Intent & Bio

Marita Kennedy-Castro



Marita is a builder of modern community ritual through collaborative arts creation. She is a 20 year scholar of West African Dance, physical theatre performer, choreographer, and fire dancer, amongst other passions. 

Marita teaches dance classes and workshops, sharing her enthusiasm for broadening multi-cultural awareness and illuminating new avenues to healing through movement medicine.

She is founder of Embody the Rhythm, artistic director, choreographer, performer of New Moon Ensemble, and co-founder of multi-cultural collaborative, Many Waters Arts. She majored in Dance and Performance Art for Healing and Social Change at Goddard College.



Background & Intention

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 dreamt of doing ballet until I could fly, but it was in my first West African dance class, in 1999, that I really felt the the air under my feet.

I was (and still am) enraptured with the movements, and and the way these traditions honor our interconnection to the rhythms of nature and to one another, through celebration of life’s cycles and seasons. Something that is intrinsic to many traditional dance forms, yet so often goes forgotten in American culture.

Since ’99, I have studied under master teachers from Guinea, Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Congo, with a primary focus in Guinea dance. It was my beloved teacher, Youssouf Koumbassa, from whom I received the blessing and encouragement to teach and perform.

I share my love for this cultural dance & music with my community to help build appreciation, interest and understanding. I position myself not as an expert, but as a facilitator and a healing agent, a bridge. Together with a committed crew of drummers, we’ve been able to develop an ever-growing community base with which to host master dance and drum teachers from West Africa, here in Maine.

In January 2015 we were blessed to be joined by master village drummer Namory Keita from Sangbarala, Guinea. Namory accompanies weekly dance classes, and teaches drumming in Portland and Kittery. He travels to teach and perform around the country and beyond.

In 2015 Namory and I formed New Moon Ensemble – West African Drum & Dance to expand horizons, inspire international study and share our love for intercultural exchange. Many of the same talented crew of dancers and drummers I’ve worked with for a decade are a core part of this ensemble. Our intention is to bring healing across cultures and to build community. 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 encourage anyone who’s interested in West African dance to immerse themselves in the traditions, at the source. To add motivation, we continue to host master teachers to Maine each year. Together with my friend and colleague Elizabeth Fowler, we’ve brought in Brigitte Ndikum-Nyada, from Cameroon, Theo Martey from Ghana, and from Guinea: Youssouf Koumbassa, Abdoulaye Sylla, Sidiki SyllaIsmael BangouraSeny DaffeSayon Camara, Ismael Kouyate, and Namory Keita.

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 medicine.







4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sarah
    Aug 16, 2016 @ 03:13:17

    Hello marita, was wondering if you have any children’s girls love to dance and they are finally old enough to take a class..its pottery Sarah. I own earth and soul, but have moved out of Portland and to the country…some of my students are going to take your class but th girls have school on Tuesdays..hope your having a great summer. Cheers, Sarah…….and pleas give Yoti a hug for me.!


    • danceswithfire
      Aug 29, 2016 @ 15:34:27

      Hi Sarah! I’m sorry I don’t often see notes in the comments section so I missed this! I am working on classes for children and will add your name and address to the list of interested families. Can you please use the contact link at the top of my page here and email me your info so I can add you to the list? Thanks so much for your interested! I am excited to work out some classes for kiddos 🙂


  2. Michelle
    Jan 05, 2018 @ 02:53:26

    Beautiful! Hello old friend!
    I want to dance. However I live in the middle of nowhere…Rome Maine. Do you know of any dance/drum groups in central Maine?
    otherwise I want to come down and give your class a try! Eeeee
    Anyway, happy new year. Glad to have found you doing amazing work.
    (Early 2000s Portland connection and Anna Allocco’s friend)


    • danceswithfire
      Mar 11, 2018 @ 05:04:21

      Hi Michelle! Sorry for a belated reply. I was in Guinea for the month of January, and I don’t seem to get a notification when someone comments on the website (I’ve got a bunch of updates to figure out on here, but that’s another story 😉 So great to hear from you! I would love for you to be able to come and dance with me in Portland some time. We have lots of fun things coming up this Spring. At any rate, Denyse Robinson teaches West African Dance on and off, up in the Camden area.. not sure if that might be a little bit closer for you? Would love to see you if you want to make it to Portland some time though! Very best to you .


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