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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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