Salsa dancing with Sam Newland

Either you LOVE to dance, or you wish you could—don’t we all fall into one of those two categories? If you’re in the latter, you’ll definitely want to take Sam Newland’s intro to salsa class.

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We love that you started salsa lessons to prove to yourself that you could dance! Tell us about that evolution. What do you say to people who really want to lose their inhibitions around dancing?

Thanks! Dancing has definitely been an evolution to say the least. I went from never dancing (unless you consider Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance dancing!) and actively avoiding any kind of technical dance to now wondering what people fill their time with if they don’t dance. Dancing truly has gone from something I did to prove to myself to a real core part of my lifestyle. A lot of people dance to reduce stress—which it certainly does. But I dance not only because I know it is great for my mind and body, but truly because I cannot imagine my life without dancing.

The reason being is exactly what I used to tell new students who are just starting to let go of the stigmas, stress, and inhibitions surrounding dancing public. I tell them this Maya Angelou quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Where and with whom do you perform?

I perform with Mambo Revelation. It is directed by the only World Latin Cup Qualifier Champion in Boston, Mariano Neris. And Revelation House of Dance will be finding a home as a studio in Boston sometime in 2014. Keep on the lookout! I am very excited!

The group is less than one year old and has performed as far west as Saint Louis, as far south as Orlando, and will be performing as far north as Montreal and Niagara Falls in 2014. And, of course, we perform right at our home in Beantown at local Salsa venues in Cambridge and at the annual Boston Salsa Festival.

Can you get an actual workout through salsa dancing?

Of course! One thing I will say is that the salsa class is not where you will get your workout. Most of the workout happens when you get all dressed up and go out dancing with thirty new friends. In fact, you burn so many calories that the government helps fund a summer tradition called Salsa in the Park because dancing is good for the community and people’s health.

All you need to know is that if you get the Latin fever or the salsa bug (as people like to call it), you will have no trouble breaking a sweat after dancing a few songs in a row! Now do that for three hours!

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Skillshare participants don’t need any prior dance experience, but is the class suitable for all fitness levels?

Yes! If you can walk, you can salsa!

If Skillshare students catch the salsa bug (and we bet they will!), are you available for lessons? What other local resources are available for the budding dancer?

Yes! Just ask for my business card or information, and we can work that out. And if my schedule does not work for private lessons, I can refer you to salsa instructors whom I trust and will best fit your needs.

I believe there are six different salsa companies just in the Cambridge area by itself. They are all unique and special in their own ways, and I have taken classes from nearly all of them.

If you like my style of teaching or want to develop fully as a dancer, Mariano Neris will be opening Revelation House of Dance in Boston with Zumba and five other types of dance classes available: Salsa, Bachata, West Coast Swing, Ballet, and Hip Hop. Revelation House of Dance really excites me for two reasons. One, it sounds like a vacation home I would never leave. And two, I have found that training in multiple styles of dance significantly increases the rate at which people improve at any style of dance.

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We hope to find you dancin’ it up at Sam’s class at the Armory this Sunday! In the meantime, check out his Youtube channel.

Creative Photography with Ileana Hernandez

Like we said, we’re very lucky to have two wonderful photography classes on offer. Today we’re talking with Ileana Hernandez, who is teaching our class on creative photography.

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Tell us how you grew into an artist. Have you been taking pictures since you were a child?

I started learning about photography in 2008; by that year I had graduated from a bachelor in Electronic Systems and from a Master Degree in Electronic Commerce. I had been working in IT for about 7 years and had a secure 9 to 5 job. My husband and I had already gotten married and we were paying the mortgage of our first house….and then I found photography!

Without expecting it, photography became the watershed of my life. It has changed a lot of things for me. First of all, I have learned a lot about myself and about what I am capable of accomplishing. About two years later, after that first “learn to use your camera in manual mode” workshop, I quit my secure job and started pursuing my passion.

I can’t say this journey has been easy; working as an artist is very different from working as an engineer. Before coming to Boston in 2011 I wasted a lot of time and procrastinated a lot. When we got here, I got the opportunity to attend a Post-Baccalaureate in Photography at MassArt, which gave me the direction I needed to became a working artist.

Sometimes I regret having found photography this late in my life, but then I realize that everything I have lived is what makes me appreciate things the way I do. If things had been different, I would be a very different artist, and I wouldn’t like that.

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We’re intrigued by this categorization of photographers as either “hunters” (i.e., capturing images as they find them) or “farmers” (using an image or images more imaginatively, to express a particular idea). Tell us a little bit about the tools and guidance you’ll offer Skillshare students to help them grow into “farmers”!

Being an artist and being a photographer is about expressing yourself. Everybody has a story to tell, and the more personal your work is the more it differentiates from the work of others, and in the case of photography, from the billions of photos out there.

I’ll present the work of artists that work in the “farmer’s” way (constructing images) and we’ll compare their very different practices and the ideas they work with. I’ll also explain my creative process and how I make images from ideas or concepts in which I have an interest. We will see examples and I’ll give participants an introduction to the discovery of their own story to tell.

AnotherAngle-2You’re a native of Mexico and have exhibited your work internationally. Why did you decide to settle in Somerville, and how does the local arts community support you in your work?

We came to Boston in 2011 because my husband was relocated from his job. After graduating from MassArt, I started looking for studio spaces and I found Somerville has a lot of artists’ buildings and communities. I’m a member in the Washington Street Art Center, and I’m glad to be part of it because it is a very supportive environment.

Recently I learned that Somerville has the largest Open Studios in New England and the third-largest one in the country. It is clear to me that if you are an artist you are going to find a great place to work and share your work in Somerville.

Do Skillshare participants need any prior photography experience to take your class?

Not really, they just need to be ready to learn what is out there, to then meditate and express themselves.

 

You can enjoy more of Ileana’s work on her website, and be sure to follow her on Twitter and Facebook too.

T’ai Chi with Judith Poole

If you’ve ever seen a bunch of people practicing T’ai Chi in the park and wondered what it’s all about, you’ll have your chance on Sunday—take our class with Judith Poole! Along with teaching Qigong and T’ai Chi, Judith practices energy medicine (including Reiki) and periodically offers a course on sacred writing as well.

World Tai Chi Day

Photo by Brian Robinson, via Flickr.

What is T’ai Chi?

T’ai Chi, one of many qigong forms, is an ancient Chinese discipline, often referred to as a moving meditation. More highly choreographed than qigong postures, and designed to enhance chi flow, T’ai Chi has both internal alchemy and martial arts applications. The practice of T’ai Chi, as with the many Qigong forms, cultivates health, relieves stress on body and mind, increases stamina and bone health, and incorporates principles of grounding and good posture.

What unique benefits can people derive from T’ai Chi compared to yoga or other martial arts disciplines?

T’ai Chi is a moving, upright form whereas many yoga postures are done on mats. Both are mind/body disciplines with an internal non-competitive focus. Individual preferences vary. There are many different T’ai Chi forms as there are many yoga styles. I teach Yang Style short form.

You’ve been practicing T’ai Chi since 1983. How and why did you first come to study it, and how has it changed your life over the past thirty years?

In 1983 I was a single parent in a stressful job and had developed Crohn’s Disease along with many complications common to autoimmune diseases, including fatigue and joint pain. I had tried various yoga classes but was not comfortable doing things on the floor because I had several ruptured discs. I saw classes advertised at Interface, a center teaching mind/body and spiritual practices.The first class included several profound meditation practices. I could sense that moving my vital energy as directed was health promoting. The same evening, T’ai Chi was offered. It took me longer to master T’ai Chi. Gradually my body changed, allowing me to distribute my weight differently, become more grounded, improve my balance, and enjoy the sense of mastery, though it was slow in coming. I began to teach this Yang Style Short form, and soon discovered how much small postural corrections can bring major changes.

Your class is suitable for all ages and fitness levels, right?

Children can benefit from learning T’ai Chi, but for this occasion it would be difficult to design a class to meet the needs of all ages. I have therefore suggested that this class is appropriate for adults.

Where can they go if Skillshare students love your class and want to keep practicing? Do you offer classes in and around Somerville?

I teach a two-week Taoist Meditation class and a four-week Qigong class twice a year in Newtonville at Newton Community Education held at Newton North High School on alternate sessions. It is not too late to register for the next “Three Taoist Meditation” class on March 3rd and 11th. The next Qigong class will be held in the Spring, April 22th to May 13th.

I do not currently have a T’ai Chi class running. If enough participants are interested in having a class, we can organize one. It would likely be at a facility in Watertown.

Visit Judith on the web at HealingPoole.com.

Intro to Parkour with Blake Evitt

We’ve received many excited tweets and messages about Blake Evitt’s intro to parkour class. Parkour is a powerful way to transcend your own boundaries while getting a great workout, so we expect an enthusiastic turnout for this one!

For those of us not yet familiar—what exactly is parkour, and how did you first get into it?

At its heart, parkour is essentially running, jumping, and climbing through an environment. Parkour incorporates movements and techniques from a wide variety of disciplines, and a number of “unique” techniques have developed over the years as well. While it may seem like a bunch of high-flying antics to the casual internet observer, the actual sport/discipline/art form of parkour is much more about functional movement, community, discipline, and overcoming physical and mental challenges. I started training in 2009 while on a research trip to Paris to interview the original French founders of the discipline. I was hooked after my first exposure to parkour, and have been training, traveling, and teaching ever since.
 

 
You’ve studied and taught parkour all over the world—do you have any fun stories to share with us?

I’ve spent a lot of time traveling for parkour over the last five years and I documented much of the first 2+ years (part of which was while I was on a Watson Fellowship studying parkour as an agent for positive social change) on my blog.

Part of learning parkour is training yourself to “see your environment in a new way.” How is this accomplished?

People are often very surprised by how much their perspective on the world changes very soon after starting parkour. It’s hard to fully appreciate until you’ve tried it, but since we look for obstacles and challenges all around us, the world essentially becomes a giant playground that is full of ways to experiment and play with movement.

Is there a minimum fitness level for this class?

No, this class is open to participants of all fitness levels and athletic backgrounds. Each of our classes is designed to accommodate a wide range of skill levels, from absolute beginners to experienced traceurs.

For those Skillshare attendees who may be on the fence (no pun intended) about taking your class because of safety concerns, let’s reassure them here and now that parkour won’t lead to injury if practiced with basic care and attention:

Parkour is actually very safe when taught by experienced instructors. Parkour is taught in a series of progressions in which participants master basic movements before moving on to more difficult techniques and challenges. This, along with the fact that there are no additional outside pressures on the participant (peer pressure, competition, other players, etc.), mean that the participant can progress at their own pace.
 

 
On the other hand, for those of us who are all “bring it on!”, where will students be able to continue their parkour practice locally?

We run 20-30 classes/week for all ages in the Boston Metro area, and a number of our classes are based in the Somerville area. Participants that would like to continue their training are welcome to join our regular classes.

Felted Orbs with Jodi Colella

We have a rockin’ assortment of art classes, if we do say so ourselves—thanks in part to mixed-media sculptor Jodi Colella, who will teach you how to felt an orb. Intrigued? Read on!

felted orbs

Tell us about the path you took to grow into the artist you are now. Were you making art from a very young age?

Yes, I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember. My parents kept me in good supply of all sorts of materials and were very encouraging. Summers were spent on the beach with long hours to learn how to knit, embroider, draw, paint, etc. There was a herd of us kids and when taking a break from swimming we would sit on our blankets in a large circle and work on our projects together. Some of us were using pencils for knitting needles and all of us had plastic Wonder Bread bags as our totes. I intended to go to art school for college but a disruptive family move derailed me. I ended up at B.U. studying biology, another interest of mine. After graduation I worked as a research technician at Dana Farber and attended night classes at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design working towards a certificate in Graphic Design. After 16 years as principal of my own design firm, Colella Design, I turned full time to my fine art practice and have been obsessed ever since.

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“‘Yarns’ is made from skeins of yarn that were forgotten about for decades and found in an attic. Winding from the core out with color on color, almost as performance art until as large as a celestial body. A tribute to the life work of Colella’s mother, ‘Yarns’ records a shared visual language and serves as an icon for disclosure, loss and consolidation.”

As a mixed-media sculptor, you work with many different materials besides wool fiber. How do your various interests inform one another? Where do you find your inspiration?

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IMPULSE (Dendrite III), copper wire and found fishing rope.

Inspiration can be mysterious. For me, something will spark an interest and I’ll pay attention to it without asking too many questions, working it out while not knowing where I’m going until I get there.

I am intrigued by traditional craft practice. The stories behind the making of objects throughout history reveal a society’s values and sense of place better than any historic text. After some experimentation I’ll use scale, metaphor, tactility and expression to create burgeoning organic shapes. Strong color, a sense of humor and a pinch of threat are combined to engage the viewer in surprising ways.

I’m also attracted to process and repetition with many of my sculptures being an accumulation of many smaller units. Some of this is my work ethic, but some of it is a method of being quiet and allowing my thoughts to rise to the surface.

At this time I’m experiencing a confluence of several aspects of my personal history where science, design, experimentation and community engagement are melding together into whatever it is I’m trying to create. I’m waiting to see where it takes me.

How does the Somerville arts community support you in your work?

The arts community in Somerville is generous, diverse, numerous and talented. There is a palpable buzz of activity on any day of the week with more things to do than any one person could ever attend. The Arts Council is incredibly accessible and ready with assistance for all kinds of proposals. Being a part of this community with other artists where we share knowledge and resources is pretty special and I’m so grateful to be here.

Do Skillshare participants need any prior experience in the fiber arts? Is the class open to children?

No experience is necessary; however, due to the very sharp needles, this activity is not recommended for children younger than 12.

You teach many local art classes on making even more cool things. Where else can Skillshare attendees find you?

My studio is at 11 Miller Street in Somerville, and I can be reached at jodi@jodicolella.com to answer any questions.

I am teaching the following classes this spring and hope to see some new faces! Visit my blog for more details:

Needlefelted Orbs, Five Crows Gallery: Saturday, March 1st, 10am—3pm

Sculptural Crochet, Eliot School, Jamaica Plain, MA: March 16th and 23rd, 10am—4pm

Fiber Jewelry, Five Crows Gallery: Wednesdays: April 2nd, 16th, 30th, 10am—1pm.

I’m also curating an exhibit at Nave Gallery Annex, March 12th—April 5th (it’s called “Practice” and has to do with my interest in process, proficiency and commitment in artmaking), and there is a story slam scheduled for March 31st as well.

 

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MUSHROOMED: nylon, fiberfil, wool and wire. An outdoor installation at the Cushing-Martin Gallery, Stonehill College.

Find more of Jodi’s amazing work on the web here and here.

How to Start a Worker-Owned Co-op with Yochai Gal

We’re all about the co-operative spirit here at Somerville Skillshare HQ. The way we see it, one of the coolest parts about being alive at the start of the 21st century is seeing so many people striving for more creative, innovative, equitable—and ultimately much more satisfying—ways of making a living. Lucky for us (and you!), on March 2nd Yochai Gal, co-founder of TechCollective, will teach you everything you need to know to establish a democratic business.

What exactly is a worker cooperative, and what benefits does it offer the worker-owner?

A worker co-op is a business that is wholly owned and operated by its employees. That means decisions, like hiring, firing, wages, new markets, etc. are all made by either the workers themselves, or elected decision makers (themselves beholden to their co-workers). They can come in many forms—some places have a strict hierarchy, others do not. Some all pay the same to all workers, others (like mine) do not. Some make decisions by consensus (so, unanimous only), others by majority vote, and even more are hybrids.

What does this all do for the worker? Well for starters, we usually get paid more on the bottom rung of the ladder, and a little less on the top. The ratio between the highest paid and lowest paid workers is on average 6:1 in a worker co-op; the US corporate average is 300:1. Workers tend to work harder and better than their non-co-op counterparts, because they see the business as theirs, the same way you’d treat a car you own differently than one you’re renting. A co-op will rarely pick up and leave the state for cheaper labor—all the workers would have to vote on it! A co-op will likely NOT poison the environment around it (like Chevron did to Richmond, CA—where 99.9% of its workforce lives).

If you’d like to know more, I highly recommend the film Shift Change (I may even play a portion in the class). I have it if you ever want to borrow it.
 

 
Tell us about your background—what in the course of your education inspired you to develop this particular area of expertise?

My family are kibbutzniks from Israel; democracy was always a big part of my life. I believe that worker co-ops are the answer to many of societies’ economic woes; just as democracy allows for the weak but many to have power over the strong and few, worker co-ops decentralize the power of capital by redistributing it among workers. But not from some top-heavy state; rather it comes from below, where workers are allowed to choose how they wish to spend their profits. No one can be underpaid OR overpaid unless the workers allow it!

When I came of age, I decided to work at a co-op but couldn’t find one in my area of expertise (computers). So I worked “in the field” for a while, developing experience and planning. Eventually, I was able to convince a number of my co-workers at a computer store to break off and form a co-op (the original TechCollective in San Francisco). We kicked butt!

After a few years I decided to follow my heart out to wintry Boston; eventually the co-op bug bit me again and I started looking for people interested in starting another TC branch, out here. Last May we opened in Somerville, and have been going (relatively) strong ever since.

What conditions must be met in order for a “bossless” company to thrive?

It is not easy to work at a co-op. You need good communication skills, patience, and the belief that you can learn from others, and they from you. Critical thinking about your place in the community around you and the world is essential; unfortunately none of these things are actually taught! A lot has to be unlearned; and occasionally one has to accept that this type of job isn’t right for them! We are not a one-size-fits-all solution; there are co-ops with bosses and workers who choose not to be worker-owners (e.g., Alvarado Baking Company) and prefer to treat it as just any other job. This is OK by me, as long as they have a choice. Co-ops also face critical financial challenges; we aren’t recognized in most states, and find it very difficult to get funding (no venture capitalist wants to give us money without having a vote themselves). It is getting easier, however—I’ll talk about this in the class.

What can Skillshare participants expect to take away from your class?

What I hope is that participants take away two things:

  • A true understanding of what a worker co-op is.
  • The notion that it is POSSIBLE to start one yourself.

Can you tell us about some worker cooperatives in the Somerville area?

Besides Boston TechCollective (we’re in Teale Square), there is only Metro Pedal Power (11 Olive Square).

You can find Yochai on the web, on Facebook, and at the TechCollective storefront at 231 Holland Street, Somerville.