As of September 2020, Embody the Rhythm’s Blog Transitioned to a Quarterly Newsletter

As of September 2020, Embody the Rhythm’s Blog Transitioned to a Quarterly Newsletter

Embody the Rhythm drummers in the grass, under blue sky.

Greetings community,

Since September of 2020 I’ve stopped using this blog to send updates (this will be your final message from this source). Upcoming classes, workshops, guest artists and performance notifications are now sent by newsletter once per season – subscribe link at top of this message.
Keep up to date between seasons by showing up to class, and/or following Embody the Rhythm on Instagram, Facebook.

There’s a lot happening this Spring, including weekly dance and drum classes (in person, online, and by video dance) and an upcoming intermediate/advanced drum workshop this Saturday April 17, with Namory Keita!

To see colorful representation of some of our time together Oct 2004 – Sep 2020, you can visit the blog archive
PAGE (or scroll down, if on the website). Blessings and Wellbeing to you! ~ See you on the dance floor!

Be the Light Dancing Through Darkness.

Join Dance Classes, Tuesdays or Fridays in 2020!
Join Drum Class ~ next series starts January 22 ~ See this page for details.

Happy Winter y’all!
TUESDAY DEC 10 we bid bon voyage to our drummer Namory Keita, for his annual winter trip to Guinea.

We’re COLLECTING DONATIONS of warm-weather clothing and medical supplies for Namory to take along with him. If you miss the opportunity to donate in dance class, you can donate financially to support the building of Hamana Art Center, by clicking HERE.

Hamana Art Center, Art & Culture Center in Guinea ~ Under Construction

~ Dancing Through Darkness ~
In the dark days of winter,it’s ever more apparent how good it feels to dance our hearts out and find warmth together in community.
Together we create light.

Our last TUESDAY class in 2019 will be Dec 17 – Share in an early Solstice Celebration by wearing white/bright colors, and/or bring a votive candle to light, if you wish.
Tuesday classes will resume Jan 7, 2020..  Meanwhile:

Our Upcoming FRIDAY class series begins Dec 27  – Early Registration Discount is still live through December 13th ~ Reserve your spot or PURCHASE THE GIFT OF DANCE  for a loved one, today.

Friday Morning Series in Guinea Style West African Dance 
8 Weeks
Dec 27 – Feb 14

9:00am -10:00am
Portland New Church, 302 Stevens Ave, Portland, ME

These lively classes are designed for beginner and intermediate students, bringing community together through the healing power of movement and music. We will focus on heart and hip opening movements that support a solid foundation in Guinea style West African dance. No experience required.

We warm up to lively contemporary music from West Africa and dance to the smoking traditional rhythms recorded by my teachers.

Early Registration Discount – (Register by December 13)
$104 cash, check/ $108 online

Registering After December 13 –
$116 cash, check / $120 online
$16 Drop in, any time

Contact Marita to pay by cash/check.


Stay up to date on all classes, special guests, performances and other happenings ~

  • Sign up for Embody the Rhythm news by adding your email address in the box on upper right of this page where it says “Stay Tuned”  ~ Be sure to check your inbox to confirm subscription.
  • Follow Embody the Rhythm on Instagram , Facebook


In 2020 Embody the Rhythm will continue to inspire Movement Medicine for Social Change, through ongoing financial support of important initiatives lifting up Black and Brown people in Maine, and supporting the development of art and cultural preservation in Guinea, West Africa, the source of our learning in these classes. 

Spread Love, Be Love.

Happy February, folks ~ So many great things to share with you this month! We’re welcoming Namory Keita back to his Maine community and he’s bringing the heat to dance and drum classes, fresh from Guinea! 



Namory Keita

Drum with Namory Keita

Check out the story by Shannon Bryan, catch the warm vibes and join us in class this month. We’re dancing the Malinké rhythm Soko, Tuesday nights in February.
Photo by Shannon Bryan

FRIDAY MORNING DANCE class has been hopping & the next 8-Week session starts March 15 Grab the Early Bird Discount before Feb 28thYou can also register with check or cash at class to save the online fee. Invite friends in the Facebook Event.


SATURDAY MORNING CHILDREN & FAMILY series is the sweetest:
3 more Saturdays, 10:30-11:45am, 302 Steven’s Ave. 
3-5yr olds with a parent/guardian ~ dance, rhythm, song, play.



Rwandan Dance with Ikirenga cy’Intore 
Fridays at YMCA, 6-8pm. 
Facebook Link

Ikirenga cy'Intore.jpg


Afrobeat Dance (contemporary African fusion) with Veeva Banga

Mondays at Hustle & Flow, 7-8pm
Thursdays at Bright Star World Dance, 8-9pm
Congolese Dance with Grace & Jenny, of Coco Maine 
Saturdays Feb 23 | Mar 9 | Mar 23 |  3pm at Mayo St. Arts



INTERNATIONAL OPEN MIC ~ Have you been yet??
It only happens every few months, and is always an amazing event and great way to see some of Portland’s international talent, onstage. Next one: Friday, March 1st, 
Mayo St. Arts, 7-9pm.
It’s BLACK HISTORY MONTH and there’s still so much work to be done to end racism. Embody the Rhythm engages Movement as Medicine for Social Change by supporting these important initiatives with a percentage of proceeds from dance classes:  Please check them out
Keep an eye out for upcoming discussions on ways to deepen our awareness and take action together as a community. Meanwhile, join me at one of these events: 
Check out:
SO many reasons to get together and dance/drum/shake.
Can’t wait to see you on the dance floor!

New Moon Ensemble Joined by Seny Daffe at Henry Fest, Workshops and More

Saturday SEPTEMBER 8th,
join New Moon Ensemble at Henry Fest

New Moon Ensemble returns for a later summer outdoor performance at Henry Fest, in N. Yarmouth, Maine, joined by Seny Daffe of Jeh Kulu. 

For weekly, on-going Dance & Drum Class info, please click HERE. 


Henry Fest is an annual celebration hosted by 317 Main, offering a day of outdoor workshops, performances and family style fun at Skyline Farm in North Yarmouth.

New Moon Ensemble (with Embody the Rhythm) performs amidst a line up of many fabulous local dance bands, including Primo Cubano (with Portland Maine Salsa), King Day & His New Imperials (with Portland Swing Project), and Joy Compass (with Portland Intown Contra Dance).

Each group is offering an open dance workshop to be included in your ticket to the Festival. We hope you’ll join us September 8, and come see what we’ve been up to!

Links for Henry Fest @ Skyline Farm, 95 The Ln, North Yarmouth, ME 04097  
Henry Fest 2018 Website
Facebook Event Page
Volunteer Sign Up Page (Volunteers get in free)
Henry Fest 2018 Tickets

Sunday SEPTEMBER 9th,
Drum & Dance Workshops
with Namory Keita & Seny Daffe

Namory Keita and Seny Daffe will teach high vibes Guinea West African Drum & Dance workshops, right here in Portland, at Maine Ballroom Dance Studio.

10:00-11:00am – DRUM CLASS w/ Namory Keita – All-levels
11:30am-1:00pm – DANCE CLASS w/ Seny Daffe – All-levels

No experience necessary ~ All-levels welcome in both classes.

Maine Ballroom Dance Studio, 614 Congress St., Portland, ME
Individual class = $16, or $30 for both (Cash preferred, small surcharge for credit)
Enjoy free on-street parking on Sundays.

To reserve your spot in a class contact Marita here.
To reserve a drum for class contact Namory:
FMI Link to: Facebook Event Page

Wednesdays, starting Sep 5th
5 week Drum Workshop Series
with Annegret Baier


Annegret Baier is a fabulous musician and teacher, cherished dance class drummer and New Moon Ensemble performer. She brings 25+ years of experience to her playing and teaching of West African rhythms. 

These workshops will be 5 Wednesdays: 9/5, 9/12, 9/19. 10/3 & 10/10
Friends Meeting House, 1837 Forest Ave, Portland, Me
Pre-registration is required.
To register and rent a Djembe, contact Annegret here.

Looking forward to seeing you at Henry Fest, dancing & drumming with you in September workshops, and in our weekly classes!


May you find your movement. May you find your medicine.

See you on the dance floor! 

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.



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!

Surprise Special Guest, Wadaba Joins us for Dance & Drum Class this Week!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 18 ONLY – Special drum & dance opportunity!

Mamady Kourouma, affectionately known as Wadaba, and a good friend of Namory Keita is a true Djembefola (master drummer), expert of Malinke Rhythms and one of the world’s great djembe players!


@ 5:45-7:15pm
@ 7:30-8:45 pm

This is a surprise visit and a unique opportunity to experience the rich artistic playing of Mamady. He brings Malinke rhythms, songs and an understanding of the ceremonies of his village of Oroko, Guinea (just down the Niger River from Namory’s village of Sangbarala).

Don’t miss this special unexpected treat and opportunity!

Beginners to professional levels – All are welcome.
Bring your djembe for drum class
(some extra djembes available).

Drum class just $15.

Our weekly classes are at: Portland New Church, 302 Stevens Ave, Portland ME

See you on the dance floor!

We Have Moved!

After 12 years of West African Inspired Dance & Drumming on Congress St. in downtown Portland, WE’VE MOVED to TUESDAYS.

Join us at our new place, time and location!
(please see below for details) 


Videos from our final Thursday night dance class at Maine Ballroom, Sep 29, 2016. 

I am beyond grateful to all of the drummers and dancers who’ve shared Thursday nights with me over the past decade, building and being part of this ever-growing community ~

Thank you for helping create space for movement without judgement, movement that brings people together, movement that brings liberation to bodies and minds, that allows us to feel and be and still keep moving amidst our grief, to celebrate our successes together and to honor and give thanks to the tradition and culture of Guinea dance & drumming for showing us how.
May we continue to create modern community rituals that bring us together across cultures and creeds, honoring our unity and our diversity at once, and connecting us with the cycles and seasons of nature – to the Earth, from which we all come.

Portland New Church, 302 Stevens Ave. Portland, ME


This class is for true beginners and experienced students together. 

Dance class is taught by Marita Kennedy-Castro. This is an open, welcoming space to learn something fun and new. Special discounts for both new and returning students. 

The same amazing lineup of musicians provide live drumming, including most frequently Janice Erickson, Jeff Howe, Sandra Benson, Chris Gager, Annegret Baier and master village drummer from Sangbarela, Guinea, Namory Keita.


TUESDAY DRUM CLASS | 7:30-8:45pm
This drum class is for intermediate to advanced drum students.

Drum class, taught by Namory Keita will include a full ensemble of West African Traditional Melenke Rhythms on djembe, as well as the full doundoun family of drums.

This drum class is for true beginners. 

*Wednesdays are at Woodford’s Club. 179 Woodford’s St., Portland, ME
Beginner drum class with Namory Keita is a blast, whether you want to improve your drum circle skills, or dig deeper into the wonders of West African rhythms. 

We look forward to meeting and welcoming new students in this move!

Meanwhile, I’m working on development of a family dance class (kids and parents together). Please contact me if you’re interested.

Big Up to everyone who came out to classes with Youssouf Koumbassa & Namory Keita in September, (photos/video HERE). Special thanks to Maine Ballroom Dance Studio for the space to enjoy these fabulous teachers in Portland! 

Follow Embody the Rhythm on Facebook


Youssouf Koumbassa Returns to Maine!

Special Dance & Drum Classes 
September 24th, Portland, ME


Youssouf Koumbassa

Catch the experience! Dance class FOR ALL LEVELS,
true beginners alongside experienced dancers, with deeply beloved teacher, best of the best, world-renowned, g
rand master dancerYoussouf Koumbassa


TWO DAYS – Saturday Sep 24th, Portland
Sunday Sep 25th, Kittery

Youssouf leads a warm-up for dance class, Portland, ME 2015


Perhaps the world’s most sought-after teacher of Guinea-style African dance, Youssouf Koumbassa was born in Conakry, Guinea. For the past 25 years, Youssouf has taught countless devoted students around the world the beauty and energy of Guinea dance. He teaches at conferences and workshops from Mexico to Amsterdam, California to Japan, yet maintains his position at the center of his African dance community in New York City. Youssouf returns to Guinea every year to lead a month-long immersion workshop for international students in drum and dance.  For extended bio, click HERE.



Youssouf Koumbassa

Saturday, September 24th, 2016

DANCE CLASS w/ Youssouf Koumbassa
DRUM CLASS w/ Namory Keita

Fun for total beginners & advanced students alike!



Youssouf Koumbassa

Hosted by Marita Kennedy-Castro @ Embody The Rhythm, with special thanks to Maine Ballroom Dance, 614 Congress St, Portland

9:30-11:00am | All Levels Dance Class
$16 advance | $20 door | $14 students with I.D.
Maine Ballroom

11:15 – 12:45pm | All Levels Drum Class
$16 advance | $20 door | $14 students with I.D.
Maine Ballroom

These classes fill fast. Guarantee your space in class/get tix in Portland’s weekly dance class Tuesdays or Thursdays, or online at:


Namory Keita


Master drummer Namory Keita, born in Sangbarala, Guinea has been the lead drummer in his village since 2006, and performs all over the world.  He moved to Portland, Maine in early 2015 and currently teaches drum classes throughout New England. Namory is a fun and patient teacher for all skill levels. 

Youssouf Koumbassa and Namory Keita, all smiles and talent.


Drum workshop with Namory Keita in Portland, ME 2015

Click HERE for classes September 25th in Kittery, ME


Click HERE for Weekly Dance & Drum Class in Portland
with Marita Kennedy-Castro and Namory Keita. 

We’re excited to see you Tuesdays & Thursdays in September as we prepare to consolidate all our classes to Tuesdays in October ~ Stay tuned! 

Can’t wait to see you September 24th & 25th, with Youssouf Koumbassa!!

Click HERE to visit us on Facebook, let us know you’re coming, share the event.



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