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Meet our graduates: Amber and Meeshi from Groovaroo

meet our graduates Apr 17, 2016

We are super excited to introduce you to Amber and Meeshi Anjali! Amber is a CBWS Graduate and her husband Meeshi is a dance instructor. Together they've created the concept of Groovaroo which has propelled dancing while babywearing into the mainstream and has sparked a viral sensation. 

How did you get into R&B/Soul Line Dancing? What has your experience been like?

Meeshi first discovered R&B/Soul Line Dancing when a friend of his shared a line dance on his Facebook page in the summer of 2012. While he was already familiar with the three most popular line dances (Cupid Shuffle, Wobble and Electric Slide), he had no idea of the breadth and popularity of R&B/Soul Line Dancing in African American communities. Already a student and teacher of multicultural dancing for 20 years, Meeshi felt particularly drawn to this style of dancing for three reasons: 1) he loved how the structure of the dance perfectly fit the structure of the music, 2) he loved how playful, interactive and improvisational everyone was with the music and with each other, and 3) he loved how accessible and inclusive it was people of all ages and levels. Pure beginners danced side by side with advanced dancers sharing the floor as equals.

Primarily self-taught, Meeshi was able to teach himself to line dance by watching YouTube videos from Tamika Shipman of the Parkside Experience in Philadelphia. He then started attending line dance events locally in San Diego and across the country. He was excited about how welcoming everyone in the line dance community was to him, and in fact, they felt more open to him than almost any of the other cultural dance styles he had been training in over the past 20 years. He has been teaching R&B/Soul Line Dancing in San Diego since 2013 and has been fortunate enough to teach at national line dance events in Chicago and Philadelphia.

Who were your teachers?

As mentioned above, Meeshi was mostly self-taught using the Parkside Experience YouTube videos. These videos were a weekly line dance event in Philadelphia where Tamika Shipman filmed the dance instruction prior to the social dancing. The primary Parkside teachers are Chris Blues and Hassan Abdul-Rahim. He was also greatly inspired and influenced by four other Philly-style line dance teachers: Bernadette Burnette, Ray Boyd, Kenny Johnson and Ed Williams. Locally he has learned from SoCal teachers Patricia Murray, Ed Griffith, Jackie Rice and Youshia Berry.

How did you come up with the idea for a babywearing dance class? What was your experience with babywearing prior to the class?

Amber was introduced to babywearing through a family that she used to nanny for. She realized how much it helped to comfort the baby especially when going for walks. She saw a video of two people babywearing and dancing salsa in Spain and thought that babywearing and soul line dancing would fit perfectly together because most of the movements start with a gentle rocking of your hips, just as you would rock your hips to soothe your baby. 

What do you hope parents and families will get from taking this class? 

Our hope is that parents will discover that GroovaRoo Dance is not an exercise class to workout with your baby, but a movement class for new parents to feel good in their bodies again, bond with their baby and other families, and find the support of a like-minded community of parents going through the same challenges and triumphs. In cultures all over the world dance is an integral part of family life, however in America, dance is frequently viewed a performance art that is to be enjoyed but not participated in. When parents are attending a children's dance class they often feel compelled to watch rather than join in the fun. Dance should be an interactive social activity for the whole family/village to do together. Dancing with your baby is just the beginning of our larger cultural mission of normalize family dancing in America. Let's dance for LOVE!

Have you gotten any one thing out of teaching this kind of class that surprised you or was different from your expectations?

When we first started our classes we chose songs that seemed more "child-oriented" but over time we realized moms really wanted to dance to familiar pop music. They wanted to dance the way they'd enjoyed dancing in the clubs prior to baby. We subsequently have been labelled as the "Dirty Dancing" of babywearing dance. Along with bonding with their babies and other women, moms feel empowered to get their "sexy back" in our classes.