Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Maria Voisin - Asheville's Latin Dance Queen and More!

Ask Asheville has had the great pleasure of meeting Maria Voisin, talking to her and seeing her in action. She is a wonderful person who contributes so much to her special niche in the Asheville Community. Thank you for everything Maria!

Who is Maria Voisin?

The simplest version of an answer to this: Maria is a simple messenger, una guajira, someone who is here to remind people to live fully, to enjoy the music, to take care of their bodies and souls, and to GET DOWN! Maria has soulpower and it is superbad (thanks James Brown!).

Where did Maria learn her talents?

My musical ear came from my parents - both musicians... piano and trumpet (makes sense why I love salsa). My parents were very strict about my education, and Excellent grades were required! I studied with some of the best Instructors. Some examples are Juan de Dios from Folklorico Nacional in Cuba, Frankie Martinez - NYC, Richard Gonzales - NYC, and countless others. Also, having faith in something bigger, something universal and connective, which was one more important thing I learned from my Grandfather, a career musician with profound respect for music and the creators of it! Oh, and I learned to loosen up in New Orleans where I got schooled by the Brass Band dancers.

What is Maria's mission in Asheville and beyond?

First and foremost, I started teaching and forming performance groups in an attempt to create something unique and beneficial to the Asheville community here. Secondly, I wanted people outside of Asheville to know about our city and how friendly and creative we are up here. My hope was to keep the dance scene here very open to everyone and also to improve the standards of dance and the respect given towards the craft. Since my first classes and club events in 1999 we have really worked hard to create a safe and welcoming Latin dance community here in Asheville. I named my group Salseros 828 to represent the region in the best possible way. My hope is to travel more outside of Asheville and to teach workshops that empower people to move in ways that feel free in their bodies. I have been developing technique with my Afro-Cuban curriculums that are very unique and inspiring to my students. I look forward to sharing this with other dance communities. The long term goal for Asheville is a secret right now (in the works)... wait and see!! Siempre p'alante!

Where is Maria's main works in Asheville?

Salseros 828 Dance School and Company. Founded as a company in 2002. Maria has brought "On1", "On 2", Afro-Cuban, and numerous other dances to the mountains. They have an extensive resume of Performances both here and outside of Asheville. She was voted Asheville’s #1 Dance Teacher in the Mountain Xpress 2007 “Best of” Reader’s Poll. Maria has worked with non-profit organizations such as LEAF in Schools and Streets, Arts to People, and Asheville Parks and Recreation teaching the youth Salsa in Asheville. She will be teaching as an adjunct faculty member of UNCA’s Dance department as a Latin Dance Instructor in Spring 2009. Maria has also helped to bring Asheville’s growing Salsa community into the national spotlight, with write-ups in the New York Times, Southern Living, and Verve magazine. She was chosen as one of five choreographers for Asheville’s First Annual 48 hour dance festival.

What does Maria want for the future?

For the near future - I am taking a 3 month trip to Europe, where some of the best Cuban dance instructors live now. I can study Flamenco and hopefully a few other new dance forms. I want to return with a treasure chest full of new ideas and as a better dancer of course. I also plan to develop some new approaches to teaching dance which will involve the ideas that are inspiring me right now. For the distant future... remember that secret? lol

How can Asheville support Maria and her work?

Well... keep it friendly, keep the integrity. Dancing is about connection... that means with your partner, the music, yourself. Performance is meant to inspire, not to intimidate... and we perform because it connects us to the crowd and to the group we have been working with to create this great work. It is the choice of the spectator to become a part of the dance. We have never turned anyone away who was interested in performing with us. We just hope that dance can change people in a positive way. I have seen my dancers become very strong and happy individuals as they get deeper into the process. So, support Maria by participating in a positive way... and by smiling as much as possible!

Maria, what would you like to say about yourself?

I am very grateful for everything in my life and feel very blessed for every day!
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