Interview With Elina Sumichan- Dance Brought Me Back to Myself

Photo by BachataX Toronto (2)

Photo by BachataX

You have been dancing a few different dances over the years.  Is Bachata your favorite?

I semi-retired from dancing for about 5 years, and I recently came back to it in the last year and half.  I realized how much I missed dancing. Then I ran into Davy, who is now my dance partner, and Bachata fusion has been our main focus.  But I love all styles of dance combined! I’m a fusion dancer.

You have a background in solo dance first, rather than partner dance, right? 

Yes. As a child, at 5 years old, I actually started with traditional Balinese dancing back when I was living in Bali. Then I learned modern dance, and after that, I did Jazz and Hip Hop throughout high school.  I picked up Balinese dancing again for a few months one summer vacation as a teenager, which is probably where I got my hand styling from. I was dance obsessed ever since I was a teenager, and I learned everything I could as far as other dances- from Hip Hop, Contemporary, Ballet, Belly Dancing, and even Flamenco!

How did you get into partner dance?

The first time I learned Salsa was actually in Bali, when I was 14. It was during the summer holidays when I was with my family. When I came back from the trip, I started to take lessons from various instructors in Vancouver and discovered the social dance scene here.  I spent my summer breaks for the next few years taking private lessons with a teacher in Bali and going out to socials. For a few years after that, throughout high school and university, I worked at a dance studio in Burnaby. That was when I started learning all partner dances on top of all the Latin dances I was already doing- from Latin Ballroom, Standard Ballroom, Argentine Tango, and West and East Coast Swing.

Do you think you got more out of partner dances or solo styles of dance? 

To this day, all of the mix of random dance training that I did contributes to my style, skills and abilities.  There wasn’t one training that I did that became irrelevant.  The fact that I exposed myself to everything gave me body movement awareness that I probably would not have gotten if I hadn’t tried a variety of dances. 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

You don’t have to be on your feet to dance…

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“Even if you lie, seemingly stagnant, you have the power to dance. While your muscles rest, your soul has the ability to soar free from this limiting body we inhabit.  But one must first ALLOW the movement to happen. Our minds are the trickiest trap that we posses.  Along with its great power, we have also inherited its greatest weakness… Judgement.”

-Orin McRey

 

Dance- there are so many strengths to it…

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“Dance- there are so many strengths to it, beyond the superficial, that people don’t know about.  I think that dance is such an internal thing.  I think it feeds the soul in such a way that it stems from this passion but also from our experiences.  And the things that we’ve gone through, the things that we have on our minds, are pushed out and energized into the world through a movement.  Sometimes I watch people perform, and you can tell they’ve really BEEN somewhere.  And I don’t know where that somewhere is, and I don’t always NEED to know where that somewhere is.  But you connect to those people because you can see how much their dancing is driven by something really deep and rich and powerful.”

– Marc Kimelman

Salsa As Medicine

 

It was a cold morning in December. My feet were unusually tingly on my way to the shower. I laughed, thinking that’s what I get for having worn a warm pair of woolen socks to sleep all night. I was sure that it was just a strong case of pins and needles. But stepping out of the shower, I was startled to find that no matter how much I scrubbed my thick towel against my skin, I couldn’t feel parts of my legs under it.

I tried not to panic, believing that the feeling – or lack of feeling – would subside. But within a few weeks, the numbness traveled to my stomach, and turned into a strain on my spine. On some days, I could barely bend down to help the students in my grade six classroom. And I felt tired after just an hour of any concentrated activity. My usual energy and enthusiasm was quickly transformed into an uncontrollable lethargy.

After many visits to various doctors and specialists, and finally being sent for an MRI exam in March, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I didn’t know much about it at the time, but had heard stories that it had the power to permanently disable or cripple. And sitting in the waiting room of the MS Clinic quickly added to my fears: patients in wheel chairs, canes and severe limps, and swollen feet surrounded me.  Continue reading