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About LaLanya

LaLanya Cameron was born in Portland, Oregon, and was raised in San Francisco where she studied ballet, Afro-Haitian, Jazz, and modern dance from many of the most gifted teachers in the Bay Area.

She worked professionally in Los Angeles in television, film and theater with scores of credits, including award shows such as the Golden Globe Awards and American Music Awards, and in films, such as The Blues Brothers. Theater credits include working with Lena Horne in Pal Joey. She also did national commercials.

LaLanya then moved to Rome, Italy. There she danced on the Miss Italia show, RAI’s TV award show and on prestigious variety shows. She also performed for the prime minister of Malta.

She began teaching large groups mixing various dance techniques in Rome and Milan. She realized there were many students who were really intimidated by dance, both by the dance itself and by the thought of dancing in front of others.

When she was subbing for an exercise class, a lot of the students, especially the ones that liked dance, became excited because she was about to teach. They wanted her to teach dance before the exercises. She noticed a woman leaning against the door. She had tears in her eyes because she knew she wanted to dance but was afraid. That’s when the thought came: “How do I get that woman in the room with the other dancers?”

LaLanya had seen other students express curiosity and interest, but then back off, afraid to enter the room. So, LaLanya approached her and got her into the room, into a safe spot where she could see the teacher and observe the other students without being on display. She told the student to only do a little bit of movement at a time, just less emphatically. It worked.

Her groups began to grow. She found a way to have all the dancers work within their own range at the same time. Beginner students did a smaller version of the movements, not worrying about being precise and able to enjoy the music.

The intermediate students reached a point where they could reproduce the movements, but still needed some attention placed on them.

The advanced students had essentially mastered the movements and worked on feeling them, expressing emotion and feeling their participation in the group, moved by the music itself.

On more than one occasion, students told LaLanya that they were afraid she’d make fun of them. So, before class she always talked to the group, giving them a little note, reminding them that they all had their particular good qualities in their lives and work. No one was going to make fun of anyone. They were there to enjoy dance.

LaLanya returned to America, to San Francisco, where she began teaching doctors, med students and researchers at UCSF. Here the situation was a bit different. Now, she was afraid of being judged by analytically-oriented people who might reject the way she taught. To her surprise, they didn’t. They were quite enthusiastic about her approach.

Once again, she had them concentrate on the drums. Gradually, that established a rapport between the music and the movement in their body as interpretation of the drums. With repetition the movement became more spontaneous and needed less direction. The choreography was straight forward, without a need to memorize.

It turns out this type of dance, and this approach to it, took them out of that state of being analytical and actually freed them to be in their bodies with the drumbeat. They felt good and complete and able to let go. Students and teacher complemented each other. The dancers left, having had the experience of a group high.

Several years later, she moved up to Portland, Oregon and taught groups at OHSU. She was invited to teach a large group at the Women’s Conference at the Oregon Convention Center. She got quite a reception. It was the largest group she had ever taught.

In essence, Dance Within is repetition and concentration taken to the point of real spontaneity. The dance step has to become your own and you, in turn, become the dance step. From the dance within state, you do what the body wants to do, as you learn these movements without pressure or competition. In this way the dancers can experience both their own and a group high.

Over the years, she kept hearing from students that they wanted to continue with her outside of the classroom. Finally, she realized that putting clips together, allowing them to repeat and add on as they wished, would let the students continue to grow at their own convenience and pace.

Out of that, the next stage in Dance Within got born.