Jacintha an d marie's choreography Debut!
Jacintha Kruc and Marie Manski both began their formal dance training at UMA in 2019, taking Laurel’s classes in the studio. They have taken almost all of her different style offerings, from Solo Salsa to partnering classes and Latin House. Jacintha comments on the beginning of her dance journey: “I always wanted to dance and loved watching people dance but didn’t get to try it formally until I was in my 20s when I moved to Philly. I danced at a local gym and then came to UMA in 2019 through my friendship with Vince. I love the way dancing allows me to express myself and use my body to pull out different energies.”
The friends continued taking classes throughout the pandemic- online at home, and then, when they felt comfortable enough, at parks throughout the city. They would meet up at a designated outdoor location, set up the class by creating a wifi hotspot and stream the class via a laptop. Marie commented: “We’ve danced at a few different parks, playgrounds, parking lots, tennis courts. As long as it’s flat and has wifi!” They did this in the rain, snow and shine (they even showed me a park with a covered area they would sometimes take class under when it was raining).
Throughout this time, the two friends have been more than just your typical class goers. Laurel reflects: “Through COVID we were a team, not only did they dance with me- they helped me co-host my virtual classes, and gave me feedback on virtual classes. They would edit and upload my videos. I seriously don’t know what I would have done without them this past year. They are not just my students- we are sisters/family, dancing and spreading the love of Latin dance.”
When I pitched the idea for this project to them, I imagined they would just film a session of them taking a class at a park that I could pull some fun clips from and share with y’all. Instead, they took the request and ran with it, choreographing an almost 2 minute long dance featuring each of the styles they have taken with Laurel: Salsa, Bachata, Reggaeton, and they even have some socially-distanced Partnering. I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY with the rhythmically-complex choreography they came up with as well as the confidence they performed it with in front of random park- goers and passerby!
Check out the video and get to know a little more about Jacintha and Marie below!
Kayla: Tell me about yourselves! What do you do for work/ fun?
Marie: I work at the University of Pennsylvania as a Graduate Program Coordinator for the Department of Anthropology. I get to work alongside brilliant activists who are paving the way to a new future. They truly inspire me! For fun, I like to cook, bake, and make ice cream. My creative outlet is formulating new recipes and creating themed meals.
Jacintha: ...and I love eating the food Manski makes so that makes us a great team!
I am a Jane of all trades and have many jobs,but for the past nine years have worked in historic preservation and conservation. I am currently restoring all the hand-carved woodwork in the governor’s office in the PA State Capital. I like to do anything that involves problem solving and using my hands and body for work. I enjoy painting murals and making art installations and seriously... eating anything Manski makes (especially her ice cream!)
Kayla: What’s something that you think is unique about Laurel’s classes that you might not find at a different dance studio?
Jacintha: Laurel really focuses on inclusivity and personal growth. Everyone enters the class with various skill levels and experiences, despite that, each individual dancer can still feel challenged. Laurel and all of the UMA teachers bring various physical languages to experiment with while sharing the histories of those forms and how they influence each other. Her classes encourage me to be more confident, access my femine side, and socialize through dance. Her laughter and light hearted nature also brings something to look forward to with each class. She is a wonder woman for sure!
Marie: I think the thing that is most unique about Laurel’s classes is her. She herself has a diverse dance background and story that encompasses hip hop, ballroom dance, and salsa. Because of this experience, she is able to articulate style and range of movement as well as its history. On top of that, Laurel is simply an excellent teacher. She delivers concepts and ideas in a way that is easy for any level of dancer to understand and her positivity is contagious.
Kayla: Any words on your dance journey- coming in as people who don’t identify as dancers to now making your own dance influenced by Laurel’s classes?
Marie: I want to encourage anyone who doesn’t identify as a dancer to consider dance as a means to get to know a part of yourself, as a means to be creative, expand your mind, and develop community. There’s something about pushing yourself to your limits, physically and creatively, that allows for growth and humility. You don’t have to identify as a dancer to enjoy dancing. But practicing the art of dance has allowed me to express myself in ways that I couldn't before.
Jacintha: I feel dance helps me articulate the feeling of music and rhythm running through my body. I don’t identify as a dancer either but I can’t help but dance through my house and wherever I am! I believe anyone can dance and learn these skills. Dancing has allowed me to grow and push myself. Laurel’s classes opened a new way to think creatively using my body by accessing new spaces in my body and pathways...thinking about the way I press my foot down into the floor that then sends energy up into my leg, flows through my hips, winds up my spine, glides up my arm and out my fingers...it has been amazing to learn from her. I think my dance journey has been one filled with community connection and plenty of fun and laughter!