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

 

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

We’re coming back in September!

By Lara McIntosh | August 12, 2021

In late March 2021 I had my right knee replaced. Before the surgery I had thought I’d be back to dancing and teaching in some form after 6 weeks or so. I really had no idea how deep, personal and  profound my healing process would be and how important to go slowly and not push or rush to return to the physical and energetic daily life I was used to.

I also had very little sense of how challenging it had been to maintain a semi-active life with a degenerated joint and dancing alone that way in the studio for Covid time Zoom sessions until that had passed.

I did know from the minute I first set weight my hours old new knee that my world had shifted for the better.
I am most grateful for all the love and support that has come my way in this process. It has been a powerful and beautiful teaching to give over and receive love in action from so many sources during this time.

And I am very happy to report that my surgeon has cleared me to start teaching again!
We’ll start back on September 7, 2021 with regular classes on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

For now our sessions will be a mix of in-person participation (masked dancing) and Zoom for those who want to dance from home. Balance Studio takes the utmost care to ensure that the studio is meeting pandemic safety and health guidelines with regular cleaning, proper ventilation and daily symptom checks for all participants and staff.

I look forward and…………stay tuned!

April 2021

By Lara McIntosh | April 5, 2021

Happy Spring!

This month will have an unusual schedule for online classes.
We are on our regular Tuesday & Thursdays 10:30 – 11:30 am through April 15.
Check back on our class page for details on the rest of the month and also May offerings as things unfold.

Gratitude for our 16 years of Thanks-Giving dances+donate

By Lara McIntosh | November 25, 2020

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 shana@villagevolunteers.org. 

Take care and have a safe and warm Thanks-Giving,
Shana Greene
Executive Director
Top rated 2019 Nonprofit – Great NonProfits
Village Volunteers
5100 S. Dawson St. Suite 202
Seattle, WA 98118

206-577-0515
Website Village Volunteers

Special schedule for week of November 23, 2020

By Lara McIntosh | November 23, 2020

This week we will be dancing on Zoom on Friday November 27. No class Tuesday or Thursday.
Here’s the link for Friday.

Clicking the link will take you straight to the day’s meeting.

 

July 2020 newsletter

By Lara McIntosh | July 1, 2020

This is a copy of what I sent out today:

Hello Beautiful People!

I hope this finds you well and safe.
I have not reached out to you since mid-March. The shelter in place mandate rocked so many parts of my daily life and structures. And I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to take a sustained break and rest from some significant parts of how I operated.

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. 
This kind of format will be unfamiliar and fairly uncomfortable new terrain for me to learn about and develop into meaningful opportunities for us to share movement, music and community in. And, it is time to try it!
Basically it’s gonna be first draft of a gentle and small space version of Wassa Dance on
ZOOM online
Tuesdays and Thursdays in July

10:30-11:30 am  
7/7 -7/30/2020
(donations welcome)

with a trial run Monday 7/6 
10:30-11:30 am

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!
These days, so many great opportunities on the inter web as well. 
A few local teachers I know are teaching online now:
Manimou Camara (Guinea)
Etienne Cakpo (Benin)
Dance with Dora (Brazil)
Bahia in Motion (Brazil)

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.
Here are just a few local organizations to support:
Northwest Tap Connection
WaNaWari
CD Forum
Town Hall Seattle
Seattle Public Library

I’ll be back in touch as soon as final details are in place for our online July experiment. 
Thank you for reading and for all that you are.
Here’s to the seeding,
Lara