Today we’d like to introduce you to April (Axé) Charmaine.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Axé. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
As I remember it, I was a 9-year-old walking around with “bad posture,” when it was noted that ballet was the answer for me. After that point, there is not a year of my life (minus the party phase in high school) where I was not in the dance studio or theatre training, performing, teaching or directing.
That one choice in my life led me to learn many forms and styles, becoming a pioneer student at The Denver School of the Arts, It was there that I got a taste of embodiment, meditation, artistic voice, African and Modern Dance under the direction of Kathy Hayes and the tremendous guest artists she brought in.
I was empowered to use my body as a tool to say something. That was and remains my everything.
Fast forward and I moved on to become a part of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance TraininGroup, made my first international dance exchange at the age of 19 to Ghana, West Africa. I began taking workshops in Afro-Brazilian forms including Dances of the Orixas with Rosangela Silvestre, where I eventually went and trained in Salvador de Bahia, Brasil for a summer.
During my post-high school days, I discovered that I had many interests and it felt super challenging to narrow my focus into a one-degree category, especially since the Metropolitan State University of Denver did not have a dance program at the time.
After three years of taking classes that I wanted to based on my heart’s desires–I discovered that my college had an Individualized Degree Program. I was blessed to have the mentorship of Dr. Maureen Lancaster at that moment in my life who affirmed my renaissance inclinations and helped me find a way to put my classes in Theatre, Journalism, Creative Writing, and Media Production to good use under the banner of Writing and Performance.
Having that degree led me to work for Denver’s black newspaper publications including: Denver Weekly News, The Urban Spectrum and 5 Points News. I was pretty determined to be a journalist out of college. Apparently, the universe had another plan. Around this time, not only was I a new mom to my one and only amazing son–I also received my first offer to teach dance professionally for an after school program in Aurora.
Ever since then, it has been one dance, theatre and teaching opportunity after the other. I’ve now choreographed around 35 musicals. I went on to lead the dance program at Smith Renaissance School of the Arts, open my own space, Sol Vida Dance Studio & Community Space for the Arts on East Colfax and eventually became the director of dance and taught theatre at East High School (my alma mater) before I left public education in 2017.
Around 2009, I was introduced to a movement form that sounded very peculiar to me at the time–conscious dance. My life changed as a result of my training and education of movement-based rites of passages with my mentor, Dr. Melissa Michaels. It was in these experiences that I learned to shake off my technique, to solve my personal psychological issues with dance, it is also when I attuned to the messages of my ancestors and became Axé (ah-shay), which is a word that appears in many cultures and can mean, “I feel the spirit,” “It is so,” or akin to “Amen.”
A couple of years ago, I sold everything I owned, bought a one-way ticket to Spain and traveled with the wind with my son for his last year of high school. There are many stories to share about that unschooling adventure of a lifetime, most importantly–it reminded me to take risks and has shown me there is more for me in this world.
Before we left, I kept having a nagging feeling that I was supposed to be doing something more with my life. I was at the pinnacle of my career running East Dance Company (it was truly the best “job” I’ve ever had). However, my entrepreneurial spirit called out to me again, begging me to breathe life into this essence which we call SOL VIDA™ (Sun Life in Spanish).
At the beginning of 2018, Sol Vida Worldwide started coming to life, with a revised mission to shift normalcy leading transformative dance and wellness experiences online and across the globe. I was to become a traveling artist, sharing this work in New York, California, Colombia, Spain, Guatemala and France… so far.
After spending the last year or so testing out programs and possibilities, I have become the Nomadic Renaissance Woman, a world-renowned, award-winning, holistic dance and performing arts educator with a home base in the Bay Area and Denver. I now have a clear call to lead empowering embodiment experiences for women and queer, trans, black, indigenous, people of color.
I do this through my signature workshop which was born in Denver over a decade ago called, Unwind + Grind: The Official Divine Booty Shaking Experience™, in addition to the newly born: Fab Labs, and as a guest artist, writer, and speaker who partners with progressive organizations to impact social, global and systems change.
I am excited to bring a new project to the forefront in 2020, centering: The Embodied Revolution.
My pronouns are she/hers/they/them. I identify as a black, mixed-race, queer woman.
Has it been a smooth road?
My god. If you know me, you will hear me frequently say, “You have to have a breakdown to have a breakthrough.”
I have gone through so many obstacles–mostly caused by my own limiting beliefs and lack of follow-through.
Being an entrepreneur is a really challenging thing when you don’t feel like you have a steady ground, income or backing. Everything I have done has literally been by the seat of my pants. I have literally made everything that I have from nothing. The path I have chosen is not the easiest one by any means, in fact, I’m positive there are ways to do what I’m doing with a more solid footing. I’ve had to work part-time jobs and pick up random gigs to pay the bills and sustain my livelihood to be able to do this work.
There can be a huge learning curve in choosing this way of life–I’ve studied thought leaders, spiritual entrepreneurship, and continue to gain guidance and direction from mentors.
I’ve had multiple traumas in my life and I’ve had to spend a lot of time with myself in the spirit realm to work through real pain and difficulties. I am consistently doing a lot of that. Personal ritual. Fighting through limiting beliefs and oppressive systems to be okay in this very complex comparative, social media, 21st-century world.
There are a few things that consistently help me keep my faith, strength and keep this business/movement evolving:
1. I have a Mastermind group that I talk to every single week about personal and professional development. Get one. It doesn’t have to be something you pay thousands of dollars for–you can see who in your world may be interested in being accountable with each other. In my group, there are three of us total–one who is into sustainability, one who does integrative language coaching, and me–we are frequently on the move and make it happen no matter what.
2. Nothing will break you down faster than not sticking to your guts/your intuition. When you are not following your true hearts path, you will find a lot of things go out of sync and the struggle becomes really real. Trust yourself, you are not crazy, you are not too much, the world needs YOU exactly as YOU are. Fly! You can do it!
3. Spend time being present with yourself, your breath, your body and nature. Unplug. Create a consistent morning practice, pray, meditate, chant, do yoga, do whatever brings you back to you consistently. And hug trees, its the best therapy besides bff’s, dance and expression.
Trust that you are right on time, doing what you need to be doing. All experiences, obstacles, challenges and celebrations are leading you to the highest version of you. You do you!
We’d love to hear more about Sol Vida Worldwide.
I lead empowering embodiment experiences. In addition to leading our signature workshops– I tour as a guest teacher, facilitator, consultant, speaker, and choreographer. I write. I love making dance videos. Choreography is one of my greatest highs. My greatest gifts and apparent dharma is creating safe spaces for personal authentic expression and inspiring others to live their true life dreams.
SOL VIDA™ is a dance style, a movement, and a way of life. Leading an embodied revolution for radical self-love and authentic expression. SOL VIDA™ specializes in cross-cultural, contemporary and conscious dance fusions and embodied choreography that draws upon dances of the African Diaspora, Modern, SomaSource, 5 Rhythms, Ecstatic Dance, Ballet, Jazz, Musical Theatre, Guerilla Theatre, Performance Art, Yoga, Meditation, Improv and Creative Movement.
The beautiful thing about SOL VIDA™ is it is the ultimate crossover between form and freedom. There is this place between a dance studio class and an ecstatic/conscious dance experience that is extra special. It’s not super hippy-dippy and it’s not stuck up. It’s a place where you know you are going to get free as heck and remember who you are. You’re gonna get some hip hop, afro, booty bass and ambient electro feels. You may shimmy, undulate, let out an ayyyiiii yiii or find yourself melting on the ground pulsating to the rhythm of your own beat.
It’s a beautiful thing and I know there is nothing like it in the world. Every time I lead, no matter where I am in the go, the affirmations come through, “people need this,” is a common reflection and it is so amazing to know that we are creating a local and global community dedicated to dance, expression and connection in a way that allows you to be all of you.
There is an affirmation I often use with dancers: “I am a dancer/ I am strong / I am beautiful / I am capable of anything / I live my dreams / I am powerful / I am a dancer / Axé” – SOL VIDA DANCING MANTRA™
*We hold sacred space–many of our movement experiences take place without the presence of cameras.
We’re interested to hear your thoughts on female leadership – in particular, what do you feel are the biggest barriers or obstacles?
Ahhhhh, wow, well the patriarchy, white supremacy, white privilege, and colonial capitalism are the barriers to female leadership. Our system in the United States is jacked up. It is not a space built for women leaders and in particular women of color leaders to thrive. This is a huge part of my work in shifting normalcy–we have to have a systems truth-telling, acknowledgment, and we just may have to have a breakdown to breakthrough… access, education, support–we need these things, we need to know where to go and resource. We need accessible resources to thrive. We need preventive care, natural medicine, and ways for women to release all the crap that lives in our minds, spirits, and bodies.
- Pricing varies for offerings, people can set up a free consultation with me or visit our website for detials.
- Website: www.solvidaworldwide.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/solvidaworldwide
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/solvidaworldwide
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/iamsolvida
- Other: https://tinyurl.com/solvidayoutube
Melanie Fichter Moreno, Jacob Avanzato