Shining Examples of Community Spirit

Kiz Talks, Aug. 10, 2014

Today I’d like to talk about how wonderful people make community happen. I have benefited from the kindness and generosity of so many people since I started dancing, but this weekend I was particularly overwhelmed by three lovely ladies in the Philadelphia area.

1. Alexis Mayer is an aspiring film producer who regularly opens her home to visiting dancers. I was randomly assigned to her in October for a blues dancing event along with another person I’d never met. She welcomed us with a home-cooked meal and so our friendship began. I have come back to stay with her twice now, and coming in at 1:30am yesterday it felt like coming home.

As someone who is constantly on the road, it means so much to be given a small space to call my own, a set of keys to come and go freely, and to be treated like a friendly roommate.

Others have also afforded me this privilege, as have I also hosted people (when I had a home!). It’s amazing how good it feels. I hope more of us will consider the impact we can have by offering hospitality to other dancers.

2. Lori Coyle is the owner of Sangha Space in Media. Their mission is to “connect people through movement” and I can well believe they are accomplishing it. When I contacted Lori about the possibility of doing a kizomba workshop, she welcomed the idea. We had an easy exchange about scheduling, class topics, advertising, and so on. She made it easy for me to get to the part I like best: teaching kizomba.

I was still more impressed by my actual experience in Media. Sangha Space is gorgeous, like a giant parlor turned studio. Lori was there to greet me and help me get set up. She had a table next to the DJ area set up with a cold carafe of water and a bowl of sweet treats. She took care of getting people to sign my waiver and stayed through the whole workshop. So far, wonderfully supportive.

That’s not all, though. After the workshop, I was rushing to get to a party about 3 hours away. Lori told me, “I knew you were going straight off, so I’ve got you something to eat.” Sure enough, she had a goody bag all prepared for me, filled with healthy snacks like hummus and fruit, as well as sweet treats like chocolate and cookies. What’s more, there was some Sangha Space swag- temporary tattoos and wristbands- and a gorgeous thank you note.

I have definitely had favorable interactions with studio owners and organizers, but this personal thoughtfulness blew me away.

3. Chantel Christian Cardoso is a Philly-based dancer and up-and-coming event planner. She reached out to me a month ago, interested in talking about building the kizomba community. Only my favorite topic! She made sure to come find me when we were both at a NYC kizomba party at the end of July. A pleasure to dance with, she soon showed just how committed she is to facilitating community growth.

Chantel enthusiastically extended her support as I explored options for workshops in Philadelphia while I was in town, then helped spread the word once the details were set. She graciously offered to provide my transportation to and from the workshop in Media, refusing to accept any recompense. She arrived with everything we needed for a classy picnic lunch. In the workshop, she joined several others in trading off leading and following, asking pertinent questions and helping demonstrate points for which she had more experience than the other students.

The best part was getting to talk to Chantel on the way to and from Media. She is incredibly passionate and invested in growing the local scene. She works with various teachers and DJs and organizers. She is in touch with so many dancers and is aware of their experiences, and is working to improve the possibilities for kizomba in Philly. She travels regularly to NYC for social dancing and helps bring in people from out of town. Her insights were relevant and her enthusiasm absolutely infectious – I have no doubt Philly will become a new hub for kizomba within the next year!

Community is what makes our dance experience vibrant and warm. You can actively support the kizomba community near you by:
– supporting existing lessons and events
– welcoming dancers and teachers from out of town
– being open to learning from and working with a variety of people
– spreading the word and attracting new people to the scene
– being active learners
– going to an out-of-town event and connecting with the larger community
or even just giving someone in your community delicious food!