Dance class on 11/2/2023

By Lara McIntosh | November 3, 2023
I do some of my most inspired thinking during Wassa Dance sessions, on my feet, listening to music mixes I’ve made over the years, while in the moment with my beloved dancers. I rarely remember what I thought or said.
Today I did and even made a note on paper (a first):
“Responsive over reactive.”
It made so much sense at the time. It still does and in that moment had everything to do with how we stand.
The mix was one of my tried and true for a stormy morning/turbulent time. This one has meant many things on many days and I am grateful for every song.

Wassa Dance Newsletter for April 2023

By Lara McIntosh | April 15, 2023

Here’s the Constant Contact version of  reflections from me, announcing our Autumn retreat at Madrona MindBody Institute plus updated Zoom policy plus some great links to music:

https://conta.cc/41u4G4h

Wassa’s Savory Dances for Autumn 2023

By Lara McIntosh | April 14, 2023

Wassa’s Savory Dances for Autumn 
October 13-15, 2023
Madrona MindBody Institute
at Fort Worden
Port Townsend, WA

                                                                                                   IT WAS FABULOUS!

Join us for a weekend immersion in movement and music dedicated to the richness of our individual and collective experiences. Each of the three daily sessions offer the invitation to come as you are and go deeper into what calls to you through embodied listening, with guided contemplative and lively movement that is sourced daily with some of the best music the world has to offer.

All levels of fitness and experience are welcome.
$230 for the weekend
Spaces are limited and first come first served
Single sessions available by request
Email Lara at lara@wassadance.com for registration, payment options, cancellation policy, any questions or requests.

Our preliminary schedule is:
Friday 10/13: 4-6 pm
Saturday 10/14: 1-4 pm
Sunday 10/15: Noon – 3 pm

 

Newsletter 3/10/23

By Lara McIntosh | March 10, 2023

https://conta.cc/3YJKyt3

Thoughts on playlists #1

By Lara McIntosh | March 10, 2023

One of the sirens’ calls that first got me into teaching dance was the notion that I could make my own mixes with all this new to my ears music that was coming my way. From the continent of Africa especially. This excitement along with needing to structure a mix along an aerobic hear rate curve was very compelling. 

I spent a lot of time counting the beats per minute of pieces and hours and hours getting a set just so in the cassette form. 

Then came the CD format. Faster but still needing to have all the physical materials on hand to make something happen. Once it was burned, it was done.

Now I can make and rearrange mixes as fast as I can think of or explore a new song. 

I’ve had many different goals with the musical choices I’ve made over the years but exposing folks to some of the vast richness of cultures and expressions from the African diaspora has always been one of the essential keys.

When we were first slowly coming out of Covid lock downs, working with so many restrictions, including dancing in separate taped off squares, masked and 98% virtually, many of the 100+ compilations didn’t feel right. Some sounded too big, some had too many layers of memories for me of big groups and unencumbered spaces, some I thought wouldn’t sound good on whatever home set up people were using to dance on Zoom. I didn’t try to present as if it was the same class as ever with some inconveniences thrown in. And I felt we needed music that was encouraging, nurturing and inspiring to move with in small spaces.

I now have a whole series of those that start with the letter Z (for Zoom).

This winter one of our long time dancers, Nan, who now has dementia, started joining us on Tuesdays. When I know she’s coming, I’ve gone for my most gentle mixes thinking too much stimulation might be harder.  Having her there is teaching me many things. One is the kinds of music she most seems to respond to (it varies but definitely pieces with a touch of Latin flavor). And for however small it appears, how deep from within her those movements are. It feels very pure. One of the things I appreciate about her responses too, is how when she gets overstimulated she simply stops and slowly folds herself into a ball on the floor. Or makes her way to the door where her amazing husband helps her sit out for a while until she’s ready for more. 

Lately as more people are able to return in person and we can use the whole room again, my curiousity, creativity and musical palette are opening up too. 

Last week Ismaila Toure of the great Senegalese band Toure Kunda died. Hearing this reminded me of how their song “Salaly Muhamed” was one of THOSE songs that got me excited to start teaching with my own musical choices. I set out to re-explore some if their work and other songs from that era. That resulted in a mix I made with Nan in mind that also includes Samite, Remmy Ongala, Dorothy Masuka, Thomas Mapfumo, Angelique Kidjo…

The next one brought in more from Toure Kunda, some older some newer, a nod to De La Soul’s catalogue being remastered and released with most of their original samples (and RIP Trougoy/Dave), a posthumous piece from Ali Farka Toure, new Baaba Maal and a Janelle Monae/Seun Kuti collaboration, Kokoko!,Angelique Kidjo and a few more. I wasn’t sure this one was going to fly but it held together in a fresh way.  I can’t wait to dance with it more. 

Wassa Dance newsletter 2/27/23

By Lara McIntosh | February 28, 2023

 

We’re back, studio & zoom thoughts, Toure Kunda.

 

 

Wassa Dance 12/26/22

By Lara McIntosh | December 27, 2022

Here’s the latest newsletter

Wassa’s newsletter 11/11/2022

By Lara McIntosh | November 11, 2022

Wassa Dance clips on YOUTUBE

By Lara McIntosh | August 8, 2022

We have begun! Here’s the link to check out our first tastes of what goes on in our daily classes. Enjoy! And, I’d love to hear from you: lara@wassadance.com

 

From Wassa’s news letters

By Lara McIntosh | August 3, 2022

https://conta.cc/3vBMmZw

They’re back!

By Lara McIntosh | April 8, 2024

Wassa’s live music Sundays
are back!

Come dance with a cross-culturally rich mix
of some of Seattle’s finest percussion musicians and Wassa’s joyful moves.

 May 5, 2024

10:00 – 11:30 am
Balance Studio
418 N 35th St
Seattle WA 98103

$25
Cash, checks and Zelle accepted.
Contributions for musicians always appreciated.

Stay tuned for future dates in the summer and autumn  of 2024.

Revisiting “Keep on…………….”

By Lara McIntosh | April 8, 2024

One of the great things about being entirely back in-person at the studio for classes is the chance to go back through 20+ years of playlists and experience some anew for the first time in 3 years or more.

During quarantine and the Zoom era, I felt the conditions called for particular types of music that carried well through the platforms we were using and suited folks dancing alone in whatever part of their homes they’d managed to make work while watching a screen.

Now I can pick a mix from a much wider pool. This is one I made at least 12 years ago. (I really wish I had thought to mark create dates on all 100 and some playlists including the ones on cassette!!). I can remember dancers who have moved away dancing to certain songs from this one. Dancing with it Tuesday, one of the songs that came up was shared by a really cool Kalani staff person I bonded with over music the two years he was there early in our 17 year annual residencies.
Anyway, this was fun for me on Tuesday and wow did the Isley brothers sound fresh.

Keep on………

 

Wassa’s Savory Dances for Autumn 2024!!

By Lara McIntosh | April 8, 2024

I’m thrilled to have this annual tradition back in our mix of possibilities.

Wassa’s Savory Dances for Autumn 
October 11-13, 2024
Madrona MindBody Institute
at Fort Worden
Port Townsend, WA

                                                                                   

 

Join us for a weekend immersion in movement and music dedicated to the richness of our individual and collective experiences. Each of the three daily sessions invite you to come as you are and go deeper into what calls to you through embodied listening, guided contemplative and lively movement with some of the best music the world has to offer.

All levels of fitness and experience are welcome.
$250 for the weekend$100 minimum deposit with balance due by September 30, 2024
Spaces are limited and first come first served
Single sessions available by request
Email Lara at lara@wassadance.com for registration, payment options, cancellation policy, any questions or requests.

Our preliminary schedule is:
Friday 10/13: 4-6 pm
Saturday 10/14: 1-4 pm
Sunday 10/15: Noon – 3

Participants are responsible for their own lodging and transportation.
Monday 10/14/24 is a national holiday – Indigenous People’s Day here in Washington.
I strongly suggest booking accommodations early.

We had so much fun last year. I can’t wait til we do it again.

An ephemeral soundtrack with cowhide, wood, iron, gourds, and a wire from a tire

By Lara McIntosh | January 28, 2024

I’m basking in the glow of this morning’s rare two hour session with live percussion at Balance Studio.
It’s been three years and eleven months since the last time that Caxambu, Denny Stern and Will Matthews have been able to join me for such a unique collaboration. I’ve missed them so.

Since this is not exactly an RSVP event and winter illnesses are definitely a thing, I didn’t know who all would be able to show up and dance. Today was extra special with some folks coming from far, some in for the first time in years, one brand new today. So much love and generosity in that space.
I had thought I might weep when we started as I have missed this kind of offering so much. Instead, I put on my ankle bells and listened for where we would start. Having such a long history with these wonderful musicians, it felt like a fine conversation we simply picked up in the here and now. Hearing the acoustic tones of instruments I love being played by people I love and respect so deeply was a revelation in responsive listening.

It’s always fascinating to watch a room full of beautiful individuals find some kind of communion in movement and rhythm.
This is something that deserves much more reflection and its own writings.

In one of the breaks, I asked the musicians to introduce some of the instruments. Will, the natural teacher, described the origins  and composition of bougarabou and dun-duns he had and how all the drums we had today are specific woods with origins in West African, Afro-Cuban and Haitian traditions and have cow hide heads which makes for the deeper warmer tones that are so suited to melodic percussion. Denny then took up the theme describing the pentatonic marimba (wood), the congas (wood/hide), the iron in the bells, his handmade shakers made from candy and food tins, Caxambu carried the theme describing the gourd resonator on the berimbau and how the wire that attached the two ends of the wooden bow was from one of his tires. The bongos (wood hide. metal) belonged our beloved Mohammed Shaibu who passed.

Bringing in wood, hide, iron, gourd, seeds, all these essences are the physical elementals that resonate so deeply in sonic action and in spirit.

The one thing we all forgot was to take any pictures. As with many of the best things, it was real and now it’s in the ethers.

It was a very good day.

I am in awe.

This is my basket of handheld instruments.

Why live music – it all started with a berimbau, mbira, bongos and a surdo

By Lara McIntosh | January 20, 2024

When I first started teaching in the style I’ve evolved with over the past several decades, I inherited a class from Kristi Rudolph at Physical Culture that featured live drumming every Sunday. As this beloved class slowly became my own, I was discovering instruments from all over the diaspora of African percussion and was curious about creating something more cross-cultural and improvisational in lieu of interpreting traditional rhythms and songs. It was an amazingly foundational, bountiful time for me in terms of exposure to music from Africa both on the radio (KCMU with John Kertzer and WonLdy Paye) and in local bye gone clubs.  I was studying dance with wonderful teachers from Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria and Brazil. It was the late 1980’s early 1990’s in Seattle.  I wanted to honor them and do something different in what I could contribute to Seattle’s percussion and dance communities.

Every Sunday for many years, musicians and I collaborated for these dance classes. Who all has come to play deserves its own story as some of the best in Seattle are a part of it.

While I dearly love curating recorded music mixes and broadening folks’ exposure to some of the depth and breadth and wide ranging expressions of Africa and the diaspora, I’ve always felt the live music collaborations to be the keystone of my dance work. I set the space and musicians ahead of time. From there, based on who comes to dance and which directions the enegies of the sound and movement go, the rest of my movement guidance and where the musicians go is all improvised. It’s hard to describe how edifying it is to be in a room of willing participants making that magic happen in real time.

Our last live music session was in February 2020. Covid closures hit hard. After things started to open up, available spaces that meet the basic needs of accommodating the sound volume of live percussion, a large enough space with a good enough floor at desirable times have been much harder to find. And, frankly I’ve been working weekends at the job that supports my teaching life because that’s how I have guaranteed income.

I’ve been waiting for some kind of ground swell or sign to start back up in whatever iteration might be conjured now.

Recently I was presented with a really rare opportunity to have two hours on a Saturday at Balance Studio, where I’ve been happily teaching for almost ten years with my schedules set around the days and times the owners themselves need. I jumped on it and then realized MAYBE the musicians who had been the rock steady base before Covid might be available?
They said yes. And we’re on.
I can’t wait to be with them and the dancers who show up to contribute their beautiful attunement to the mix. Click here for joining us January 27, 2024

 

A song for December 27, 2023

By Lara McIntosh | December 27, 2023

Often in my Wassa Dance newsletters I include a link to a song that has resonance for me.
Right now with all in the world and the end of this year, this is one of them.
Everything is Recorded – Mountains Gold – featuring Kamasi Washington, Ibeyi, Wiki, Sampha and a brief appearance from Quincy Jones. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWCh1qlNth4

 

We’re getting the band back together Saturday Janunary 27, 2024

By Lara McIntosh | December 27, 2023

1/27/24 3:45 pm. Postscript:  What an amazing time we had this morning! Thank you all who were able to attend. It was a feast of love and powerful vibrations.

After way too long, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to offer a special live music dance session with beloved musicians  Caxambu, Will Matthews and Denny Stern featuring cross-cultural percussion and our unique collaborative vibe.
Saturday January 27, 2024
9:00-11:00 a.m.
Balance Studio
418 N 35th St
Seattle WA 98103
$25 – Cash, checks and Zelle
Day of contributions to musicians appreciated!
No one turned away for lack of funds.

 

 

All in-studio again

By Lara McIntosh | December 14, 2023

I was working with my web guy David at Real Basics today and mentioning how we just started being completely in studio without Zoom options for the first time since the pandemic closures in August (2023). And how great it is to have folks gathering again to dance together. This is a very powerful thing.  David said, “That’s a big deal! You need to share that!” He’s right.

I am so grateful to owners Aileen and Daniel of Balance Studio for the tremendous dedication and efforts they put into keeping dance offerings available through the pandemic closures and beyond. And to my students who hung in there on Zoom and in the many iterations of cautious in studio options. It’s stunning to realize it has been less than 4 or so months where all the activities of Wassa Dance are in person.

Here’s to it!

Watch for Autumn retreat Oct. 2024

By Lara McIntosh | December 13, 2023

We had a glorious time at Madrona MindBody Institute  and plan to do it again!
Stay tuned!

Saturday December 30 is a fundraiser for Facing Homelessness

By Lara McIntosh | December 9, 2023

Happy update! We are over $1,500 now. Thank you to all.

We had a wonderful session this morning with more dancers than I expected in this season of holiday plans, travel and sickness. And best of all, we’ve raised $1,440 so far! 

 

Our last session of 2023 on
Saturday December 30, 2023
9:00-10:00 am
will be a thank you for donating to

 Wassa Dance’s fundraising event 
for
Facing Homelessness
one of the local organizations doing important advocacy for our unsheltered neighbors.

While donations are welcome through the end of the year at least, please donate prior to the event on Saturday if possible so we can acknowledge how we’ve done that morning. You don’t have to attend to donate, and though I hope you do,  you don’t have to donate to attend.

The folks at Facing Homelessness have made this very easy for us and when you donate to their 501-c3, you can choose which of their projects you’d like your money to go to.

Here again  the link to donate to Wassa Dance’s fundraising event.

 

I’m very grateful to have the living situation I do. And know the care and support of family, friends and our beautiful extended  dance community. Thank you for joining me in contributing to material kindness in our city with this project.

I hope to see you on this celebratory dance floor!