Wassa Dance

What people are saying about Wassa Dance.

While Lara is away 6/14-July 1 – Look who is teaching!!!

We are very fortunate to have these very talented women coming in to offer classes while I am traveling with my Mom. WOW!
Here’s the line up June 14 – July 1: 
Friday 6/14 – Helen Landalf
Helen is a deeply experienced teacher and author who brings her many years of creative movement and Pilades into a sweet mix.
Saturday 6/15 Helen (see above)
Monday 6/17 Janelle Campoverde
Janelle brings a lovely blend of her many years of Brazilian and Cuban dance studies along with Feldenkrais practices.
Wednesday 6/19 Becci Parsons
Becci brings her lifetime of dance and movement insight. In this session she plans to highlight the ‘shock absorbing’ connection of the ankles, knees and hips. We’ll deepen our connection to the ground and surrender our weight to gravity with levity. Please plan to wear layers for this insight session.
Friday 6/21 – Janelle (see above)
Saturday 6/22 – Class is cancelled – Happy Fremont Solstice
Monday 6/24Janelle  (see above)
Wednesday 6/26 – Theresa Elliott
Theresa is one of Seattle’s longest running and most creative yoga and yoga-dance teachers. In this session she offers a kinetic class with a little bit of mechanics, a little bit of yoga, and a lot fun.
Friday 6/28 Helen (see above)
Saturday 6/29Janelle – (see above)
Monday 7/1Becci  
This session explores how the arms are truly connected to the pelvis.  When we move from this place we have more support from the large muscles and less tension in the smaller ones.  We’ll also explore how breathing and the motion of the ribs are at play. Please plan to wear layers for this session.

Thanks-Giving day our 13th Annual Dance by Donation!

I’m so pleased to invite you my favorite event of the Wassa year:



Featuring some of Seattle’s finest percussionists.

Thursday, November 24th, 2016
9:00 -10:15 a.m.
Crown Hill Gym
9250 14th Ave. NW
Seattle WA 98117 (Ballard)









This year we will raise funds for Farmers’ Own Flour Mill installed in Khalwenge Village in Kenya and operated by the 27 members of the Tasamana Women’s Group.

The flour mill will provide women with an income to be able to support their families and send their children to school. One third of the profits of the mill are saved in a fund to provide the members with no-interest loans.

Village Volunteers is a 501 C3 nonprofit. All donations are tax-deductible and eligible for company matching funds. If you can’t attend, you can still send a check to Village Volunteers* with Wassa Dance on the memo line. All proceeds raised at this event go directly to the micro-lending project.

Event questions: lara@wassadance.com
Wassa Dance: www.wassadance.com

Project Information, contact Shana at Village Volunteers: shana@villagesolunteers.org
*Village Volunteers

5100 South Dawson St.
Suite 202
Seattle, WA 98118

A beautiful new flier for Wassa Dance

I’m so pleased to share a beautiful piece of art created by Phillip Page as the cover for the new invitation to Wassa Dance classes. Come by and get some to share with your friends and communities. Its time to dance!!!!

Wassa Dance

Wassa’s Savory Autumn Intensive at Madrona MindBody 2017!

Wassa’s Savory Autumn Intensive
in Port Townsend, WA 
September 29-October 1, 2017

Join us for a delicious weekend of extended dance sessions and inspiration at one of the Puget Sound’s most beautiful resources for movement studios, the Madrona MindBody Institute.

Inspired by the elemental roots of Africa and beyond, we’ll immerse in Wassa’s unique style of spirited dancing combined with seasonally rich movement meditations and stretching to begin and end each session.

This workshop is designed for people who love to move in a nourishing, structured environment with some of the best music the world has to offer.

The Wassa Dance fee for the full weekend  – $225.
Friday 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Saturday sessions: 9:00 a.m.-Noon & 3:00-6:00 p.m. 
Sunday sessions: 9 a.m.-Noon & 1:30-3:30 p.m. 
Can’t come for the entire weekend? Come for a class or day! Saturday morning or afternoon session or Sunday afternoon session. $35/session for residents of the Port Townsend area.
Please contact Lara for registration and questions.
Residency participants arrange their own transportation, lodging and meals.

A sweet Sunday live action clip

We are most grateful to dancer, photographer, author Judith Ryan for this lovely little live action postcard from Wassa’s Live! session on Sunday Oct. 18, 2015 with musicians Maketa Born, Mark Lilly, Thierno Diop and Bill Matthews.


JeConte and the Mali All Stars at Jazz Alley 11/17/14

This show features a blend of international musicians along with some of Seattle’s very talented African and Funk/Blues artists.

Our good friends at Jazz Alley are offering the Wassa Dance community two for one admission if you call in for reservations and mention “Wassa”. Such a deal!   That leaves $ for a nosh and a tip for your server at this special show.


For more about the artists and the show: JeConte and the Mali All Stars

I hope to see you there!


Wassa Dance and Village Volunteers’ 11 Annual Thanks-Giving Dance by Donation

This year’s event was a beautiful thing.  65+ dancers of many ages came.  We raised $2,500 at the door with more donations coming in and corporate matching funds to add soon. Our musicians Thierno Diop, Caxambu Silverman, Denny Stern, Shemayim Elohim and Larry Swanson created such wonderful music to inspire and bring us all together in movement and spirit. Stay tuned for moire details and images.

Judith Ryan’s Video Postcard from Wassa Dance & Village Volunteers’ Thanks-Giving

Here comes my favorite event of the year where the musicians and I donate our time and ARC DANCE donates the space for this wonderful session that has become a beloved local tradition inviting a broad community to come together, dance, and share our resources with meaningful micro-lending projects in Africa.


Wassa Dance and Village Volunteers’ 11th Annual Thanks-Giving Dance by Donation
featuring some of Seattle’s finest percussionists
and Lara of WASSA DANCE, who will lead us in joyful African inspired movement.

Thursday, November 27th, 2014 9:00 -10:15 a.m.
at ARC DANCE  9250 14th Ave. NW Seattle WA 98117 (Ballard)
(Please plan to dance barefoot at this event!

Dance with us and contribute to a woman’s opportunity for economic freedom and independence.

Donations will go to the SiSi Fund (“Sister to Sister”) and Lenana Girls School students in Kiminini, Kenya. Your donations will provide small micro-loans to women, helping them start a micro-enterprise and will provide young women entrepreneurs with internship opportunities.

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” on the memo line to: Village Volunteers, 5100 South Dawson Street, Suite 202, Seattle, WA 98118

For More Information:

Contact Lara for event questions: lara@wassadance.com
Wassa Dance: www.wassadance.com
Village Volunteers: www.villagevolunteers.org, shana@villagevolunteers.org or 206-683-6681

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.”




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

A Sweet Article about Wassa by Irene Hopkins

This piece appeared in BALANCE STUDIO: BAHIA IN MOTION’S Spring 2013 newsletter.  I love the insight Irene brought to my work. Here’s the piece:

Instructor Spotlight on:

Lara McIntosh, WASSA Dance

Lara McIntosh is Wassa.

On Lara’s first trip to Mali, her Bambara hosts gave her the name, Wassa Sangare. Translated, Wassa means “one who acts for joy and fulfillment.” Lara believes this name is a symbol of endearment from her Malian hosts as well as of their trust in her as a source of inspiration for cross-cultural connections through movement and music.

“Wassa Dance is an afro-infused style of movement that I developed and have evolved with on my unexpected path of becoming a movement and cultural educator,” explained Lara. Rather than teach set choreography for her students to follow, Lara provides basic steps rooted in traditional movement. Dancers are then invited to infuse the steps with their own style of expression. Students dance together while enjoying their individual experiences.

Lara, with an extensive dance background, began teaching a popular class called Positive Sweat in the late 1980’s. “I changed the name [to Wassa Dance] to indicate a dance class with a fitness component rather than a fitness class with some moves thrown in,” said Lara.

Lara, a lover of African and diaspora cultures, makes it clear that she does not teach traditional West African dance. “There are so many other people born to or with vast experience of specific West African cannons,” she stated. “My focus is inclusion, universality, accessibility; the pure joy of basic physical forms and the vast realm of music.”

Babatunde Olatunji inspired 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 my work ever since,” she said

Lara began teaching at Balance Studio (then Planet Earth Yoga) after a long walk with Balance co-owner, Aileen Panke, in the depth of winter. “I was struggling with my then studio situation, trying to cover costs and make a basic living in an economy that calls for wise choices from each of us,” she said. “There was an opening at Planet Earth that Aileen knew about and she encouraged me to take it. It was a perfect little window to jump into. I’m very grateful.”

“I’ve been renting space for my work on and off since 1989 and full time since 1996,” reflected Lara. “I am impressed and delighted with the depth of care and insight Aileen and Daniel bring to the management and program development of Balance. I’m thrilled to be part of a community of educators, artists and healers dedicated to well-being and integrity through their work.”

Much like the free-flowing dance style Lara has created, her path to now has been a one-step-at-a-time surprise. “If anyone had asked me at any point before I was 30 (or maybe even 50), what I would be doing with my life, I couldn’t have imagined this,” she said. “ I am wildly blessed by the opportunity to work with deeply dedicated students, to touch others in less known ways and to do something I really love. Every day.”