As with so many things during this time of striving to turn the tide of the Covid pandemic, Wassa Dance and Village Volunteers annual Thanks-Giving Dance by Donation fundraiser will not be happening this year. I am very sad about this as it has been one of the great highlights of my year both personally and professionally, and a joyful way to celebrate community and a global consciousness for the past 16 years.
I am so grateful to everyone who has participated in, helped out with and donated to these projects, especially the musicians who have donated their talents and fueled our inspiration to move together so beautifully year after year.
The idea for these events all started for me in 2003 through a conversation I had with my friend and teacher, the late great Lummi healer Beaverchief. He was talking about the emotional challenges every November brought to him and many indigenous people with the illusions around the origins of a holiday he called “Thanks For Nothing”. That made me want to do something different to mark a traditional day of gathering and enjoying bounty. The rest came so easily. One of the dancers in my classes, Shana Greene had started a nonprofit called Village Volunteers and was developing beneficial projects with local folks in different parts of Africa. I already had a studio I rented time from that I could donate, a wonderful group of musicians who I collaborated with every Sunday willing to donate their talents and plenty of good hearted students. Setting the event up so that every dollar raised went straight to the project was easy too. And so we began. I don’t know if any of us realized this would become such a beloved annual tradition gathering between 30-85 multigenerational participants (several years one of our beloved families brought four generations!) every year for the next 16 years raising over $30,000 for mostly micro-loan based projects. So many treasured moments, such loving connections, so much goodness. I remain amazed.
Thank you all and thank you again!
Here is a letter from Shana Greene and an opportunity to donate to Village Volunteers this year if you are able and so inclined.
Thanksgiving mornings have held a special place in my heart for the last 16 years. As the founder and ED of Village Volunteers, I looked forward to Thanksgiving morning as a soul lifting tradition to gather with people to dance, give thanks, and raise funds for specific projects enhancing self- sufficiency in rural African villages.
Lara McIntosh, the Director of Wassa Dance, led attendees in Afro-infused movement accompanied by a talented group of percussionists who raised the level of joy as we danced.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we will not gather at the dance school gymnasium and hug and profusely thank the musicians who show up every year and rock the house. The love is always palpable.
The impact of the donations over the years has been significant in generating income activities that support families and communities’ immediate needs and help invest in the wellbeing of their futures.
The projects that Wassa Dance’s Thanks-Giving Dance by Donation events have raised funds for over the years are still thriving and continue to cycle resources and funds into the communities we’ve donated to. Here are some ofthe projects we have supported over these 16 years:
- A Bee Cooperative
- A Goat Project
- A Chicken Project
- Supplying bicycles for couriers in a remote Maasai community
- Two Textile Cooperatives in Ghana – one making children’s clothes and the other,
providing sewing machines and equipment for batiking.
- A goat dairy run by a girl’s school in Kenya
- Seed saving cooperatives and seed banks
- The Moringa Tree Project that set up tree nurseries for the “miracle” moringa, a tree that has more protein in the leaves than soybean meal.
- Vulnerable women making sanitary pads from water hyacinth (an invasive species) – won a UN Woman Award for empowering women through business
- Two Posho (corn) milling cooperatives, and many microcredit loans for women who prosper as seamstresses, farmers, and more.
Although we cannot be together in person this year, we invite those who have the means to continue our tradition of Thanks-Giving donations.
This year we have chosen to enhance a Women’s Table Banking group. Table banking is a proven method for women to spearhead their finances and experience economic benefits. Each table banking group meets once a week where they place on a table their savings and loan repayments with a small amount of interest. In Kenya, table banking is an organized and calculated means for women to have control over their finances by pooling their money. This savings program is a way for entrepreneurs who work individually to support one another and multiply the fund to include additional women entrepreneurs and second loans.
To donate, click here to access the dropdown menus/programs and choose Initiatives Micro and Social Enterprises development. On the special instructions field, write table banking/Wassa Dance. If anyone would like more information, you can call contact me at email@example.com.
Take care and have a safe and warm Thanks-Giving,
Top rated 2019 Nonprofit – Great NonProfits
5100 S. Dawson St. Suite 202
Seattle, WA 98118
Website Village Volunteers
This is a copy of what I sent out today:
Hello Beautiful People!
I hope this finds you well and safe.
So much has been and is changing in and around us.
Now that we are in Phase II of Covid 19 activities, I have the opportunity to go back into Balance Studio (and can bring one person under 65) to offer online sessions on Zoom.
I’ll send another email in the next day or so with specifics & details after I go into Balance Studio to learn the early ropes. Big ups to Aileen and Daniel for the powerful ways they have kept their mission with dance and culture going during these challenging times.
As I step back into teaching it is very important for me to honor and acknowledge how profoundly my creative life has been inspired by music and cultures from Africa and its diaspora. This love has brought me beautiful powerful experiences, teachers, friendships and collaborations. I have visited Brazil and studied in Mali and those experiences continue to be great influences for me. From the start, ihas not my intent to present what I offer as an “African” dance class or to be an authority on cultures outside my own. That’s not possible. There are very good dance teachers here in Seattle that are African, Brazilian, Puerto Rican, Cuban and more, who work hard and their wonderful offerings are available to you!
As a lifelong student and teaching artist in Seattle, I see my role as sharing what I learn and am inspired/challenged by from deep wells of my privileges, inspiration, examination, ongoing dialogue, truth seeking, re-learning history as a citizen of the world, spirit sources and movement studies as a springboard for people to experience a taste of for themselves and offer resources for how to go deeper with the music and movement that speaks to you.
As white person whose life has been so enriched by cultures outside my own, it is important for me to advocate for African and Black arts and artists and social justice. When we dance, we dance. I will also be putting together more resources to be shared on my website and finding the best way to share the music I use and putting that in the context of where it comes from.
I’ll be back in touch as soon as final details are in place for our online July experiment.
Wassa Dance lives in solidarity with all who are devoted to the necessary work of creating true social justice in our world.
We look forward to the time when we can safely come together again and dance.
Back in the late 1980’s when I was a student at Physical Culture Fitness Studio, there was a Sunday class taught by Kristi Rudolph with live African percussion. That was the most exciting class of the week to take. And, at the time, it was one of the few places drum students (most of whom were white) could come and play along the great African percussionists who were living here. It got to be quite a scene where sometimes there were almost more drummers than dancers (and the rooms always packed). Congas were slowly being replaced with Djembes as THE chosen drum. Eventually the Senior living center across the street filed a city complaint about the “volume of noise that was disturbing to the residents’ well being”. That was the end of that era.
Right around that same time, Kristi moved on and I was chosen to take over the class. As a new teacher, I had very big shoes to fill and needed to find ways to make these classes my own. Because of the trouble with our neighbors, I ended up moving the Sunday class to a much smaller studio in the top of the building what was the Ballard Firehouse night club. A core group of dancing friends helped me decide to not make the class be a drum jam session for aspiring players and focus instead of some of the beautiful acoustic instruments I was just learning about. I had musicians friends who were very happy to experiment with their beloved berimbaus, mbiras and kalimbas, balafon, pandeiro, agogos and smaller hand drums. And our cross-cultural improvisational collaborations began.
I’m remembering all this as I think about the last live session we had in February of this year at our new home in the Taj Yoga Studio. That turned out to be very special. One of my most beloved teachers and friend Won-Ldy Paye made a surprise visit while in town for an artist residency. Few things could have made me happier than to have him there that day. There were students who are brand new to my work, students who had heard of Won-Ldy and some long timers who had danced with him a project we got to be part of for Seattle Art Museum’s exhibition “Long Steps Never Broke a Back” (more on that another time), or when he lived here and taught classes. Some of my favorite musicians to collaborate with were there too. It was a good good day. One that refueled and inspired me and seems all the more important now that all the studio in town are shuttered indefinitely and it is hard to know how long it will be until anything like that is safe to do again.
Dear Friends and Students,
Wassa Dance classes are on our regular schedule for now. We are trusting in folks following best practices for both self-care and community well being. Dancing in community is a beautiful thing and we are grateful for every day this happens, especially now. If you are feeling sick or vulnerable, please stay home and take good care.
If we need to deviate from our regular schedule, I will post here, on Wassa’s FaceBook page, and send out an email via Constant Contact.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Please know that Balance Studio is very pro-active in keeping our dance space clean and sanitized. Here is an excerpt from them:
As the spread of COVID-19 continues throughout our area, we are closely monitoring advisories from King County and Washington State Public Health. At Balance Studio we are taking measures to frequently disinfect doorknobs, light switches, water dispenser, bathroom, studio equipment and all other areas frequently touched by both instructors and students. We recommend washing hands or using a 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer before entering the studio and before leaving. Bring a change of clothes to change into after class if you do floor exercise. Remember to not only prevent contact with the virus but boost your own immune system by eating a well balanced meal (with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables for their immune-enhancing capacities), get plenty of rest and avoid stress as much as possible. Below are a few reminders and links for more resources. As always, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
- Stay at home and away from others if you are feeling ill.King County Department of Health:https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/communicable-diseases/disease-control/novel-coronavirus.aspxWA State Department of HealthEPA-Approved Disinfectants:
My holiday break comes late this year. I’m very pleased to have these wonderful women stepping in to keep you dancing while I am away:Monday 1/6 – Becci Parsons
Becci brings her beautiful wit, wisdom and love of movement coupled with her many years of Feldenkrais practice. Wednesday and Friday 1/8 & 1/10 – Janelle Campoverde
Janelle shares her love of Brazilian movement and music along with her great insights in Feldenkrais technique. Saturday 1/11 – Kine Camara
Kine carries the legacy of her father Ibrahima Camara’s mastery of traditional Senegalese dance and percussion to the next generation along with her studies in Afro-Beats style.
Monday 1/13 – Becci Parsons
Wishing you a brilliant new year
full of fulfillment, joy and lots of dancing!