April’s Live Music Sunday and benefit for MARY’S PLACE

By Lara McIntosh | April 18, 2013

This was a wonderful event!  Our musical all star musical team was Denny Stern, Mark Lilly, Thierno Diop, Caxambu, Mohammed Shaibu, Larry Swanson and Makeda Wilborn. Twenty dancers strong and beautiful!  We raised $230 for Mary’s Place. It was a good day indeed.


Our next live music session is April 21, 2013. I’ll be donating 25% of the door from this event to MARY’S PLACE: a day center in Seattle for homeless women and children.  I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to support this vital local organization.

This benefit is in partnership with a 3 day event at Casita International.  This great little shop on Capital Hill is bringing in fair trade accessories made by women in Malawi and India. April 19-21, 25% of the sale of these goods will be donated to MARY’S PLACE.

Casita and Wassa’s benefit for Mary’s Place

Shop, dance and give locally-with a global twist.

A Sweet Article about Wassa by Irene Hopkins

By Lara McIntosh | April 18, 2013

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.”



In Rhythm

By Lara McIntosh | April 9, 2013

This piece just came my way for the third time and is so worth sharing:

Angelique Kidjo on Mali and so much more

By Lara McIntosh | February 6, 2013

Angelique Kidjo is one of the powerful female artists from West Africa who caught my ear way back. Her music has inspired so much for me. Here’s an 18 minute interview with her that shows why she’s the force she is. ASHE!


Big Island Retreat March 2013

By Lara McIntosh | January 4, 2013


Greeting the new day at Kalani.


Bringing their many collective years of movement, music and embodiment explorations together, collaborators Lara McIntosh, Chiara Guerrieri and Marla Simms invite you to:


March 18-23, 2013
Kalani Oceanside Retreat Center
– Big Island, Hawaii

5 days in paradise seeding a new season with joyful dance, customized yoga and body mechanics, meditation and nonviolent communication the aloha way.

We will:

  •   Cultivate fresh vibrancy in our physical wit and wisdom.
  •   Root deeper dialogues of compassion and possibility in daily interactions within ourselves, our physicality and beyond.
  • Establish healthy practices designed to take and grow at home to nourish an active longevity.
  • Free our bones with afro-infused dance inspired by some of the best music the world has to offer.
  •   Engage our senses with the complex natural and cultural beauty that IS the Big Island where ocean meets lava, mongoose, wild pigs, tree frogs, bird song, hula, solar power, compost, and not so far away strip malls all exist on the newest earth and cleanest air in the world.

Included in this five day sweet island style retreat are… daily sessions of morning meditation, yoga, body mechanics, dance/movement intensives and time spent with the art of the of nonviolent communication. Spontaneous offerings for group or individual sessions TBA throughout the week. Portions of each day are purposefully left open for participants to enjoy their own experience of Kalani’s offerings along with the many other delights and resources of Kalani and its neighborhood. Delicious daily buffet style meals, accommodations and use of Kalaniʼs grounds, pool and spa area are also included.

Early registration is encouraged!
Registration requires $250 deposit
 Final payments are due February 21, 2013


(per person) Double Occupancy Single Occupancy
Lodge Room (shared bath) $995 $1240
Lodge Room (private bath) $1225 $1475
Tree House Room $1350 $1675
Bungalow Room $1350 $1675

Cancellation Policy: All cancellations include a $100 fee. No refunds for cancellations within 6 weeks of the workshop (unless we can fill your space).

To register contact Lara McIntosh: lara@wassadance.com

About the Facilitators

LARA MCINTOSH: Performer, teacher, choreographer and perennial student, Lara is also an active member of Seattle dance, public art and cultural communities. Under the name WASSA DANCE, Lara blends a mix of afro-infused and American dance styles which are greatly inspired by lifelong studies and travels to Brazil and Mali, West Africa. She explores rhythm, spirit, craft, and community to unlock the movement potential in each person. “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, creativity and cultures, combined with a deep love for music are lifelong muses. www.wassadance.com

MARLA SIMMS started her love affair with the human body and its magic from the inside out. She experienced the boldness and explosive energy of a gymnast in her youth. She then turned to the focus of exploration of other’s bodies through the study and practice of massage. She has been a massage practitioner and massage educator for 20 years. As an educator, she pursues a better understanding of the soft tissues of the human body and how they react (however subtly) to the stresses and challenges of life and living. For Marla, the body continues to be a venue of art, joy, and discovery.

CHIARA GUERRIERI: began studying Yoga to rehabilitate and strengthen her core after a car accident; she continues to practice and teach yoga as a way to heal the separation between body and mind. Chiara teaches us how to breathe, how to connect the breath with the body, how to track physical sensations from moment to moment, how to find internal wisdom as body, breath, and mind work together to inspire our practice. Chiara’s classes are accessible to anyone with a basic background in yoga. She has a strong interest in injury evaluation and treatment, and welcomes students recovering from injury or other physical pain. She has studied Hypnosis and Neuro Linguistic Programming; she uses her language skills to weave trances that wake us from our routines, allowing us to explore new pathways.

Chiara is a licensed massage therapist, practicing since 1983, teaches Anatomy for Yoga Teacher Trainings, and the principles Non Violent Communication. www.chiarayoga.com

download as a PDF: SPRING TUNING: Seeding fresh embodiment with dance, yoga and meditation, the aloha way!

GREAT PHOTO for our Thanks-Giving Event with Village Volunteers

By Lara McIntosh | November 13, 2012

For our Thanks-Giving Fundraiser with Village Volunteers for the Sisi fund in Kenya.


Wassa’s Live Music Sunday Dance – Here Come the Meerkats!

By farfalle_wassa-admin | November 7, 2012

Three Charming Musicians

Lara celebrates 20 years of teaching dance with her original live
musical crew, the Meerkats – Caxambu, Eric Johnson, Phillep Page +
special guests.

Join us for a special legacy edition of this unique blend of
cross-cultural percussion and Wassa’s Joyful Afro-fusion style moves.
It all started with a berimbau, congas, and marimbula…

Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012
SHIFT Movement and Healing Arts
3517 Stone Way N
Seattle, WA 98103
$15 at the door – or pay as you can.
(Contributions for musicians are always welcome)

Wee Wassa Video

By Lara McIntosh | October 29, 2012

Here’s a little clip from dance class-two years ago.

Staff Benda Bilili!!

By Lara McIntosh | October 29, 2012

Saw the most amazing band at Town Hall Saturday night.  They rocked my world.


Wassa Dance & Village Volunteers’ 9th Annual Thanks-Giving Dance by Donation – Nov. 22, 2012

By Lara McIntosh | October 29, 2012

Women of Village K

You, your family and friends are cordially to
join us for an inspired morning of dance
featuring live music by some of Seattle’s finest percussionists!

Wassa Dance and Village Volunteers’
9th Annual Thanks-Giving Dance by Donation
 Thursday, November 22nd, 2012 – 9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
ARC School of Ballet
 9250 14th Ave. NW Seattle WA 98117 

The Challenge: African women often face great hardship, especially those who have been widowed or left without family due to the AIDS pandemic, political, environmental and economic challenges. With no credit, house or land ownership, little education or possessions, women struggle to save and develop a livelihood that will help them pay for school and medical fees in addition to feeding themselves and their families.
Our Response: With years of advocacy in the field, Village Volunteers has been able to steward small scale programs in local settings that respond appropriately to specific needs and lead the way with pilot programs and grassroots support.
This year Wassa Dance partners with Village Volunteers to sponsor the Sisi Fund (Sister to Sister) granting women micro-loans and mobile savings accounts that allow individual women to start small businesses. All loan recipients receive training and assistance in developing their means to livelihood . All projects are monitored and loan recipients receive frequent advice and assistance with their projects. The women will expand their gardens to produce food, build chicken coops, sell soap and other self produced products.
Come dance with us and contribute to an African woman’s opportunity for a vital future. Our goal is to raise $100 to $200 loans for at least 15 new businesses for African women and their families in Kiminini in the Rift Valley, Kenya.
All donations are tax-deductible and eligible for company matching funds.

 Please plan to dance barefoot

 Contact Lara with any questions about the event: lara@wassadance.com
Village Volunteers: www.villagevolunteers.org
Wassa Dance: www.wassadance.com