Wassa Dance

Epic spirit Geoffrey Holder passes

This week Geoffrey Holder passed away. He was a true Renaissance man.   Our legacy of arts and culture are  greatly enhanced by his time on earth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Holder

Here are splendid tidbits from him :

 

Here’s a letter Leo Holder wrote about the last days with his father.

A little more than a week after developing pneumonia, Geoffrey Holder made a decision. He was calling the shots as always. He was done. 2 attempts at removing the breathing tube didn’t show promising results. In his truest moment of clarity since being rolled into I.C.U. he said he was good. Mouthing the words “No, I am not afraid” without a trace of negativity, sadness or bitterness, he sincerely was good with it. He had lived the fullest life he could possibly live, a 70 + year career in multiple art forms, and was still creating. Still painting, a bag of gold (of course) fabric and embellishments in his room for a new dress for my mother, sculptures made out of rope, baseball caps and wire hangers. New ideas every second, always restlessly chasing his too fertile mind. A week of breathing tubes and restrained hands had forced him to communicate with only cryptic clues which I was fortunate enough to be able to decipher at best 40% of the time.
The fact that we all struggled to understand him enraged him to the point that he could sometimes pull tantrums taking up to 4 people to restrain him from pulling out the wires. He was head strong (understatement), but he was also physically strong. Iron hand grip that no illness could weaken. 9 days of mouthing words that, because of the tubes, produced no sound forcing him to use his eyes to try to accentuate the point he was trying to make. But this didn’t mean he wasn’t still Geoffrey Holder. This didn’t mean an end to taking over. Holding court as he always did.
Directing and ordering people around. Choreographing. Getting his way. We still understood that part, and the sight of his closest friends and extended family brought out the best in him. Broad smiles in spite of the tubes, nodding approval of anything that met his standard (which was very high), and exuding pride and joy in all those in whom he saw a spark of magic and encouraged to blossom. The week saw a parade of friends from all over the world checking in to see him, hold is hand, rub his head, and give him the latest gossip. But he was still trying to tell me something, and although I was still the best at deciphering what he was saying, I still wasn’t getting it.

Saturday night I had a break through. After a good day for him, including a visit by Rev. Dr. Forbes, Senior Minister Emeritus of Riverside Church who offered prayer and described Geoffrey’s choreography as prayer itself, which made him beam, I brought in some music. “Bill Evans with Symphony Orchestra”, one of his all time favorites. He had once choreographed a piece to one of the cuts on the album… a throwaway ballet to fill out the program, but the music inspired him. From his bed, he started to, at first sway with the music, then the arms went up, and Geoffrey started to dance again. In his bed. Purest of spirits. Still Geoffrey Holder. Then he summoned me to take his hands, and this most unique dancer / choreographer pulled himself up from his bed as if to reach the sky. It was then I broke the code: he was telling me he was going to dance his way out. Still a Geoffrey Holder production. If it had been up to him, this evening’s solo would have been it. The higher he pulled himself up, the higher he wanted to fly. I had to let him down. Not yet. There are friends and family coming in from out of town. He resignedly shrugged his shoulders, closed his eyes and went to sleep.

I got it. Really. I got it. I walked out of the hospital elated. Ate a full meal for the first time in days, slept like a baby after. The next day would be his last. I was not sad. It wasn’t stressful for me to deal with him in this state. It was an honor and a privilege to tend to anything he needed. This impromptu dance was his dress rehearsal.

Next morning, I show up early. Possible second thoughts? Should we wait? What if he changes his mind? Did he understand what we were talking about here? Thoroughly. Mind as clear as crystal. “You still game for our dance tonight?” A nod, a smile, and a wink, with tubes still down his throat.. We’re still on. But he still wants to do it NOW. NOT later. He’s cranky. Sulks a while. Sleeps a while. Eventually snaps out of it.

From noon on, a caravan of friends and family from all over the globe come through the ICU wing. Ages 1 to 80. Young designers and artists he nurtured and who inspired him. YOUNGER dancers he encouraged to always play to the rear balcony with majesty. The now “elder statesmen” dancers on whom he built some of his signature ballets. His rat pack of buddies. Wayward saints he would offer food, drink, a shoulder to cry on, a couch to sleep it off, and lifetime’s worth of deep conversation and thought. Closest and oldest friends. Family.

They know they are here to say goodbye. He knows they are here to say goodbye. He greets them beaming with joy to see them. By this time I’m reading his lips better and am able to translate for him as much as I can. The last of them leave. It’s time for his one true love to have her time with him. His muse. Her champion. This is their time. 59 years distilled into 5 minutes of the gentlest looks and words as she caresses his noble brow one last time. She puts a note she wrote to him in is hand. She leaves.

Everyone is gone except me. My moment. I will be with him as he goes.

One more time: “you good?” Nod & faint smile. ‘you ready?” He is.

I have asked the doctors to not start the morphine drip right away, because I want him to have his solo on his own time. Knowing him, he might stop breathing right after his finale. For dramatic effect. He’s still Geoffrey Holder.
They remove the tube that has imprisoned him for the past 9 days and robbed this great communicator of the ability to speak. I remove the mittens that prevent his hands from moving freely.

I start the music, take his hands and start leading him, swaying them back and forth. And he lets go of me. He’s gonna wing it as he was prone to do when he was younger. Breathing on his own for the last time, Geoffrey Holder, eyes closed, performs his last solo to Bill Evans playing Faure’s Pavane. From his deathbed. The arms take flight, his beautiful hands articulate through the air, with grace. I whisper “shoulders” and they go into an undulating shimmy, rolling like waves. His Geoffrey Holder head gently rocks back and forth as he stretches out his right arm to deliver his trademark finger gesture, which once meant “you can’t afford this” and now is a subtle manifestation of pure human spirit and infinite wisdom. His musical timing still impeccable, bouncing off the notes, as if playing his own duet with Evan’s piano. Come the finale, he doesn’t lift himself of the bed as he planned; instead, one last gentle rock of the torso, crosses his arms and turns his head to the side in a pose worthy of Pavlova. All with a faint, gentile smile.

The orchestra finishes when he does. I loose it.

They administer the morphine drip and put an Oxygen mask over his face and I watch him begin taking his last breaths.

I put on some different music. I sit and watch him sleep, and breathe… 20 minutes later, he’s still breathing albeit with this gurgling sound you can hear though the mask. Another several minutes go by, he’s still breathing. Weakly, but still breathing… then his right hand starts to move. It looks like he’s using my mother’s note like a pencil, scratching the surface of the bed as if he’s drawing. This stops a few minutes later, then the left hand begins tapping. Through the Oxygen mask the gurgling starts creating it’s own rhythm. Not sure of what I’m hearing, I look up to see his mouth moving. I get closer to listen: “2, 3, 4….2, 3, 4… He’s counting! It gets stronger, and at it’s loudest sounds like the deep purr of a lion, then he says “Arms, 2, 3, 4, Turn, 2, 3, 4, Swing, 2, 3, 4, Down, 2, 3, 4….”

I called my mother at home, where she was having a reception in his honor. She picks up. There are friends and family telling Geoffrey stories simultaneously laughing and crying in the background.

“Hi, honey, Are you alright?”

“Yes actually… he hasn’t stopped breathing yet.” I tell her about his solo, which brings her to a smile and a lightening of mood. I continue:

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure Honey. What?

“Who the hell did you marry?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re not gonna believe this. He’s got a morphine drip, going on over half an hour, an Oxygen mask on, his eyes closed, AND HE’S CHOREOGRAPHING!”

This brings her to her first laugh of the day. She now knows we will be alright.

He continues on like this for quite a while, and a doctor comes in to take some meter readings of the machines. I ask the doctor if this is normal. As she begins to explain to me about the process, his closed eyes burst open focused straight on us like lasers and he roars with all his might: “SHUT UUUUUUUUUUUUUP!!! YOU’RE BREAKING MY CONCENTRATION!!!!!!!”

We freeze with our mouths open. He stares us down. long and hard.

Then he closes his eyes again, “Arms, 2, 3, 4, Turn, 2, 3, 4, Swing, 2, 3, 4, Down, 2, 3, 4…”

He continued counting ’til it faded out, leaving only the sound of faint breathing, slowing down to his very last breath at 9:25 pm.

Still Geoffrey Holder.
The most incredible night of my life.
Thank you for indulging me.

Love & best,
L

Wassa Dance in residency with STRETCH at Seattle University

This past week I had the rare pleasure of being part of an interim intensive week for theater and choral students at Seattle University.  I was invited by the organizer and chair of the theater department,  Ki Gottberg, to be the “dance deep queen” leading the first hour warm up for their five day intensive that was facilitated by Dianne Meeks.

Opportunities like these are among my dream gigs. Being able to work with bright, open minded students who bring their curiosity, dedication and talent into a focused learning environment is such a pleasure.  It is also very fun to share my passion and ideas about movement and culture with young adult bodies who are willing to be outside their physical norms. I also got to play them some wonderful music and artists who have inspired me for a long time.  We started with a Habib Koite piece on day one and ended with Virginia Rodrigues’ version of “Uma Historia de Ifa” on day five. In between there was Chebbi Saba, Chiwoniso, Toure Kunda, Obo Addy, Yande Codou Sene………..

Here’s a sweet piece of feedback I got from one of the participants:
“​I was initially nervous about taking a Wassa class because I don’t have much experience or natural talent in dancing and I was afraid of feeling self-conscious. There was really nothing to worry about! The dance style itself is so simple and rooted in the body’s natural movements. Plus, the killer music makes it hard to stop moving for even a second. I never felt embarrassed or overwhelmed, only joyous. Lara is a teacher that positively overflows with love for her students, and it was a pleasure learning from her.”

ASHE!

 

 

Wassa Dance Savory Autumn Retreat – Oct. 10-12, 2014

mini autumn bowl

 

 

WASSA DANCE’S SAVORY AUTUMN INTENSIVE
with Lara McIntosh
Madrona MindBody Institute
Fort Warden in Port Townsend, WA.
Friday Oct. 10 – Sunday Oct. 12th, 2013

LARA WITH FADED EDGES IN HATJoin us for a delicious autumn weekend of inspiration and concentrated experiences of Wassa Dance’s joyful African-infused offerings at one of the Puget Sound’s most beautiful resources for movement studies.
Inspired by the elemental roots of music and moves from Africa and the Americas, this retreat is designed for people who love to move in a nourishing, structured environment. Our sessions will include image-rich movement meditations, floor work and stretching, along with spirited dancing in Wassa’s unique style.

Prices include five intensive Wassa Dance sessions, lodging, 2 breakfasts and lunches, all fees and taxes.
Single rooms : $475
Couples/Shared room : $800

Limited enrollment for one or two day movement sessions Saturday and Sunday and scholarships, available by request.

To register for this workshop or for additional information contact Lara McIntosh: lara@wassadance.com

More about Madrona MindBody Institute.


Wassa Accelerated Sessions

Night time is the right time.
Come dance on Thursdays!

Saturday's Beauties

 

 

 

 

 

February 19,26 March 5, 12,19, 2o15.
6:15-7:15 p.m.
Balance Studio
418 North 35th Street
Seattle, WA 98103
$50 for the series*
Drop-ins are welcome: $15 at the door.

The Thursday night series is designed for those who want to go deeper into the intensity, technique and choreography of Wassa Dance. The lively hour features focused energy and choreography along with deeper skills and technique. And, it’s FUN FOR ALL!
Series spaces are limited. Please contact Lara to sign up.
Drop-ins are welcome: $15 at the door.
*no refunds or extensions on individual series purchases

A beautiful testimonial

It’s rare that I get this sort of thing but today I received this really lovely piece from one of my beloved long time students. Darryl is a wonderful human being with a large heart and a wicked fun sense of playful adventure.  I am honored by what he has to say here:

darryl at MMI

About Wassa Dance

I’m a runner and 63 years old. I had never taken a dance class, except for square dancing in my entire life. Then, more years ago then I dare to count, I decided to take a risk and walk through the door to an African dance class taught by Lara on the second floor of the Physical Culture dance studio. My wife was taking Lara’s class and said I would love the music. She was right. I loved the music and did my best to imitate Lara’s moves. The music pulled me in and to my amazement I believed I was learning the movement and the dance. At least I was moving in the right direction most of the time and even my feet occasionally seemed to follow Lara’s pattern and rhythm. But when I took a moment to observe amidst the excitement of of a new experience, I seemed to be moving in dancing in a dimension different than the one Lara and the other dancers were dancing in. During classes Lara described bowls of light, johnny jump-ups, lava flows, internal rubberbands, sugar cane harvesting, star fish and Bamako club dancing. Lara kept describing the experience of moving from the center and letting the movement begin internally and flow, shimmy, warble and wisp out to the fingers, toes and crown of the head and beyond to the sky and earth and then loop back for another go. I loved the class and just wanted it to go on for hours. Somehow over the years the watching, imitating and listening seemed to sink into this runner and I would begin to experience brief moments of pure joy and ecstasy when somehow I would sync in with Lara’s moves, the spirit and beat of the music and the moves of the other dancers. I just wanted that fleeting moment to last forever.   I am still running long distances and have now gotten bit by the trail running bug. When I’ve consumed my initial burst of energy in the first couple of miles and have many more to go, I find that center for running and try to relax and settle into it with legs, arms, body and energy moving from the center, connecting and reconnecting to the earth and moving through space.  Thanks Lara!

Darryl Eastin

Live Music Sundays Fabulous Winter Crew

Maketa, Alexandra, Bill and Blake were an awesome house band for our Dec.-April 2014 Live Music Sundays.

Maketa, Alexandra, Bill and Blake were an awesome house band for our Dec.-April 2014 Live Music Sundays.

What people are saying

“I believe that Lara a marvelous leader, visionary for African dance in America, and powerful instructor.  I was thrilled to see that our dance group was “my” age group. I have enthusiastically shared my wonderful Wassa Dance experience with many family and friends.”
Bettina M- Alaska
Participant in “Spring Tuning” at Kalani Oceanside Retreat Center,  2014.

Samato Dance Class and Party with Ousmane Sylla June 14, 2014

Saturday June 14, 2014  Ousmane Sylla - Master Party Starter
5 – 8 p.m.
Balance Studio
418 N.35th St
Seattle WA 98103
advance registration – $20
at the door, if there’s room – $35

Wassa Dance is hosting a dance class and party with Ousmane Sylla, Samato Contemporary African Dancer and Get the Party Started Master.

We’ll begin the fun with a Samato Dance class. Then we’ll show off our moves with Ousmane spinning the Samato
tunes to get our groove on!  It’s going to be so much fun.

Space is limited for this very special event. Early registration is strongly encouraged.
SIGN UP WITH LARA
More about Ousmane and Samato Dance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Internal and External Orientation Workshop 5/31/2014

INTERNAL & EXTERNAL ORIENTATION with Janelle Campoverde and Lara McIntosh SATURDAY MAY 31, 2014
2:30-4:30 P.M.
BALANCE STUDIO 418 North 35th St. Seattle, WA 98103
$50

Gyro Silhouette

 

 

 

 

 

The intricacy of our human design hard-wires our brains to be continually learning throughout our lives.

Orientation involves awareness of three dimensions: time, place and being. We learn orientation through movement.
In this workshop, Lara and Janelle will introduce ways to hone your ability to orient where you are while you are dancing. Lara will bring the movement patterns you that you both enjoy and are challenged by in dance classes. Janelle will offer exploratory movements that heighten your ability to feel yourself and your surroundings while moving – clarifying how to direct your movement intentionally and spontaneously.

To register, please contact Lara McIntosh
More about Janelle Campoverde

Wassa Dance and Village Volunteers’ 10th annual Thanks-Giving Fundraiser

Celebrate Thanksgiving with Village Volunteers and contribute to a woman’s opportunity for economic freedom and independence.

Wassa Dance’s 10th Annual Thanks-Giving Dance by Donation
featuring some Seattle’s finest percussionists and Lara’s joyful moves
(please plan to dance barefoot at this event!)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
ARC School of Ballet – 9250 14th Ave. NW Seattle WA 98117 (Ballard)

This year we will be dancing for the “Ndori Banana Women’s Fund” which helps women access micro loans to start businesses or enhance their small enterprises in a small village in Western Kenya. Our goal is to sponsor as many women as we can with $100 seed loans.
All loan recipients receive training and assistance with becoming economically stable. The loans are administered locally and when the funds are paid back, they are reinvested with more local women’s projects.
This kind of fundraising alliance has touched many people’s lives through the amplifier effect of resources and expertise being passed hand to hand. On the women’s meeting days, their camaraderie is palpable when they dance and sing greetings to one another. Let’s join that spirit this Thanksgiving!

We invite you to also keep it local by contributing part or all of your donation to the operational expenses of Village Volunteers, the organization that keeps all of these programs going throughout the year. If you’d like to support both Ndori Banana Fund in Kenya and Village Volunteers in Seattle, you can designate the amount you’d like to go to each on the memo line of your check or a note with cash donations. We are very grateful for your support!

All donations are tax-deductible and eligible for company matching funds. If you can’t attend and want to contribute, send a check with Wassa Dance on the memo line to:
Village Volunteers

5100 South Dawson Street, Suite 202,
Seattle, WA 98118

ASANTE SANA!!

For more event information contact Lara at: lara@wassadance.com
For more information about Wassa Dance: www.wassadance.com
For more about Village Volunteers’ great work: www.villagevolunteers.org or contact shana@villagevolunteers.org or call 206-683-6681