The word “Hamsa” is the Sanskrit term for white swan, and it was quite intentional that Isha Ferraz, owner of Hamsa Dance Studio in Meiners Oaks, chose that name for the business she opened in December. “Sanskrit is the language you use in ancient dance and yoga,” she explains. “The swan is a symbol for discernment. A swan can tell what’s good and what’s not for its own growth."
Ferraz believes that dance and movement are good for us, including nourishing the soul and spirit. “Everything in life has movement,” she says. “Everything shifts, changes, evolves. As humans, dance especially has a wonderful place in the world of health for us because it brings us back to the original movement of our bodies.” She adds that we can easily become so busy, we get stuck in a cycle of stagnation. “Dance brings us out of that state. Dance brings us to that place of flow that I feel is inherent within us. For me, that’s what dance is, bringing up that original state of movement and flow.”
Ferraz, herself, teaches many of the classes offering that movement and flow, such as Indian Classical Dance, Dance Vinyasa, and Temple Flow, but her career began with another form of musical flow, singing. “I wanted to become a singer,” she says, “and I went to school for classical voice and studied vocal training through college. I had been dancing my whole life, but people around me said you can’t make a career out of dancing, so I never thought it was something I would do.” But singing did not work out. “I just never found the right outlet for singing. Nothing spoke to my heart.” Instead, she became a licensed massage therapist. “I got into the world of healing, then I rediscovered singing through Kirtan.” That, in turn, led to dance again, and her new career. “I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a space that was dedicated to all of these practices that celebrate the spirt.”
The offerings at Hamsa include many such practices, such Bhangra, a Punjabi folkdance, which Hamsa instructors combine with martial arts and movements with ropes for mind/body conditioning, stability and focus.
Another class, Bollywood, is defined on the Hamsa website as high-energy, with popular Bollywood songs inspired by music from Indian film. For something quieter, the Kirtan/Satsang chanting, inspirational music and guided meditation is also popular.
Families are included at Hamsa too. “The Family Dance class is super important,” Ferraz says, “because there aren’t a lot of dance classes where you can bring your child, so it’s really important that we have offerings like this.” This class includes salsa, bellydance, Bollywood and hip-hop.
Another component at Hamsa is the continuation of the charitable service Ferraz and husband Brian conducted in their former Austin, Texas location,
such as a fundraising performance for the victims of the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
Their charitable work now includes events in the Ojai Valley. “We like to do a lot of performances for the community,” Ferraz says, “so a lot of teachers will put together performances. We perform at the Gables (of Ojai) and show them some dance movements. We also go to assisted living facilities and schools, like Oak Grove. It’s one of our ways of giving back to the community, free performances and free classes.”
Like the discerning swan, it appears that Ferraz has discovered in Ojai what’s good for her own growth. “The swan has the ability to choose what it needs for its own evolution,” she explains. “Sanskrit terms may seem so simple. But the terms are multifaceted, including Hamsa”
(Hamsa Dance Studio, 109 East El Roblar Drive, Miners Oaks, 805-212-9678, www.HamsaDance.com)