I have had the great opportunity to know and to have been playing for Lasensua for over 20 years or more. I first met her on the Big Island of Hawaii. Lasensua has lived, studied & performed in many areas of the world. Her travels started in 1974, when she became immersed in Hawaiian culture through their music & “Hula” dance. She has journeyed to Brazil, Cuba, West Africa, Caribbean, Tahiti, India & Indonesia to live and study dance on location.
Recently Lasensua and I reunited on the island of Koh Samui, Thailand for an evening of African, Haitian and Afro Cuban Dance and drumming at the fabulous Kamalaya 5 star resort.
We were joined on drums by my old friend and drummer Scott Ayakiawe Martin from Thai Organic Life (and also the brother of Boaz Martin co founder of Barabajaba) as well as Lasensua’s sister Susan who is a talented drummer as well.
There was an international cast of dancers from around the globe including Russia, Germany, Canada, Japan the USA and Thailand too. A good time was had by all and if you ever go to Koh Samui Thailand you owe it to yourself to visit Kamalaya. The views are outstanding, everyone is friendly and the food in the restaurant is off the chart.
Lasensua is one of the few people who can really dance AND teach Salsa, West African, Afro~Cuban & Haitian dance. It really is quite an achievement to be able to master all of these forms in one life time! More often then not dancers excell at only one or two styles but Lasensua has paid her dues and it really shows in her dance no matter what kind of style she is teaching, performing or even talking about.
When we first started working together we were doing Haitian music and dance on the BIg Island of Hawaii. One night at a party she put on a Balinese mask and started doing traditional Balinese dance. I had just come from Bali so I was completely taken by surprise! It was like there was a whole other person performing.
Lasensua’s Afro~ Caribbean classes are sometimes a diverse hybrid or fusion of Afro~ Cuban, Haitian & Trinidadian movement, and of course always have live drumming and percussion with traditional rhythms. The dance classes are high spirited and playful, & infused with a sense of excitement, fun , passion & depth. Her warm ups include body isolations, yogic stretches, core strengthening, and dance technique to help with the movement for class. In each class, Lasensua imparts her knowledge of the cultural traditions and meaning of the dances that she teaches
Lasensua also traveled and studied in India in Bombay just one stop in a life that has been all about the art form. Early on, a photo of a Hindu dancer in a gold headdress convinced her to journey to a remote part of Bali and take lessons. In later days, she studied everything from temple dances in Nepal to undulating ceremonies of vodoun in Brooklyn’s Haitian enclave, racking up some uncommon choreographic credentials along the way.
“Mostly, I realized that any ethnic dance came from a place deep inside the soul of the people,” she says. “By learning it, I also got to learn about the language, music and history of a place.”
Lasensua now lives on Maui, where she teaches salsa classes in the cozy vintage hall of the Makawao Union Church, serves as a dance and drama educator with the Maui Arts & Cultural Center and continues to be a one-woman wellspring of African dance: She helped to found an annual camp for Congolese masters on the island and continues to teach weekly classes in their art.
Given all of this, Lasensua admits that people are often surprised to find out she grew up in Toronto and once entertained thoughts of becoming an attorney. She laughingly credits a bossa nova-loving mom and a mambo-moving uncle for the fact that she now carries a dance bag instead of a briefcase. And there have been many mentors along the way. “It was overwhelming to find that some leading African masters encouraged me to spread their art, even though I am obviously not from the culture,” she says. “Sometimes in those years of travel, I would feel a little self-indulgent … but Africa made me realize
I am supposed to pass on the passion.”