May the Sunshine Pour from our Pores



Room Island, Guinea


Hamana region, Guinea


With our friend, Namory Keita, and his son.


The beautiful location where Namory has begun building Hamana Art Center.

2018 began for me amidst the beauty of Guinea, West Africa, with dear friends old and new, to study at the home of my long-time teacher, Youssouf Koumbassa:



Grand Master Dancer and Teacher, Youssouf Koumbassa


It has taken me a Moon or more to settle back into Maine’s long winter, and tonight as I reminisce these sunny photos, we prepare for another big snow storm. 



This beauty, dear friend and long time student Steph Harmon, came along for the month-long dance and drum immersion studies.

We invite our community to join us for a sharing of stories & slideshows from our trip: SUNDAY, MARCH 18
7pm, Hustle & Flow Studio, 155 Brackett St., 3rd floor, Portland.

I will continue to share Guinea stories here too, bit by bit.
There is so much!



Bolokada Conde

HJ seny and mics

Seny Daffe


All Levels Drum Class with
Grandmaster djembefola,

The Dance Hall, 7 Walker St., Kittery, Maine
5:30-6:45pm, $20
Bolokada will lead the drum accompaniment for Liz Fowler’s dance class, directly to follow.

All Levels Drum Class with
Master Village Drummer,
The Portland New Church, 302 Steven’s Ave. Portland, ME
5:00-6:00pm, $15
Contact Marita to reserve a drum. 

*Dundun Dance* Class with
Master Drummer & Singer, SENY DAFFE
The Portland New Church, 302 Steven’s Ave. Portland, ME
6:15-7:45pm, $18

*Space is limited. ALL DUNDUNS HAVE NOW BEEN RESERVED, which means we’re at capacity, but we do have a WAITLIST. You may join the waitlist by contacting Marita.

Namory Keita copy

Namory Keita

Special *Advanced* Drumming Workshop with

1:00-3:00pm, $25
Portland New Church, 302 Stevens Ave.
One-Time Event. Register HERE 






Guinea Story #1


Guinea, West Africa is rich in culture, contributing incredible music and dance to the rest of the world, the roots of which are seen in many popular contemporary art forms worldwide. As you might have noticed, as a follower of West African dance & drumming, Guinea has *incredible* talent. 

Meanwhile, the reality remains that the average person in Guinea has only the very basics for survival. While colonizing countries have established businesses there, and imported all manner of packaged items, there is no place to deal with trash and plastic waste, no sanitation system, no running water, and scant/rationed electricity for the non-elite. The average person has no access to basic health care or even first aid such as antiseptic, bandages, fever-fighting medicines and pain reducers, no simple life-saving conveniences such as bug spray (while malaria, and other mosquito born illnesses are rampant). My friends and fellow artists whom I became close with are not even guaranteed to have food to eat each day, nor a bed to sleep in. 

On my recent journey to the country, I was able to bring along a suitcase full of traditional first aid items and lovingly prepared herbal medicines, coming from many of you in our local community. I cannot tell you how incredibly far this went. A special shout out to wise herbalists, Angel Putney Noe and Isa Beaulieu for your beautiful healing remedies ~ the herbal medicines were most deeply appreciated. 

An amazing group of friends and community members in Guinea volunteered to help with separating all of the donations into smaller units, which we then distributed home by home, around numerous villages. Local volunteers came along to ensure that proper use of the medicines was translated into the local languages. It was a most beautiful effort, linking together communities that I love and cherish from both sides of the ocean. Thank you to all who donated, and to all who helped.

As I would hear people say every day in Guinea, “Wontanara” (We are together / We are one). Let’s find more ways to give back, to share the wealth, and to honor this truth of our common humanity with care and action. 


Beat the Winter Blues, Giving & Receiving

Click Here for Weekly Dance & Drum Class Details for Adults
Click Here for Children & Family Classes, Winter Session 2018

Do you have plans in place to stay warm and inspired, active and connected this winter?
One of my favorite ways to beat the blues is gathering with community for energetic movement and inspiring live music ~
There’s a lot of love here.

West African Dance & Drum is alive and thriving here in Maine, thanks to an incredible, ever-growing community. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post for some big updates, relevant this month. 


Post Dundun Dance Class with Seny Daffe in Kittery, ME. November 30, 2017

We had a fantastic turnout for our special day of classes with Youssouf Koumbassa and Namory Keita in Portland last month, and a great class with Seny Daffe in Kittery last week.

Click here for Video from Seny Daffe’s dundun dance class, 11.30.17


Screenshot fromYKClass.Oct2017

Dance Class with Youssouf Koumbassa in Portland, ME. October 24, 2017


In the tradition of West African drum and dance,
there is a constant exchange.

Energy is given out by each dancer and drummer, and received in turn by each, as well as the rest of the community.


  • Embody the Rhythm founder, (yours truly) Marita Kennedy-Castro is returning to Guinea, West Africa December 31 for a dance intensive cultural immersion with Youssouf Koumbassa.

  • Click Here to Support First Aid supplies for Guinean Families
    I will return with photos and stories from those whom you’ve helped, and I’ll be on fire with new dances to share.
    Please donate before December 27th for First Aid supplies.

  • Click Here to Support your teacher’s immersion studies at Bagatai Dance/Drum

  • Click Here to Support Namory Keita’s Dream Project – Hamana Arts Center

  • NEW Winter Dance Class Sessions for Children & Families
    Beginning February 10th – 2 Age Groups – Details & Registration, here
  • NEW Gift Certificates for New Students –  $20 for 4 weeks of Tuesday night adult class. Give the gift of dance ~  Contact Marita by Dec 27 to order Gift Certificates
  • YOU’RE INVITED – Tuesday December 19th, will be our last class of 2017. Join Embody the Rhythm for a community potluck gathering right after dance class at the New Church. Bring your dinner, or something to share. Funds and First Aid items can be donated that evening as well.
  • No class Dec 26 * Classes Resume Jan 2nd and continue on, weekly! 
    Ashley Edmondson and Anne Esguerra, from New Moon Ensemble, will be subbing for Marita while she’s in Guinea.
    Our solid drummers will keep it hopping, so there’s no need to lose your groove.

Join the ever-growing community here at Embody the Rhythm!
All are welcome.

Our lively dance classes bring community together through the healing power of movement and music, and the gift of cultural exchange. Classes are designed for beginner students together with intermediate students. No experience necessary.

Click HERE for weekly adult dance class info

Namory, Liz, Youssouf & Marita (left to right) celebrating West African Dance & Drumming, alive, thriving and expanding in Maine.



Welcoming back Youssouf Koumbassa

Happy Autumn!

West African Dance Class Youssouf 2017 final

World renowned master teacher, Youssouf Koumbassa returns to Maine.

Master village drummer, Namory Keita will begin the night with Drum Class, and lead the smoking drum accompaniment for dance class.


Perhaps the world’s most sought-after teacher of Guinea-style African dance, Youssouf was born in Conakry, Guinea. He was a principle dancer with Ballets Djoliba, one of Guinea’s most important national dance companies, for 13 years, training and touring extensively throughout the world. With his prodigious skill and thrilling talent, as well as the precious pedagogy and choreography of his teachers before him, Youssouf relocated to the United States to share his passion and his legacy with dancers and audiences everywhere.

Namory Keita, Master Drummer, is a sought after teacher and performer with a unique style and a wealth of traditional knowledge very rare to find outside the villages of Guinea. His resources include not only his wonderful ability to engage any audience but also his relationships with dancers and drummers locally, and around the world.

Tuesday October 24, 2017
Woodford’s Club, 179 Woodford St, Portland, ME
5:15-6:15pm –
DRUM CLASS with Namory Keita 
6:30-8pm –
DANCE CLASS with Youssouf Koumbassa

Preregistration Price*: $17/class or $32 for both classes
Preregistration is closed, but you can still pay at the door ~
See you tonight!

$20/class or $34 for both classes (Discounts offered for New Mainers/low-income. Inquire at the door)



`No prior experience is needed. 
`Bring an open mind, and an interest to learn.
`Wear comfortable clothing that you can move and sweat in.
`Bring a water bottle to stay hydrated.
`Dancing is with bare feet (dance shoes but not street shoes) are okay, if needed.

ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES to Dance with Youssouf in Maine:

Thursday October 26th, at Kittery Dance Hall
Kittery, ME

Friday October 27th at High Mountain Hall
Camden, ME


Embody the Rhythm had a busy summer, so there’s more good news to come, including exciting developments and opportunities for dancers coming up in early 2018.
Follow this newsletter to keep up to date.

See you on the dance floor.

Celebrating Cultures

Come dance or drum with us!
Check HERE for weekly class info

Now more than ever we need to engage our communities with creative visions of cross-cultural collaboration, build opportunity for more intercultural exchange and togetherness, and create supportive and celebratory environments for the expression of traditions that come from afar. 

Join the ensembles of Many Waters (June 25) and New Moon (July 13) in celebrating cultures, building community, and raising up some positive energy for the healing that is much needed in the world:


13709915_10153553905307163_1648242248180838027_nNEW MOON ENSEMBLE

Tides ~ Les Marées ~ 
A Celebratory Performance of West African Dance and Drumming

Thursday July 13th, 7:00-8:30pm
Mayo St. Arts
in Portland.

New Moon Ensemble’s performances offer intoxicating rhythms and energetic dances into the world as prayers for peace and well-being for all. Join us for this special evening!

Learn more about New Moon Ensemble
Reserve your spot. Purchase TICKETS

Share/Follow on Facebook






Representing an exciting new intercultural arts exchange, our initial formation brings together devoted dance artists from 4 different countries of origin.

Like the streams and rivers of the Earth we all call home, when we flow together we create something bigger than ourselves. Many Waters creates inspirational fusions drawing from present day culture as well as deep cultural traditions brought together by the artists involved. 

Many Waters will be sharing our very first dance collaboration in the Theatre Ensemble of Color’s community arts showcase on Sunday June 25th, 12-2pm at Mayo St. Arts in Portland. We hope you’ll come see and support our work, and learn more about this exciting collaboration and exchange. Donations graciously accepted.





~ Meanwhile, come dance or drum with us ~
Check HERE for weekly class info
See you on the dance floor!






Inhale, Exhale, Repeat.


Dance class will begin at 6pm, starting this week.
All-levels dance class with live drumming.  
Every Tuesday, 6-7:30pm
Come dance in Spring, 2017! What better time than now?
Loads of fun things being cooked up, behind the scenes, at Embody the Rhythm.
So much so, that this post needs to remain brief… Inhale, exhale, repeat.  Join me on the dance floor!

Start with your heart. beat.


Community Celebrates after a New Moon Ensemble performance. Photo credit to Sage Heyes


On Friday, April 14th, Embody the Rhythm will have our first Dance & Drum Community Potluck. Bringing together our ever-expanding dance & drum community to share food and stories, in a casual setting.
We hope you can join us!  6-9pm in the community space at Portland New Church, 302 Stevens Ave. (Same location as dance class). 


~A potluck dish to share

~Any extra paper plates, bowls, cups and plastic (or compostable!) dinnerware you have kicking around, to contribute

~ Donation ($1-3) to help cover the rental. *Any additional donations from the evening will go toward supporting the construction of the Hamana Arts Center, in Guinea, West Africa*:

RSVP for Potluck by visiting the event: on Facebook

This week we will celebration the Malinke dance, Kassa (intermediate steps from this dance can be seen in the video above) once more, before switching to a new dance for the rest of April… quite possibly Soboninkun!

In Other Embody the Rhythm News:

  • Want to be our Social Media Rockstar? Seeking technical support for such things as website help, facebook posts, and other media savvy assistance. Got skills? Want to exchange for free classes? Get in touch with Marita.
  • New Moon Ensemble is entering a new phase. We’ve added some new members to the crew, and still seeking a few more dancers! If you have a depth of experience in West African Dance (or even just dance/choreography, plus the stamina and drive to learn quickly, and deepen your relationship with this form) consider getting in touch with Marita. 
  • Dance Class Time Change ~ Starting in May, 2017 Dance Class start time shifts to 6pm. Class will be 6-7:30pm.  If you are looking for drum classes, you have choices of Mondays or Wednesdays. Click HERE for more info on dance & drum classes.


Come dance with us! If you think you, “don’t have rhythm”, remember that every atom in your body vibrates with rhythm.
It starts with your heart. Feel that beat. Let it move you.
May we all move from our hearts! 


Community, Culture & Connection

NOTICE: Drum Classes and workshops on Monday & Wednesday nights. Link here FMI. 

Have you heard? Our friend, local master Guinea drummer, Namory Keita is developing his dream project ~ The Hamana Arts Center ~ in Guinea, West Africa, and he needs our help to build it.

The Hamana Arts Center will be a school where masters and students from around the world come together to exchange, teach, perform and study the traditional arts of the Hamana region. 


Namory, breaking ground at the Hamana Arts Center.

For all of us who enjoy the study of West African arts, helping to fund this project is a wonderful way to show our gratitude and support.

Together we can help ensure that young artists in Guinea can continue to learn their traditions, and carry them on for generations to come. Click here to link to Namory’s GoFundMe account, and help the Hamana Arts Center get off the ground. Donate, spread the word, and help support a vibrant future for Guinea! 


This Saturday, March 11th New Moon Ensemble will be performing in this righteous event:
Rise! Release! Dance! ~ A Dance & Poetry Showcase
benefiting the Maine Sex-Trafficking and Exploitation Network’s Survivor Support Fund. First Parish Church, 425 Congress St., Portland, ME – 7pm.
We hope to see you there!


Join us this month in weekly West African Inspired Dance & Drum Classes ~ Every Tuesday!
Click the link above, FMI | Find us on

Dance & Drum Community Potluck ~ Friday April 14th, 2017
Come share some food, meet friends and build community outside of class time.

Previous Older Entries