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!

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

 

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!

http://www.npr.org/2013/02/04/171065166/kidjo-urges-malian-musicians-to-fight-ban

Big Island Retreat March 2013

By Lara McIntosh | January 4, 2013

WE HAD A WONDERFUL TIME!

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:

SPRING TUNING

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

RETREAT FEES

(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

 

Dance Feet Video

By Lara McIntosh | August 28, 2012

October 12-14/15, 2012 – Wassa Dance’s Savory Autumn Intensive

By Lara McIntosh | August 28, 2012

Our next retreat is at a place dear to our hearts:
Wassa Dance’s Savory Autumn Intensive
October 12 – 14th/15th, 2012, at the Madrona MindBody Institute in beautiful, nearby Port Townsend

Wassa Dance is on hiatus August 31 – September 3

By Lara McIntosh | August 27, 2012

See you in September!