Wassa Dance

About Lara McIntosh

Lara McIntosh - Wassa Dance Founder

Lara McIntosh – Wassa Dance Founder

Lara believes that as we breathe, we are already dancing.

Lara has danced all her life. She explores rhythm, spirit, craft, and community to unlock the movement potential in each person. As performer, teacher, choreographer and life long student, Lara is an active member of Seattle dance, public art and drum communities. Her use of afro-infused dance styles are greatly inspired by travels to Brazil and Mali, West Africa.

“Wassa Sangare” is the Bambara name Lara received during her first visit to Mali.  “Wassa” means “one who acts for joy and fulfillment.” Her curiosity about movement and cultures, combined with a deep love for music, are lifelong muses.

In addition to ongoing classes, Lara offers residencies locally and intensive collaborations internationally.

“Imagine an ethnomusicologist combined with a finger-on-the-pulse choreographer who believes that in everyone exists the joy of dancing.  Mali meets Paris meets Rio meets the streets of America in a one-hour class. As you’re seduced by her widely tossed net, Lara carefully makes you aware of your own body’s structure and capacity for movement. In words and actions, she teaches what is true and perhaps invisible to you as the music compels you to move. She’s a consummate teacher, decades into her musical/choreographic work and she really knows her stuff.”
—Mary Ann Peters, artist

Lara’s movement studies range from tap and ballet and acrobatics to modern/comtemporary modes to the improvisatory work of Deborah Hay and Eiko & Koma along with many seasons and styles in between. A casual drop in class at Ewajo Centre became a turning point where dance became the center of her life.

Many of Lara’s favorite performance & production experiences have been with her long time collaborators in THREAD DANCE. These works are site specific, self produced, largely improvised and always designed as a gift for the viewers.



POSITIVE SWEAT is the first incarnation of her unique teaching style which developed out of her association with Physical Culture’s Paula Moreschi (owner) and Kristi Rudolph.


Babatunde Olatunji was a significant inspiration to the beginnings of Lara’s involvement with African dance and music. His credo of the power and healing of the drum and his appeal to act beyond borders as cultural ambassadors has lain at the heart of her work ever since.
Babatunde Olatunji

Lara’s cultural studies include travels to Brazil and Mali, West Africa. Those experiences continue to inform and inspire her daily practices.

About Wassa Dance:

Wassa is the Bambara name given to Lara in Mali, and translates loosely as “one who acts for joy and fulfillment.”
Wassa Dance is designed around basic root movements and simple choreography. People move together while enjoying their own individual experience. Classes are crafted for a deep, rich involvement with the music and the moves. Ages range from teens to septuagenarians. New students are always welcome!

Roika Sidibe

ROKIA SIDIBE – who named me after her favorite auntie, Wassa Sangare

Wassa Dance is designed around basic root movements and simple choreography. The intent is for a group of people to move together as well as enjoying their own experience of the evocative movement and music. On the spectrum between traditional African dance classes and ecstatic world beat offerings, Wassa Dance falls in a unique place where the dancers bring their individuality to basic and structured choreography. There’s also an element of movement craft/technique involved as students find depth and richness in elemental movement and rhythms.

“I love Wassa Dance and all it does for me…the exercise, the joy of movement, the comaraderie and the sheer entertainment of it.
I encourage everyone to give it a try” – Juli F.