Black Lives Matter

By Lara McIntosh | June 13, 2020

Wassa Dance lives in solidarity with all who are devoted to the necessary work of creating true social justice in our world.

 

Covid 19 closure

By Lara McIntosh | June 13, 2020
Due to the Covid 19 health and safety concerns and restrictions, as of 3/15/2020, all regularly scheduled classes are temporarily canceled. Thank you for doing your part in helping to minimize the spread of this virus and investing in our future well-being in this very unique way.
We are not able to offer online classes at this time.
Stay tuned as conditions change.
In the mean time, please know how much I appreciate you and the beautiful community that has developed over the past 23 years of moving in the heart of rhythm.
We will dance again!

Musing on live music Sundays

By Lara McIntosh | June 12, 2020

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.

Denny Stern, Won-Ldy Paye, Lara, Will Matthews,Caxambu

Covid-19 update 3/12/2020

By Lara McIntosh | March 13, 2020
UPDATE for Wassa Dance regarding Covid-19 on 3/12/2020
While we are still on our regular schedule @Balance Studio for now, classes will be limited to ten participants keeping the required social distance and following all directives from Gov. Inslee and the CDC.
PLEASE CONTACT ME IN ADVANCE IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ATTEND ONE OF OUR CLASSES: larjomc@gmail.com
Balance Studio maintaining all required clean and sanitization to keep our dance environment as safe and healthy as possible.

Amidst the Covid-19 concerns – 3/10/2020

By Lara McIntosh | March 10, 2020

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:
WA State Department of Health
EPA-Approved Disinfectants:

Look who is teaching for me January 6-13, 2020

By Lara McIntosh | January 2, 2020

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

Happy 2020!

By Lara McIntosh | January 2, 2020

Wishing you a brilliant new year
full of fulfillment, joy and lots of dancing!

Photos from our 16th Annual Thanks-Giving dance by donation with Village Volunteers

By Lara McIntosh | December 3, 2019

We had a glorious time! Here are just a few shots from this beloved and successful fundraiser. Many thanks to our beautiful musicians, Caxambu, Denny Stern, Thierno Diop, Shemayim Elohim, Jay Braverman and Lance Lu. And to all who participated and contributed to this event.
We've raised close to $3,000 so far which translates into business loans for 45 women and their families in rural Kenya.
It's not too late to donate.

Wassa Dance and Village Volunteers’ 16th annual Thanks-Giving Dance by Donation

By Lara McIntosh | November 14, 2019

This year's event was a wonderful success! 51 dancers, 7 wonderful musicians and close to $3,000 in that hour and more is coming in!
It's not too late to donate:

We are thrilled to be offering this beloved community event again this year. Come celebrate with us!

Thursday, November 28, 2019
9:00 -10:15 a.m.
9250 14th Ave. NW Seattle WA 98117 (Ballard)
You are invited to our 16th Annual Thanks-Giving Dance by Donation. This gathering has become a beloved event for many local people who enjoy providing an opportunity for economic freedom for women as part of their holiday traditions.
On Thanksgiving morning, join us as we are led in Afro-Fusion movement with Lara McIntosh of Wassa Dance and accompanied by some of the best percussionists in Seattle to raise funds for Mucharange Village Women to provide start up funding to form micro-lending groups in Kiminini-Trans Nzoia County.
All donations are tax deductible and eligible for company matching funds. If you can't attend donate online at https://villagevolunteers.org/donate/.
You can also still send a check to Village Volunteers with Wassa Dance on the memo line to
Village Volunteers
5100 South Dawson St. Suite 202
Seattle, WA 98118

Contact Lara for event questions: lara@wassadance.com
Wassa Dance: www.wassadance.com
Contact Shana at Village Volunteers: shana@villagesolunteers.org
www.villagevolunteers.org
http://www.villagevolunteers.org

Wassa’s Live! Music Sunday Dance 11/10/19

By Lara McIntosh | November 8, 2019

We have a wonderful line up of percussion musicians coming to inspire this month's special Sunday session. Join us!

I had to hunt for Thomas Mapfumo

By Lara McIntosh | June 5, 2024

Way back when I was first starting to teach and make music mixes -and mind you this was so long ago we built these on cassette tape from cassette tapes recordings- I was somewhere when I fleetingly heard a voice and a song I couldn’t get out of my head. It wasn’t so easy to find music then, especially from the continent of Africa’s artists who hadn’t yet crossed over to western ears and wide exposure. My main sources to learn about and find music to dance to was through three things. Listening devotedely every Monday night to KCMU’s show called BEST AMBIANCE. First with John Kirtser and then with Won Ldy Paye.
Second was when Afropop Worldwide started being a weekly broadcast on NPR. I don’t listen that way anymore but I am a very loyal supporter of this multi-platform organziation and all they do to preserve and share the vastness of music of the African diapsora.
The third way I discovered African music back then was by walking three blocks to Tower Records which later was the Queen Anne location of Silver Platters.  I’d comb through their African and Brazilian sections and take chances on what looked intetesting or, and this is for real, tingled in my hand. I also got to be friends with the guys that curated those. Many an educational happy time and lots of dollars spent on that block.
It took some time and hunting to find the artist whose voice was haunting me so. I wish I remember how I found him. But I did.

Thomas Mapfumo. The lion of Zimbabwe and still prolific voice of Chimurenga music with his band Blacks Unlimited on their 1991 album “Chamunorwa” and the song “Nyama Yekugocha”.

 

Two classes canceled in June 2024 and…

By Lara McIntosh | June 4, 2024

There will not be class on Tuesday June 11 or on Saturday June 22, 2024.
On that Saturday, perhaps you will join the revelry that is The Fremont Fair and Solstice Parade.

and…for those who plan ahead, no classes July 2-15. I’m going to see my Mama.
We’re on our regular schedule July 16 through the rest of the summer. Yay!

June 16, 2024 is our next live music Sunday!

By Lara McIntosh | June 4, 2024

Summer time is one of my favorite times to dance.
Even if Junuary might be in effect on the 16th, our fabulous musicians Denny Stern, Caxambu and Will Matthews will be bringing in the warm tones with rythmns and  instruments from Brasil, the Casamance, perhaps some from Ghana, Nigeria, the Carribean… However it flows, the conversations between dancers and musicians are always resonant and inspiring. I’ll be the guide but the adventure is one we create together.
I hope to have you there!

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

$25
Cash, checks and Zelle accepted
pay online $30 with Square
Cash contributions for musicians always appreciated.

All the way live from 5 to 85

By Lara McIntosh | May 24, 2024

Our second edition of Wassa’s live music Sunday dances since before the pandemic times was a wonderful event.
Beyond my hopes, actually.  In spite of many folks telling me they were out of town, we still had 21 dancers. Our youngest is 5, one of our marvelous elders is 85, and many generations in between, all there.

Our musicians Caxambu, Denny Stern and Will Matthews have such a fluid and rich collaborative relationship.
The music and the openness of all the dancers made for so much love and good energy flowing all around.

I have yet to truly be able to describe what happens when we all come together, especially this time.I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time to come.

The good news there are three more versions coming Sundays June 16, August 25 and November 3, 2024.

Musing on playlists: Happy Survival

By Lara McIntosh | May 1, 2024

I’ve written before about how interesting it is for me to dive back into playlists I’ve made over the decades that got moth balled during the pandemic, and some for various other reasons.

Last Saturday, standing by the stereo scrolling through aaallll the options of mixes I could use for dance class four minutes from then, I landed on one I had made in honor of my father’s having navigated his body and spirit getting through one of the many health challenges he lived through in the last 10-12 years of his life. I was his medical ally, witness, driver and above all daughter.
My father was a metaphysical lion (and double Leo) and through all the ins and outs of our time together, there was always, all ways LOVE. I don’t remember what health episode prompted this playlist. Somewhere between 2013-2016….

Back to Saturday April 27, 2024. I scanned this playlist quick and thought, why not? Never mind there were two new students and who knows what they were expecting musically or otherwise?
It went well.  Certainly hearing all those songs as they came felt welcome to me.
I wouldn’t have immediately thought so much about all the layers: me working with music to communicate/commune all this time, poignant motivations (my Dad) , NEW STUDENTS, etc etc until one of my beloved student/friends asked me today what that mix was because it took him until later to realize what dancing with that had felt like and wanted to know those songs.
Thank you Mos’ D.E. for inspiring this post.

Live music Sundays

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.

June 16, August 25, November 3, 2024
10:00 – 11:30 am
Balance Studio
418 N 35th St
Seattle WA 98103

$25
Cash, checks and Zelle accepted
pay online $30 with Square
Cash contributions for musicians always appreciated.

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.
$240 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: 12:30 – 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