Story last updated at 9/2/2009 - 2:31 pm
JUNEAU - Heather Haugland has had her eye on musician Ricardo Lemvo for years, and she has finally convinced him to perform at the fourth annual Juneau DanceFest, which will be held Sept. 4-7 at Centennial Hall.
"This has been a long time coming," Haugland said. "I have been wanting him to come to Alaska since I started dancing salsa."
Lemvo, a Congo-born artist, blends a variety of Afro-Cuban rhythms with pan-African styles to create music that begs to be danced to. He now resides in the Los Angeles area and performs around the world with his band, Makina Loka. His five albums have been praised by the media, and he was chosen to appear in the 1998 film "Dance With Me" starring Vanessa Williams.
Haugland, a local dance instructor and DanceFest coordinator, has been in sporadic contact with Lemvo for the past seven years. This year Lemvo will finally be able to perform for Juneau at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5 at Centennial Hall. According to Haugland, Lemvo's music will lend itself well to dancers of all skill levels.
DanceFest will feature four days of dance classes geared toward beginning and intermediate dancers. Classes will be led by a number of local and outside instructors, including Dora Oliveira, Rebecca Smith, Eric Lindgren, Rachel Lidskog, Esteban Beamon, Janice Hurley, Pat Belec, Frank Bergstrom, Alysia McLain, Dan and Lorinda Kassner, Antonio Diaz and Haugland.
The cost for each class is $5. A weekend pass may be purchased for $85 for adults or $75 for students, which includes entry to all evening dances. Tickets for evening dances vary in price. All tickets are available at Hearthside Books or at the door.
TAKING THE FIRST STEP
Rachel Lidskog, a Portland-based instructor and performer, will be participating in her third DanceFest this year. Originally from Soldotna, she is skilled in many different styles of dance and has a hard time nailing down her favorite.
"I love them all, everything from waltz to swing," Lidskog said. "I see beauty and fun in all of them."
Lidskog has taught, performed and competed at dance events around the United States and Europe. Her advice for new dancers is simple: "Everyone can learn."
"The most important thing is to actually just begin, to take that first step," Lidskog said. "Everyone was a beginner when they started. Let advanced dancers inspire you, not intimidate you."
According to Lidskog, the more people who participate in the dance community, the better. Every dancer, regardless of their skill level, has a unique gift to offer.
"I think that people see things on television and have expectations that it should come naturally, and it doesn't," Lidskog said. "In 22 years of teaching, I can tell you that every student that has ever come to me has learned to dance."
NO PARTNER REQUIRED
DanceFest will feature a variety of dancing styles, many of which don't require dancers to engage in personal contact with strangers if they don't want to.
"Beginning students should not feel intimidated," Haugland said. "They do not need a partner."
For dances that do involve pairs, Haugland said there will be plenty of opportunities for partner switching, and those who come alone won't stay alone.
More advanced dancers will be encouraged to be gracious toward those who are just getting on their feet for the first time.
"One of the most important things you can do for your partner is to smile and encourage them," Lidskog said. "Remember that you, too, were also beginners."
For more information and class schedules, visit juneaudancefest.org.