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Photos © 1, 6 , 7 and 9 Kelsey Suedmeyer, 2 and 3 Asmahan, 4 Carl Sermon, 5 Adelita Chohfi, 8 Ana Harff

Interview with Kelsey Suedmeyer

- by Freddie Kaz

A smart idea and a new concept: Claudia Dufner, promoter of the legendary "Black Forest Festival" in Offenburg, Germany (of course the gateway to Black Forest) calls all dance lovers to her "In Between" events, means in between the months after a festival and before a festival.

There you'll get intensive weekends, a hafla, and loads of fun and community. We from "Hagalla" will follow this new way with the greatest interest. It all starts with ATS
® teacher Kelsey Suedmeyer, and with her Germany's ATS® expert No. 1, Freddie Kaz, took the opportunity for a talk. Be a smartie, come to the "In Between" party ...

Welcome to Germany Kelsey! We are excited that you are gonna teach some ATS® workshops at the Black Forest Tribal Festival In Betweens in early October 2015. Will this be your the first time in Germany? What are your expectations about coming here?

Thank you! Yes, this is my first visit to Germany. Honestly, I have no expectations! Since I have never been there I am completely open to experiencing Germany and its people. So far, I have felt very welcomed in anticipation of my arrival.
My personal focus while teaching is to have fun and to guide the students in their journey as dancers. I am always ready to teach the same topics to a group of beginners, advanced students, or a mixture of both. Because I love to learn, I feel that every point in a dancer's journey is valuable and worth examining. I also try my best to teach other dancers exactly what I learn from Carolena. That way, I can't go wrong!
What workshops will you teach and what is your personal focus while teaching?

In Offenburg, I will teach 2 workshops that Claudia chose from my list of workshop topics, "Refine Your Technique, The FCBD® Way!" and "Dancing as One: Transitions & Flock of Birds." You can read more about these workshops on the facebook Event Page:
I have 2 brothers. My older brother lives in Hawaii and is a radio DJ. He's been living there for more than 20 years now, so that is his home. He is best known there for the morning show that he leads with his radio partner and girlfriend, Ka'ea. My younger brother is a fairly well-known barber in the SF Bay Area, working out of San Mateo in a place called Shane's Barbershop. He lives with his family in the same city as our parents.

The profession that I learned coming out of college was audio and sound engineering. Specifically, Audio Recording & Editing. I have experience with video and image editing as well, so I guess you could say that Digital Media was my focus then. I still really love working with audio and sound, but I had a difficult time finding a job in this profession at the time I graduated college, so it gradually became more of an interest for me and less of a career focus. Now, along with dancing, I have a part-time job working with an organization called Celebration of Being, which helps people bring healing to issues that stop them from living their lives fully and being their best self.

One of my favorite sports has always been Tennis. I played on my High School's varsity team and continued to play a little after college. Now, I try to play as much as I can to stay in shape, and because I still find it very fun and challenging! When my husband, Aaron, and I were in Brazil, we picked up a sport called Frescobol, which is a form of beach tennis. We love it so much that we played almost every day when we were there!

ATS® is actually my first and only formal training in any dance form. When I was younger, I always loved dancing at parties, school dances, or night clubs with friends, but never sought formal training.

Would you give us a sneak preview into your personal story?

I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Specifically, I grew up in Hayward, CA, which is a suburb of San Francisco and is about 30 minutes drive from the city. My parents still live in the house where I was raised!

My mother is a rare San Franciscan native, meaning that she was born and raised inside San Francisco. My father was born in the Philippines (where both sides of my family are from), but he came over to the United States when he was about 4 years old and spent most of his life also growing up in the SF Bay Area. Actually, he grew up in Daly City, where Carolena lives!
I think this was because of something that happened when I was very young (maybe about 6 years old). I remember watching a young woman hip-hop dancing on TV. I was so into it! She was fantastic and hitting all of her moves, plus she was beautiful and really FIT!

Maybe she also had blonde hair, but I can't remember that detail very well. At one point while watching her, my young little mind thought, "Oh, but I don't look like her! So, I guess I can't be a dancer." I remember making that decision at a very young age, that I couldn't be a dancer! It's so strange how our minds work sometimes.

Many years later, in college, I took a traditional belly dance class out of curiosity. I remember that I learned arm undulations, and enjoyed that part, but I think that thought was still in my mind... I don't look like her (the teacher or other belly dancers), so I guess this isn't for me. I just didn't feel like I fit in.
Would you say that this background had some influence on you concerning your decision of becoming a ATS® dancer?

I suppose so! When I arrived for my first class at the FCBD® studio in early 2009, Anita was the teacher. When I saw the way she was dressed (in her skirt, choli, jewellery, and tattoos) I already knew that this was different than anything that I had ever seen before. As soon as we started dancing, I was hooked and kept coming back! I had found my tribe and come home! To this day, I love the fact that there is so much variety among ATS®) dancers--from different body types to different personalities.

When and where did you start teaching ATS®)?

I received my ATS® Teaching Training Certification and FCBD®) Sister Studio status during August of 2014, in the United States. Early this year, I left on this year-long honeymoon with my husband and began teaching in Brazil, the first stop on our trip! I taught workshops, classes, and private lessons in 4 different cities in Brazil, and have since taught in Dublin, Ireland, which was my first stop here in Europe! I'll be teaching in Bordeaux, Offenburg, and Budapest soon.

Did start teaching mean "stop learning" for you?

I think you agree with me that teaching definitely does not mean "stop learning." My practice is to study ATS®) every week, whether I am taking a live class or staying connected to Carolena's teachings and the FCBD® studio via online classes. While travelling, I attend live classes taught by other Sister Studio instructors, whenever I can. It doesn't matter what level -Level 1 or higher- I'll be there! Just because I am travelling to other cities to teach, doesn't mean I'm through with learning! We all are each other's teachers and can learn something from one another. Additionally, more exposure to different teaching styles helps me to grow and improve as a teacher.
I feel privileged to learn directly from Carolena and other FCBD®) Instructors. The main teachers who shaped my growth, while Carolena was traveling a lot, were Anita, Kae, Kristine, Wendy, Sandi, Marsha, and Suzanne. I have learned so much from all of them, and continue to, but when Carolena stopped traveling so often and started teaching much more at the Studio SF, it was a different game. My understanding of the dance deepened, and everything is so simple and clear. Learning directly from her has been a blessing.

Finally, let us know about your future plans. What do you intend to do, when you return home?

Aaron and I are about 1/2 way through our trip. We plan to return home to the San Francisco Bay Area in March/April 2016 to start settling down. Technically, we don't live anywhere right now because we are travelling from place to place! I do crave having a home of our own and nesting, so if we are able to, we would like to buy a home and begin having children when we return.

The reason why we are on this extended honeymoon is because I really wanted to experience travelling before we have kids! It has been wonderful, to have this special time with my husband, enjoying being married and just the two of us.
Regarding ATS®), I am excited to resume attending classes at FCBD®) in person, as I really miss that! I believe that I will always have a desire to learn and grow as an ATS® dancer. As far as teaching goes, it would be a dream come true to teach at FCBD® and become one of Carolena's studio instructors. Perhaps then, I could also continue travelling and teaching abroad! That part is not entirely up to me, though, as I must be invited by Carolena herself for that to happen. I guess only time will tell!

Kelsey S Suedmeyer
ist guest at the "InBetween" of the "Black Forest Tribal Fest"
(3rd and 4th October 2015)

Infos here:
Homepage: Kelsey S. Suedmeyer on facebook ...
Kelsey is teaching ATS ® in Rio de Janeiro
Kelsey (right) and FCBD
dancing together at the hafla
Workshop with Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman and Kelsey
Which happened so you finally sought to discover, embrace and learn ATS®)?

Well, I found the FCBD®) studio at a time in my life when I wanted to be more knowledgeable about how to live a healthy lifestyle and how to take care of my body, mind, and spirit. I wanted to be more active because I just wasn't moving very much in my day-to-day life. I felt lazy all of the time, and I wanted that to change. I had learned that the best way to get into exercising more was to find something fun that you enjoy, that way you look forward to doing it! I also learned that it works best if the activity is convenient for you and fits well into your daily schedule. I wanted to give belly dance another try, so I searched on Google Maps for belly dance studios near my apartment in San Francisco. FCBD®) turned out to be only a few blocks away, so I went with that one. I had no idea then, the treasure that I had found!
What does ATS®) mean for you personally and why is it so attractive/addictive for you?

For me, ATS®) is about connection. It's about connecting to myself within (and coming home to presence), so that I can then be available to connect with others. The feeling of being present and in the same moment with other dancers and knowing that they are also present and in the same moment with me, is a powerful feeling. It can seem magical and otherworldly when that happens, but it truly is our birthright as human beings. This is actually how I prefer to live all aspects of my life, so ATS®) is just one access point for me... and a fun one! (laughs).
This is why I continue to dance and why I am inspired to teach. The improv aspect allows me to relax my mind and listen to my body, and the tribal aspect keeps me connected to community.
We are far away from the mothership over here. What is your experience learning directly from the source and what advice can you give dancers that cannot attend classes at the Studio SF?

My advice is to stay connected to Carolena! I think that she loves to hear from you. Take Skype lessons with her or other teachers to continue learning and growing. If that is too expensive for you, I recommend subscribing to the PowHow Online Class Library. You get Level 1 and Level 2 videos for only $36 USD per month! Carolena teaches the entire series, so hearing instruction directly from her mouth is like gold! Plus, I hear Level 3 is coming soon.