laura armenta: breath & Movement

Hi, Laura! Thank you so much for doing this interview with me! I look up to you so much — taking a belly dancing class while in university changed my life and self-esteem and creative goals. And I’m positive that many of your other students have had profound experiences in your dance studio as well.

What experiences have you been able to enjoy because of dance?  
Dance has given me freedom of expression, both artistically and personally. Through the power of dance I have been able to travel and perform, as well as teaching. I have met many wonderful humans and my dance friends from my youth are now my chosen family. Dance is everything

I’d love to know about the response from the communities you’ve danced in and taught in— how have others used your wisdom in their own lives? 
My Dance repertoire as performer and teacher is vast, therefore my exchange and experiences are also diverse. I have worked with groups with various disabilities, and that probably is my most rewarding experience, when I bring a smile to kids faces or adults that are visually impaired and they experience freedom or joy and excitement with movement in my classes. Another favorite of mine is, bringing some of my world dance performances to communities where the audience would not normally be exposed to West African, West Asian or Indian outfits, instruments or rhythms. I think It is awesome to show folks that we have more in common than not across cultures. Another one is, (pre-pandemic) I have created multiple Contemporary Dance Performances in small venues as fundraisers for domestic violence programs. Being able to express the topic artistically is wonderful. I have had audience members in tears telling me how much they appreciate the message, the awareness and the way to present such a difficult topic.

What advice can you offer someone wanting to “make peace” with their body and their way of moving? 

Oh! Humm! (thinking!) Besides the art of dance, my expertise extends into holistic disciplines as well. So, my belief is that our physical body holds our history, our memories, our experiences. Sometimes we are aware of it, sometimes we might not be. But, truly the natural wisdom of the body is majestic. The Translation of the word Yoga from Sanskrit language is: Union – bringing together. When –in a gentle way, we begin to develop that UNION with ourselves (and from within), and understand that we are ONE entity. Energetically and Physically. Our thoughts become emotions, and emotions turn into a physical manifestation. Therefore, “peace or war” with our body is “peace or war” with everything that constitutes our existence. Micro steps into positivity, will always be better than none! Our body sings or screams to us daily! it is a matter of…. are we listening. Focusing on our breath, which is another separate topic, the magnificent experience of breathing. that by itself is movement. we move daily subtly or largely, but we move. Breathing expands our chest, our ribs, breathing keeps us alive. Letting the natural rhythm of life guide us is the best way to become one and in peace. Touch your chest, focus on your breath and let that natural rhythm guide you/us into gratitude for being alive and whole. Letting that rhythm expand into a larger spine undulation and now we are dancing. Dancing from the inside out.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Michigan? I am madly in love with Mishigami (lake michigan). I think it is a superb privilege to have access to such beauty. 
Your least favorite? I can say plenty of dislikes, but I am here to change things. Since 1998, I have been creating and giving, in order to transform and contribute rather than object.

Thank you so much for your wisdom and honesty! It can be really difficult to remember that we’re also responsible for helping change things instead of just criticizing the way things are. Last question: where do you draw inspiration? 
I get inspired by a lot of items. I love learning. I have an ambitious brain. Multigenerational friendships and collaborations is one of my favorite sources of inspiration. I also love reading and learning about female stories of endurance, strength, survival and such. And, Film, I love film – in fact I want to become a film director sooner than later. I also like collaborating with artists of other media like musicians, poets, or painters and create movement, create choreography from what their colors or voices make me feel. Also nature! I guess everything can be an inspiration; I tend to be dramatic, and I chose to be a dancer to express my sorrows, my joys, my dreams. Dancing is my language. Movement and Dance is how I see the world.

Visit Laura online on her website and Instagram or book a class in-person at Armentality Movement Arts Center, located downtown Grand Rapids in the Masonic Building!

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