M. Soledad Sklate interviewed Monica Ortiz Rossi about what makes her new dance fitness class – Aché – different, and why she’s passionate about it. Monica Ortiz Rossi teaches a free preview class of Aché on Monday, March 18 from 5:30-6:30pm, and the first regular day of class will be Monday, April 1. She also teaches Zumba on Fridays from 12:00-12:45pm.
Article by M. Soledad Sklate.
Q: What is your new dance fitness class called Aché all about?
A: Aché is about being grounded and finding the energy to dance to African, Latin, and world rhythms, while paying attention to our bodies so we can dance for years to come. For many Afro-Latin and African diaspora cultures, Aché is the universal life force; it is the energy that connects us to our ancestors, to our present and to our future, it is the blessing we bring forth when we touch the ground and unify our experience of the class. I am also a certified yoga instructor (Kundalini and Hatha) and have found that Eastern philosophies have a similar concept of Chi (universal life force) which not only sounds like Aché, but also represents the life force or energy that is present in all living things.
Q: How did you develop the idea for this class?
A: I have taught Zumba, yoga, hip hop and modern dance before. Each of these styles is great, and I wanted to create a lab where all these different styles interact, connect, complement each other. We’ll start on the floor, to experience being grounded, and will perform isolations of different parts of the body based on Katherine Dunham techniques. We’ll find awareness and connections to the most stable position for our spine (as we do in yoga) and discover the ways the spine can move, including undulations and contractions. The class will then enjoy dancing to African, Latin and other rhythms. Being safe and taking care of our bodies will be central to the class and I encourage everyone to be aware of their limits, and have as much fun as possible within them!
Q: How will it be different from other dance fitness classes?
A: Aché has all the fun aspects of a dance fitness class. I keep the house party feel I experienced almost every weekend growing up in a very celebratory Dominican household. There will be a short, fun routine compiled from the various moves we review during the class, and we will put it all together when the drummers – Adam “Mada” Hinz and Ian M. LeBlanc – both well-versed in Afro-Latin rhythms and styles, join us for the second half of class.
Q: Why are you passionate about bringing this class to the Cumbe community?
A: After having kids, it took a number of years to feel completely at ease dancing. My body had completely transformed, and I couldn’t find a class that would help me transition back into being a dancer. This is the perfect class for those who have been away from dancing for a while, for people who have never danced before and for women regaining their center after pregnancy. It’ll help them stay healthy, have fun, and find the vital energy that if we don’t use, we lose. It’s funny that Aché without the accent reads ‘ache’, it could create some confusion, but if someone walks in thinking they are taking ‘ache’ and they come out feeling the Aché, then job done. Aché, y más Aché.
About the writer: M. Soledad Sklate is a PhD student in the French Department at New York University, doing academic research on the intersection of literature and embodied cultural practices and manifestations rooted in African diasporic influences. She is an avid practitioner of Latin and African dances, and is working at Cumbe as a Media and Communications intern.