Lara McIntosh - Wassa Dance Founder

Lara McIntosh - Wassa Dance Founder

Lara believes that as we breathe, we are already dancing

Wassa Dance is designed around basic root movements and simple choreography. The intent is for people move and breathe together while enjoying their own individual experience.

On a spectrum between traditional African dance classes and ecstatic world beat offerings, Wassa Dance is unique in inviting dancers to bring their own individuality to basic and structured moves.

There is also an element of movement craft/technique involved as students find deep, rich involvement with the music and the moves. Ages range from teens to septuagenarians. New students are always welcome!

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 & teacher) and Kristi Rudolph (teacher).


Babatunde Olatunji

Babatunde Olatunji

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 been at the heart of her work ever since.




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

What people are saying:

Roika Sidibe

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

"What Lara is striving for is incredibly clear in in her movement: at once subtle and also loud as hell. Quite frankly I can't get enough of it." -Theresa Elliott

"I love Wassa Dance and all it does for me...the exercise, the joy of movement, the comeraderie and the sheer entertainment of it. I encourage everyone to give it a try" - Juli F.

"I've been going to Wassa Dance for 25 years now and it is always fresh! The playlists for each class are a rich and varied mix. from soul-soothing beautiful to get dow funky. There is music you won't hear anywhere else. The dance moves are fun, satisfying and feel sooo good for my body." - Susan Fitch

"Through so many seasons of life and change, the rhythms of class have sustained me. I call the Saturday morning class my life ring. Moving together in space and in community energetically, help me feel refreshed, renewed, a little taller and ready to face the day." - Jennifer S

"Wassa Dance isn't focused on getting things "right". For me there is a freedom from perfectionism or attempting mastery that is character building. I come for the friendliness, but even more so for the music. There is a wonderful diversity of pieces with percussion oriented songs from around the world. And, its exercise that isn't boring."
-Carrie N

"As a movement teacher myself, I deeply appreciate Lara's skill and observation. Every time I attend class, my body and mind leave happy." - Vicki Robinson