Marita Kennedy-Castro Fire Dancer

Artist * Heartist * Facilitator * Visionary * Performer


I have been studying dance since I was a young girl, in love with the freedom and healing experienced by the embodiment of rhythm and fluid motion. I was born in the United States into a family of mixed background with healthy doses of both Irish and Sicilian.
As a young girl I dreamt of doing ballet until I could fly, but it was in my first West African dance class, in 1999, that I really felt the the air under my feet.

I was enraptured with the movements and overcome with gratitude for the way these traditions honor our interconnection to the rhythms of nature and one another, through celebration of life’s cycles and seasons. Something that is intrinsic to many traditional dance forms, so often goes forgotten in American culture. Up until that point I had not experienced it in shared community.

Since ’99, I’ve studied under master teachers from Guinea, Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Congo, with a focus in Guinea dance. I’ve remained a devoted student of this form, with respect to the many incredible cultural ambassadors of Guinea who are my teachers. They have captured my heart and inspired me so greatly. Especially my teacher, Youssouf Koumbassa, from whom I received the blessing and encouragement to teach and perform.

I share my love for this cultural dance & music with my community to help build appreciation, interest and understanding. I position myself not as an expert, but as a facilitator and a healing agent, a bridge. Together with a committed crew of drummers, we’ve been able to develop an ever-growing community base with which to host master dance and drum teachers from West Africa.

In January 2015 we were blessed to be joined by master village drummer Namory Keita from Sangbarala, Guinea. Namory accompanies weekly dance classes, and teaches drumming in Portland and Kittery. He travels to teach and perform around the country and beyond.

In 2015 we formed the New Moon Ensemble – West African Drum & Dance to expand horizons, inspire international study and share our love for cultural exchange. Many of the same talented crew of dancers and drummers I’ve worked with for a decade are a core part of this ensemble. Our intention is to bring healing across cultures and to build community. We offer private and public workshops, residencies, choreographed productions and modern community rituals for weddings, graduations, baby blessings, ceremonies and occasions of all kinds.

I encourage anyone who’s interested in West African dance to immerse themselves in the traditions, at the source. To add motivation, we host master teachers to Maine each year. Together with my friend and colleague Elizabeth Fowler, we’ve brought in Brigitte Ndikum-Nyada, from Cameroon, Theo Martey from Ghana, and from Guinea: Youssouf Koumbassa, Abdoulaye Sylla, Sidiki SyllaIsmael BangouraSeny DaffeSayon Camara, Ismael Kouyate, and Namory Keita.

I received my Bachelor of Arts from Goddard College with a major in Dance & Performance Art for Healing & Social Change. I am passionate about broadening multi-cultural awareness and appreciation, as well as avenues to healing through the arts.