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!

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Tango Taught Me Not To Cheat My Steps, In Dance, Love and in Life!

Photo by Los Muertos Crew on Pexels.com

When I turned to tango, I thought it was an escape, from the embarrassment and hurt I felt over being betrayed in a relationship in the salsa scene. I thought that everyone knew what was going on for those couple of years except for me. And when I found out about it, I just wanted to run away from the salsa regulars- those faces that I imagined were either pitying me for being so gullible, or maybe even laughing thinking. “He’s a salsa instructor, for God’s sake! What did you expect?”

I knew I still wanted to dance, but everytime I would go to those same venues, he would be there, eyeing down his next prey. I was disgusted because now I could totally see him for what he really was, and how I had been so blind to it. As much as I tried to ignore it, and put it behind me, I could feel him around. And I knew he was very aware of exactly where I was.

I couldn’t shake the bad energy from it. My body would actually literally be shaking with anger whenever I would go out on the dance floor. It hadn’t forgotten about the mess, eventhough I was trying to will my mind to. How ironic that the muscle memory for salsa dancing had finally been ingrained into my system. But unfortunately, along with that were now these negative associations with the venues where that learning had happened. The spaces that brought me so much joy felt tainted with the lies that were uncovered, so I couldn’t get myself to enjoy dancing in those surroundings.

Where could I still dance and actually have fun with it again?

That’s when Tango came to me- literally. At the time, I thought I chose it. I thought I came up with the idea of trying another dance. But it would take me some time to realize tango had actually chosen me. It had lessons to teach me that I didn’t even know I needed to learn, and at exactly the time when I was ready to learn them.

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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…

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What Each Dance Brings to Me, Especially In Relation to The Five Elements

I tend to go through seasons of different dances, and sometimes wondered if there was something wrong with me. Why couldn’t I just stick to one dance?

And when people would ask me which was my favourite, I’d have troube answering that question. All the dances- from salsa, to bachata, to tango, to kizomba, to zouk- seemed to bring me something different, but I couldn’t explain what exactly. Until… I heard about the Five Elements of Chinese Medicine. And voila! Just like that, I got my answer. See, the Five Elements- are within all of us, but we are dominant in some, and have different amounts of them within us. Sometimes, they are in balance, and sometimes, they are very out of balance or craving a little bit of a less dominant element for a little while.

I realised that different dances were helping me tap into different elements that were undernourished, or needed revitalizing.

And learning about this system through two beautiful bellydancers- Dondhi and Titanya Dahlin really got me excited to share with you these wonderful insights.

Do you tend to stick to one dance? Or are you a dance dabbler like me?What do you think you get from different dances? And does your choosing them depend on your mood, who you’re with, the city you’re in, or even the DJ who might be spinning that night?


I’d love to hear your comments about this, and any of the elements you might resonate with. I will be giving a brief description of them at the start of the video. But you can always find out more details about this fascinating personality and health system through Dondi Dahlin’s book simply called The Five Elements.

Click on the link below to get into the Youtube Channel and then choose the video with the same title as this blog post:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX_K65HYLIlJWuwSBWGv6rw

Following Your Heart- An Interview with Madan Kumar

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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)

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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.

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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

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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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Celia Cruz’s Cure For Headaches…

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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)

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