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

 

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!

 

The Return of Wassa Live Music Sundays

By Lara McIntosh | November 29, 2011

Wassa Live Music Sundays – Nov. 2011