because life is not static, there is an inherent beat and rhythm to it that affects us all. do you complement this rhythm? do you try to ignore it? are you out of step?


these are the tales of a dancing diplomat!! sometimes this mission keeps me and my dance company - life, rhythm, move project - at home in washington, dc. at other times, we find ourselves kick ball changing across the country and globe. enjoy these pictures and updates of recent adventures.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Strange Movements in the Sunshine State

Ali Rehm, Nikki Gambhir, Aysha Upcurch & Juliana Calderon
A week-long residency in Florida highlights our strange differences that make us all normal

From November 25-29, 2012, LRMP was on the move in West Palm Beach, Florida as invited guests of the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts.  Aysha Upchurch, Juliana Calderon, and Nikki Gambhir entertained and engaged youth audiences with Strange(r), a show adapted from the company's evening-length work to advocate appreciation of diversity.  By using the many sides and universal appeal of Hip Hop dance, the dancers imparted the rich, ongoing overall history of the art form and how they individually adapt it to their own unique identity as a dancer.

The Rinker Playhouse

Ali Rehm and Tracy Butler in the Kravis Center's Education and Community Outreach Department made this amazing trip possible, featuring LRMP in three of its programs.  The S*T*A*R (Students and Teachers Arts Resource) Series allows for students and teachers to attend educational arts programming at the Kravis.  These shows have curriculum links that allow for continued learning in the classroom.  Strange(r) was featured in the Kravis' Rinker Playhouse, where 371 students and teachers got a chance to learn about the different sides of Hip Hop.  Students wrote letters detailing all they learned about diversity and the history of Hip Hop -- proof that LRMP's programming keeps arts education at its core.  Moreover, the show gave the students opportunities to try their hand at performing by joining the dancers on stage.

Demo of four principles at Conniston Middle School

Another program is the Kravis-on-the-Road Series, where artists take their show to schools.  A very energetic crowd of 247 students at Conniston Middle School got to experience Strange(r) on their turf.  Students learned the four principles of Hip Hop in their seats and definitely showed off their moves with the company on stage.

Lois Martin Community Center 

Lastly, the ladies conducted after-school workshops to drum up support for the Kravis' spring residency that LRMP members Upchurch and Calderon have participated in for four years.  The dancers led brief demos at the Academy for Positive Learning and Colman Park Community Center.  Also, Aysha led a conflict resolution workshop at the Lois Martin Community Center to get kids thinking about other ways to sort out their disputes. At Dreyfoos School for the Performing Arts, the ladies led three master classes.  In total, the in-school programming reached 182 students.  Juliana and Nikki conducted an additional master class at the Kravis.

After Kravis Master Class
The residency was a welcome reprieve from the cold north.  Also, it marks a new major mission for LRMP -- truly focusing on arts education.  All of the students and teachers were so pleased with the show and the company had a blast sharing their passion with a new audience.  In the era of increasing pressure on testing students, it is very important that artists everywhere remember their obligation to share this outlet with those coming behind them.  Every time a child eagerly raises their hand to come on stage and try something new and  is met with applause and validation, then a child's confidence goes up.  Perhaps there is no standardized test to measure that, but all educators know that this is the key to success.

So, if you want to try something new and "strange"...let us know!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Shhhh....People Dancing!!

Libraries Make EXCELLENT Dance Studios

You ever have a desire to relive the "Marian, the Librarian" moment from The Music Man?  Well, I often wish that I could have a musical moment where sudden song and dance broke forth in the most unlikeliest of places.  As it turns out, you really can have what you wish for.

Cascades Library
Over the past year, I have been cultivating a relationship with the Virginia libraries and giving on-site Hip Hop dance workshops.  That's right! I feel like there should be a sign that reads, "Shhhh! People Dancing!"  In 2011, a colleague put me in contact with a teen library coordinator in Loudon County, Virginia.

Rust Library
In the spring of 2012, I traveled to three libraries in that region and conducted dance workshops for teens.  We had a blast. I had a flashback of all the times I'd been hushed or even found myself virtually living in the library studying.  In none of those instances, would I have even dreamed of turning around and seeing a woman rocking out with kids and playing music WITHOUT headphones.  Yet, that is exactly what we did.

Most of the participants at the Cascades, Rust and Ashburn libraries were new to Hip Hop dance, but I definitely met some fresh young talent.  Not only did I teach them moves, but I made sure they left with a basic knowledge of the history and culture surrounding the art form. I'd like to send a big thanks to Kathleen Britto for making the mini-tour last spring possible. I'll be returning this February for more fun times.

Asbhurn Library
This past November, I made a shorter journey to Alexandria, Virginia for more "dancing with books." Ginny Rawls is the Young Adult Librarian that coordinated a one-day workshop at Beatley Central Library. This time, the music and energy proved that dancing is not ageist, as adults joined in on the fun.

Beatley Central Library, Alexandria, VA

So, it's official. Libraries indeed serve as excellent dance studios. If you are interested in bringing a lec/dem, workshop or interactive performance to your library, let me know!

One Dynamic Intensive

Students open up with some Cumbia

Life. Rhythm.Busting a Move on Jersey Shore...

Okay, so not that Jersey Shore.  From August 20-24, 2012, LRMP Founder Aysha Upchurch and company member, Juliana Calderon, participated in a one-week intensive at Dance Dynamics in Cape May, New Jersey.  
Big finish with baby freezes

Dance Dynamic Summer Intensive 2012 students 
During the week, Aysha taught Hip Hop and step basics, while Juliana taught Afro-Latin dance.  The culminating performance included a piece the two set on the company that will be part of their annual recital and competition.  The students were very open to learning new dance styles.  

Our hats off to Dance Dynamics Director Marybeth Clark and our friend and colleague Maggie Strawley Lassor for making our trip possible. We look forward to returning to Jersey!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

EL CUATRO – Aysha and the boys take it to the streets

So the goal of “La Semana de Hip Hop” was to present the four elements of Hip Hop to Santa Cruz.  Claudia did an AMAZING job in assembling our crew of four: 

DJ Ark and the kids
Yogui 13 freestyles for the crowd
DJ Ark is not only a great DJ, but he’s Bolivia’s primary Hip Hop DJ.   Yogui 13 is a dope emcee.  Dibustyle and 1979 are two incredible graffiti artists.   And then, well, there is yours truly holding down the dance component.  

We visited three cultural centers located throughout Santa Cruz (La Cuchilla, Alto San Pedro, and Villa de 1 de Mayo).  Underneath sunny skies, we each took our turn covering the key information about our respective element and then did some kind of demo with the students.  We had 70-120 students at one time.  The students learned how to scratch a record, the art of freestyling, basic top rocks and the four principles and how to make bubble style graffiti. 

Dibustyle & 1979 showcase their art
I get the kids moving
I really enjoyed working with my five Bolivian brothers the whole week.  We were able to collaborate on the spot because we all spoke the same language, well besides Spanish…we were all versed in the true roots of Hip Hop. I am positive the students left knowing so much more about this culture than when they came and I know that the Hip Hop scene in Santa Cruz is going to grow. It's great to know that there are artists right there committed to sharing the art and the history. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011


I'm someone "Interesting" to meet!
So in my past envoy trips, it has typically been a whirlwind of classes, performances and interviews stretched over a two-week period with intra-country journeys to different cities.  Well, this time, all of that would be concentrated in Santa Cruz for just one week.  But let’s redefine what a week’s worth of work means on this crusade of the dancing diplomat.  It actually meant five days of programming to include: lecture/demonstrations for students learning English, daily evening classes/workshops that would culminate in a performance, daily afternoon workshops at community culture centers throughout Santa Cruz, a slew of television and newspaper interviews and being ready for anything else that could come up.  Did I mention that I left DC Sunday afternoon and arrived in Bolivia Monday morning…and the schedule started that afternoon!! But I’m not complaining. I LOVE MY JOB!! It is an honor to have such an opportunity to not only share what I know but to learn from the new friends I stand to make.    

My immediate new cruceƱa family consisted of Claudia, aka Petty, Geovana, Rene and Alberto.  They were my main contacts at the CBA.   The CBA is an amazing center that teaches English.  (Hmmm, why aren’t there focused and funded centers for people of all ages to learn other languages here in the States, namely DC??) As part of my agenda, I would give presentations in English on Hip Hop history and culture and talk to the students about what I do. It’s part of the “Meet Someone Interesting” series they have so that students get a chance to listen to native English speakers and practice.  I think the idea was a little intimidating to the students at first, but we had a great time. And I assured them that although I speak Spanish, I too have my “obviously-not-a-native-speaker” moments and it’s okay.  

La Semana de Hip Hop
One small detail here. Claudia and the CBA with the support of the US Embassy have prepared “La Semana de Hip Hop” or “Hip Hop Week.” Claudia has made sure that the week includes workshops with artists representing each of the four elements of Hip Hop.  It is impressive.  So often in the States, I think we take for granted that we’re living in Hip Hop’s birthplace and that it entails more than the music and the dance.  So imagine, telling folks about Hip Hop that know NOTHING about it.  I mean, the 40-minute interactive presentation I gave was the first encounter almost all of the students had with Hip Hop. Again, I felt honored, and considered my task to be a serious one.  Not only did I want to make this a language experience, but I truly wanted to be an ambassador for Hip Hop.    

There is an overall negative image of Hip Hop in Santa Cruz.  It’s very akin to the negative stereotypes some folks in the States hold about the culture, but there they don’t have the opportunity or information to balance that against the truth.  So we talked about the four elements, learned some fun phrases, listened to quintessential music, watched some clips featuring Hip Hop godfathers and gatekeepers and we learned about the four governing principles (peace, love, unity and having fun) and the power to use Hip Hop to inspire positive change.  I shared how I used Hip Hop as a vehicle for community dialogue and social change.  At the end, we all danced and walked away knowing and believing in the power of this culture.  (I give myself a gold star for having taught everyone how to “throw their deuces up”…c’mon, it was a language and culture experience!!)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cruzing for Hip Hop

Hola Bolivia!!  

Two years ago I came to Bolivia as a Cultural Envoy.  I came with my great friend and colleague Juliana.  We spent most of the time in La Paz (managing the intense altitude) and then we ventured to Cochabamba and we finished in Santa Cruz.  But we only had two days with the crucenos.  So, imagine how excited I was to receive an invitation to return to Santa Cruz for a week - workshops, lec/dems and a performance  Unfortunately, this would be a solo trip. But all the same, I felt honored to have been asked and confident that I could put on my superhero cape and venture out to save the world through dance.   

Dancing Diplomats CAN travel light!
After postponing the trip due to an H1N1 outbreak and learning that my rebooked scheduled flight was going to leave half a day earlier, I still managed to pack everything into my two allotted carry-ons and arrive at Regan National with plenty of time.  Well, thank God I packed efficiently because I was quickly informed that I would need a visa to enter Bolivia.  I almost died.  (I do not do well at airports!) Thankfully they discovered that I would just need to run to a CVS to get passport photos and complete the visa application and could get the necessary stamp at the Bolivian airport. Whew!

I had a "really short" 7-hour layover in Miami.  I'm not sure how I did it, but I survived, though I'm sure I NEVER want to do that again.  I was excited to see Rene and Alberto from the CBA - Centro Cultural Boliviano Americano - where I will be working for the next week.  All three of us experienced the "joys" of sitting in the non-reclining emergency exit aisle seats.  And worse, riding in the middle on a 7-hour flight with no vegetarian food options was great!!  Only topped by the 1-hour layover in La Paz -- just long enough to be teased by the altitude. (All reasons #537-545 as to why I want my own plane.)

Well, the flight experience wasn't the best, but immediately, it was worth it.  Although I was jetlag-drunk, as soon as I landed it all became better.  Claudia, aka "Petty" greeted us at the airport waving a newspaper that had major coverage on my trip and the Week of Hip Hop.  That coupled with the sweet tropical temps put a smile on my face.  The dancing diplomat was ready to jump in and get started...well, okay I was flat out exhausted, pero igual, bien lista para conocer a todos y empezar!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dancing Diplomacy in action

We speak dance...Brazilian Youth and Aysha Upchurch caught doing some dance diplomacy