A candid slice of Island life, from short feature digests to guess-where snapshots.
You’ve seen her Samba-ing down Vashon highway with her bootie rockin’ entourage and thundering drum troupe every Strawberry Festival: Carol Lutra-Johns is the fearless leader helping ladies and gents shed their inhibitions at the dance studio door; her husband, Geoff Johns is the man keeping beats booming. I finally got Carol to sit still long enough to answer a few questions. From her love of dance to wardrobe malfunctions…now we know!
q: How did your love of Afro Brazilian Dance begin?
It all began with the drumming, actually. I started drumming with Geoff right here onthe island. After about a year of drumming, I found out about the dancing that went with the drumming, and I dove in headfirst! It really was a love affair. I took as many classes as I could anywhere I could. I brought my daughter Zoe with me, and @ five yrs old she would burn-up the floor in the Samba de Roda (Samba dance circle)
q: Which came first, your love of Dance or your love of Geoff?
Well- the 2 are connected-I’ve always loved to dance, but I never made the connection to Brazilian and African dance til I met Geoff. You could say we’re living a musical love affair. It’s really fun and sexy to communicate with drumming and dancing and flirt with each other in that very embodied, playful and creative way.
q: Tell me about your motto “We’re taking it back from Madison Ave toVashon Hwy.”
My dance classes are all about enjoying being in your body as it is NOW. That you are perfect just as you are, and all you really need to do to be beautiful is enjoy yourself and let that joy, that light shine out! To move to the music, to sweat and to glow, with health and happiness is irresistable, no matter what your age or body type.This kind of beauty, and physical confidence can’t be bought-it’s our birthright and it’s FREE! I create a safe and supportive space for women to own their bodies, beauty,sensuality and the pure pleasure of dancing. And I create venues for my dancers to bring their art, their beauty, energy and light into the community to share as a gift.
The Strawberry Festival Parade is our regular yearly coming-out party, where we show what we’ve been working on for the year. I hope to create other regular performance opportunities for those that are interested. Everyone is encouraged, but no one is ever made to perform. I have had dancers with serious performance anxiety to the point of fainting overcome their limitations, and others with health challenges choose to rise above them and perform in an empowered way. It’s very inspiring to me!
q: What does this class do for “non-dancers” so to speak–those who scurry into the studio, unsure if they’re “good enough?”
To be a dancer all you need to do is dance. It’s an action, not a position. Everyone is good enough-if you want to dance, I can teach you. An African proverb says “If you can walk you can dance” and it’s true. I’ve taught little kids, and grandmothers,men and women, and teenagers, and differently-abled people. All of them could dance. Everyone has their own style. Afro-Brazilian dance isn’t rigid like some dance forms. It has a naturalness about the movement, it’s body-friendly and it allow space for individual self-espression.Our class is very supportive-it’s not about looking perfect, it’s about feeling the joy of the dance.
q: Is this a serious bootie burner–what would you wager in calories spent on the Beginning and the 90-min Afro Brazilian Dance w/live drumming classes?
I don’t call it the “sexiest workout on the planet” for nothing. It is so sexy, and it IS a workout! You bet-you will get your booty in the best shape it’s every been in, because we MOVE IT! You will move your booty in ways you never thought possible, and perhaps have never even seen before! We take a couple of short water breaks, but we’re moving almost the whole time. The Beginning Brazilian Dance class, is a lower impact version of the Afro-Brazilian, and is a little less aerobic. It also depends who’s in class and what limitations they have- I like to customize the class somewhat to fit the students needs. In both classes I stretch everyone really well before and after-it makes all the difference. The Afro-Brazilian Dance with live drumming is pretty high octane-I think the drums really get everyone going, and an hour and a 1/2 just flies! It’s a great natural high!
q: There are lot of costumes in your performances–any funny past wardrobe malfunctions?
One time comes to mind, about ten yrs ago in the Fremont Solstice parade, I was dancing and my skirt fell off! And I didn’t have much on underneath either!I quickly pulled it up, refastened it and kept dancing! And after that, I always reinforced with safety pins just to be safe! Of course compared to the naked bicyclists, or Samba dancers in Brazilian Carnaval, I was overdressed! It’s all relative.
q: What kinds of music do you listen to at home?
Lot’s of different kinds-we like to listen, and we like to sing! We are truly a world music household- underground hip-hop, Zimbabwean music, roots reggae, east indian sacred chanting, Afro-cuban, music of Mali, and Guinea, Brazilian bossa nova, Celtic music, and the
other day Geoff was listening to Strauss, so you just never know.
q: Anything else?
We are offering free Afro-Cuban, Afro-Haitian vocal and percussion workshops that are ongoing on Thurs nites here @ our RhythmJoy Studio from 7-9. Coming soon, a World Sacred Song Circle with call and response singing. And on Halloween, we are having our VIBE! (Vashon Island Booty Express!) Conscious Groove Dance Party @ the Vashon DanceAcademy from 9-12 midnite. Check out our new blog http://www.vibedance.wordpress.com.
If you read today’s Beachcomber, you know that one of the biggest sustainable fashion shows to ever hit the Northwest is happening on our fair isle, and it is comprised of Island artists, designers, musicians, dessert-makers, and models.
Some may not realize Elizabeth Klob, behind the bridal and special occasion shop Cicada, located in downtown Seattle, is an Islander. Her fashions, as well as the talent from her UMO associate, aerialist Martha Enson, weave perfectly into the culture of what promises to be a whimsical show.
As designers prepare, Dova Silks’ working studio seems something like an ant farm in time lapse, making a masterpiece come together through a series comings and goings. Artists are dashing through with fabrics and accessories in tow. Models are darting in and out for fittings. Scissors are slicing, machines are revving, the work tables are swathed with color schemes. All the while, the phones will not stop ringning.
Suspended nymphs, stilted models, fantasy or one-of-a-kind apparel and accessories (most of which is from renewable resources, or is just plain renewed), an outrageous set design from Jack Strubbe and a donation to the Vashon-Maury Community Foodbank should put this event on your calendar for Oct. 17–and there’s still enough time afterward to go hang out at the Red Bike!
Cathy Fulton is one of those ladies who spends less time talking about sustainability than she does living it. However, there are a few moments she breaks away from her busy Mariposa Gardens schedule to take a few keyboard strokes and tell the Island when the next “Let it Rot” (composting demonstration), “Growing Your Own Food” or “Chicken Processing Day” will commence. The D-I-Y earth diva spearheads her gatherings with a novice-friendly approach (so fear not!).
This writer –like many Islanders–was one of many who stumbled upon the “Raising Chickens” husbandry class of which Fulton was a coordinator with Dana Ness, DVM, with the support of VIGA . Since that time those annual classes have spawned a thousand chickens, or at least dozens of hen houses, countless hatchery orders, an Island chicken coop tour and a thriving dialogue on Yahoo’s “Vashon Poultry” user group to keep those eggs a’comin’.
Sunday, Oct. 18, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Fulton is helping Islanders learn the ways of composting with a free “Let it Rot” demonstration on her turf (9228 SW 209th). Several interpretive displays will be set up, everything from worm bins to chickens in action (turning your waste into compost!). Bring those gardening gloves if you really want to get in there.
For information, contact Fulton at 206-463-5652 or visit mariposagardens.org.