This fitness guru shares her secrets to self-care and dancing through life.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Choreographer and dance instructor Cassandra Nuamah is a living testament to the fact that you can spread so much good by doing what you love. Anyone lucky enough to have taken one of her or mother’s Kukuwa Dance classes (or travelled alongside them during one of their Africa With Us Foundation trips) already knows: Nuamah’s clear sense of self — and her own self-love journey — is something remarkable.
Ready for some life inspo? We chatted with Nuamah about what keeps her moving forward, in dance and life.
How do you describe yourself and what you do?
I’m a master trainer for Kukuwa African dance workout, a business that was founded by my mother, Kukuwa Nuamah. In general, it has three components: dance and fitness, African travel, and community service. I help people discover their best selves through those three avenues.
Can you break down what Kukuwa is — and feels like — to teach?
Kukuwa is a mood-boosting, freeing experience: [like] traveling through Africa without your passport, [but] through music and modern and traditional African dance. “Kukuwa” literally means “to grow” in Swahili, so Kukuwa Fitness is “to grow fit,” African-style.
As a teacher, I feel honored to spread positive vibes and energy. The joy and happiness filling people have after they’ve finished a class is so rewarding… especially if they felt [like] they couldn’t do it before or weren’t feeling motivated.
What about your mom inspires you?
My mom is a legend. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but she is. ‘Cause I don’t know any African woman over the age of 60 that has done what she’s done or does what she does. She had me after breaking her water while teaching dance, and she’s continued to defy all stereotypes. Where we’re from [Ghana, West Africa], if you’re not going to be a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, or any of the more traditional professions, then it’s seen as a joke. I remember growing up, seeing people literally laugh at her, and seeing my dad not really want to say what she [did for a living]. All kinds of people just really didn’t believe in her, and she did it anyway.
How did that inform the way you chose to move through the world?
It informs how I approach life. I don’t approach life from a standpoint of, “I’m too old or too young to do what I really want to do.” I approach it from a perspective of energy, positivity, and what my heart desires — what makes my soul smile. My mom basically put that into us from [a young age] that no matter how old you are and no matter what your status is, whether it’s financial or economical, you can do what you want to do.
What do you love about your own body?
Right now, I love the skin that I’m in — metaphorically and literally. It’s one of the things that I struggled with so much when I was younger. People would just say, “You’re so dark. Why are you so black?” Or simply remembered [me] as, “Oh, the dark one.”
Something that really touched me recently was to learn that a group of girls — maybe a summer camp or something — was watching some of our YouTube videos and were like, “I want to be like her! I don’t see anybody like her.” When I was younger, I didn’t really see other representations of me. So the thing that I struggled with so much then is the thing that I love about myself now. It makes me so proud.
You teach women of all ages, all around the world. How does who you are enable you to connect to all of them?
I’m not small. I’m not big. I’m just right for me. I have been a lot bigger in the past. I’ve been a lot smaller. I’ve had DD’s, I’ve had AA’s, a flat stomach, and back rolls. I’ve learned that I’m still me, and that they’re all beautiful. I think people feel that no matter what state they’re in, they’re beautiful as long as they accept it.
How has your idea of self-care evolved?
It’s evolved by my actually paying attention to what it means to take care of myself. Just simple things like taking a vacation, taking a walk, going to the beach — things that don’t necessarily involve work or somebody else, [but] are just my own happy place. In the past, I didn’t carve out as much time to do that. Now [I treat it like] it’s a meeting. Like, “I can’t do that because I have to get a massage” or “I have to get in a little karaoke time.”
It’s not selfish; it’s actually necessary. And it’s a revolutionary thing. Self-care is totally revolutionary.
Yes! Every now and then, I’ll go online with it, and say, “I’m having my karaoke time. I’m just going to share with you guys, whoever wants to join.” All you need is a toothbrush… or a good spoon.
What would you say to someone that’s exploring dance expression for the first time?
In African dance — and Kukuwa, specifically — every move tells a story. And with each movement, and you moving your body, it’s your own story. So, nothing is incorrect. It’s never Star Search. And it’s always a good time. Because you always know your story.
How can you honor your story through movement, ritual, or self-expression today?