you’ve ever worked with this extraordinary photographer featured here, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  It seems only natural to think about Daudi, the creator of Daudi X Photography, when talking about camera and light. Daudi is extremely creative with both. For him, photography is not just a job.  It is his art, it his passion.  He not only expresses the way he sees the world through this art, but he also brings pieces of it to us, capturing special moments and bringing out what is unique in each of his subjects. Daudi covers a range of photo types but his greatest fascination is with people.  He is probably best known for his work in the dance community. His professionalism and attention to detail in his work is impressive, as is his friendly, charismatic nature. While Daudi has spent much of his time showcasing the talent and beauty of the artists that he photographs, it is my pleasure to finally celebrate Daudi’s talent and inspiring story with all of you. Thank you Daudi for your enthusiastic and thoughtful responses.daudi

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

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 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

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

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

It’s not WHAT you do…

Quote

“I always say that it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. It’s how you express it.  It’s going to deliver differently depending on how you express it.

And that’s exactly what dancing is for me-  it’s how you deliver it.  It could be the most basic thing, the most basic step, but enjoy it (smiles). .. When people watch me enjoying the dancing, that allows them to enjoy it too…

So that’s my other piece of advice: Be sure to enjoy your every dance.”- Griselle Ponce