Marita Kennedy-Castro


Marita Kennedy-Castro (she/her) is an embodied movement artist, dance educator and intercultural bridge-builder. She is founder of Embody the Rhythm and co-director, choreographer and performer with New Moon Ensemble. She resides in the unceded Wabanaki Confederacy territory we’ve learned to call Portland, Maine under colonization. She is passionate about contributing to cultural preservation, building intercultural communities and illuminating avenues to healing through movement as medicine.

Marita shares from a lifetime of dance exploration and training, and over 20 years of study with master dancers from Guinea, West Africa. She received the encouragement and blessing to teach Guinean traditional dance from world renowned dance artist and cultural ambassador, Youssouf Koumbassa.

She collaborates with master Guinean drum artists Namory Kieta and Sayon Camara to offer community classes, workshops and artist residencies throughout the state. Marita believes that every body deserves access to dance, and she supports individuals in deepening their somatic awareness and increasing movement freedom through private individualized lessons. She completed her thesis in Dance & Performance Art for Healing & Social Change at Goddard College. Find her on Instagram @EmbodytheRhythm

Background & Intent 

I was born in the United States into a family of mixed background with healthy doses of both Irish and Sicilian. As a young girl I had dreams of leaping until I could fly and it was my first West African dance class that put the air under my feet.

I fell in love with Guinean Dance; the simultaneous grace and strength of the movements, the way the traditions honor interconnection to the rhythms of nature and one another; celebrating life’s cycles and seasons. ~ This relationship with movement as ritual is something intrinsic to many traditional life-ways around the world, yet mostly goes forgotten in the culture I grew up in.

Since 1999, I have studied under master teachers from Guinea, Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Rwanda and Congo, with a primary focus in Guinean dance. One of my most influential teachers, world-renowned master artist Youssouf Koumbassa, gave me the encouragement and blessing to teach and perform.

I share my love for this cultural dance & music to help build appreciation, interest and understanding. I position myself not as an expert but as facilitator, a bridge builder. Together with a committed crew of drummers we’ve developed an ever-growing community base with which to host master dance and drum artists from West Africa. It is an honor to bring my teachers to the Wabanaki Confederacy territory we refer to as Maine, and to introduce my community here to these inspirational masters.

In January 2015 our community was blessed to be joined by master village drummer Namory Keita from Sangbarala, Guinea. Here Namory teaches weekly drum classes, leads accompaniment for weekly dance classes, co-directs New Moon Ensemble and continues to travel for performance and teaching.

Namory and I developed New Moon Ensemble – West African Drum & Dance to expand horizons, inspire international study and share our love for intercultural exchange. Many of the talented drummers I’ve worked with for over 2 decades are a core part of the Ensemble. Together we build community and inspire international study and collaboration through the healing power dance of music. We offer private and public workshops, residencies, choreographed productions and modern community rituals for weddings, graduations, baby blessings, ceremonies and occasions of all kinds.

I received my Bachelor of Arts in Health Arts and Sciences from Goddard College, with a self-designed major in Dance and Performance Art for Healing and Social Change. I’m passionate about broadening multi-cultural awareness and appreciation, and illuminating avenues to healing through movement as medicine.


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Portland New Church, 302 Stevens Ave., Portland, ME 04103 | (207) 200-4834