Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lorin Hansen

by Mandy

The first thing I noticed was the drumbeat.  That primal, earthy sensation felt more in my bones than heard through my ears.  The closer I got, I realized they were multiple, their sound drawing me nearer, up the stairs to the dance room. Then I heard the voices.  Chanting, shouting, having a damn good time.  Who, or what was this?  I wanted to be a part of it.  As I rounded the corner, I saw them; 7 or 8 people ranging in age from teenagers to late 50s, all pounding out their hearts to an Afro-Brazilian rhythm on a variety of percussion instruments; several lithe, sinuous dancers moving their bodies in time to the music; and a few guys in what looked like karate gis?  I didn't know at the time, but I was experiencing Samba Fogo for the first time.  And at the center of this experience was a petite, firecracker of a woman whose delicacy belied her strength and power.  Directing dancers, leading the drummers, and shouting the loudest, she was undoubtedly the Alpha, the fearless leader of this amazing group of performers.  

Lorin Hansen has been directing Samba Fogo since the 1990s, wowing audiences with fire dance, Afro-Brazilian drums, and Capoeira performances.  An immensely talented dancer herself, she has brought Samba Fogo to the forefront of high quality and downright awesome entertainment in the Salt Lake Valley and the intermountain west.  In addition to offering professional entertainment, Samba Fogo also offers classes in Afro-Brazilian dance styles, and workshops in Brazilian drumming.  Lorin has worked tirelessly to bring this knowledge, culture, and experience to our community, and Kita recently had the pleasure to ask Lorin a few questions.

Kita: How would you describe your art?

Lori: Traditional, with some room for play... I like to study traditional Afro-Brazilian rhythms, songs and dances, get to know them as intimately as possible, and then give myself freedom to play with those concepts and fuse them with contemporary dance, fire dance, diverse instrumentation, etc.  

Kita: When did you first get into art?

Lori: Hmmm.... good question. At birth, I suppose!  I always loved dance and music, and putting on shows.  I was a gymnast at a young age, and later found my passion in dance, in my 20's.  I never really "planned" to be an artist, or an educator... that is just the path my life seemed to lead me down.  When I was studying modern dance in college at the UofU, I joined this band called "Samba Gringa" - a community band that operated out of the UofU modern dance department.  I started learning about Brazilian percussion from Samba Gringa's founder, Jon Scoville, and I got hooked!   Pretty soon after that, Jon Scoville sat me down and said, "I'm too old and too deaf to do this anymore. The group is yours."  He passed leadership of the group on to myself and my husband Mason, our Musical Director. I suddenly found myself with this great opportunity: an existing arts org infrastructure, with room to create, expand, and improve. At that time, we did not have any dancers. I looked around myself and I saw drummers, capoeiristas, myself as a solo fire dancer, and many capable dancers in the Salt Lake City community, and I thought... "Why don't we make one big, awesome group of us, complete with dancing, drums, fire, and martial art, and call it Samba Fogo?" That is how Samba Fogo was born.

Kita: What were your goals when you first started?

Lori: When I first started, I simply wanted to explore this wonderful world of Samba, and share it with my community.

Kita: What are they now?

Lori: My goals remain similar, but things are a bit more complex now... we try to maintain both a high-quality professional music and dance company, while at the same time maintaining a community-oriented drumline and community group, and  presenting educational programming year-round.  Basically, we try to facilitate the exploration/experience of Brazilian arts in many forms... professional, social, community-oriented, educational, etc. etc.  

Kita: Do you get stage fright at all?

Lori: I wouldn't call it stage fright, no.  However, I always feel a great sense of responsibility, to our audience members as well as our performers.  Working out all the logistics and planning of a show is an immense task.  It comes with some stress and excitement around showtime, especially shows that involve fire, as that is an added responsibility to keep everyone safe, but I have always enjoyed performing, and once the pre-planning is done and it's time to just go on stage and perform, well honestly, that is the easy part.  

Kita: How do you deal with that stress?

Lori: I try to do at least a bit of yoga and meditation on a daily basis.  I find that if I keep in contact with my center and connect with myself on a daily basis, when a stressful situation comes along, I am better equipped to deal with it. Also, good nutrition, plenty of water, and deep breathing.

Kita: What's your biggest struggle?

Lori: Gah- hard to answer!  There are many!  Money is of course a struggle.  I have always wanted to create a fully professional company, with paid artists positions.  However, many Samba Fogo performers are still volunteers or semi-paid with small stipends.  We currently have about 40 participating artists... so it's a struggle to keep our artists feeling appreciated, engaged, and fulfilled, without the use of $$$.  Another of my great struggles is how to stay self-motivated when my to-do list is a mile long, but there is no one standing over me making sure I complete all my tasks. The struggle of creating my own structure in order to maintain, run, and grow a non-profit business is certainly a challenge, and some days I just want to work a 9-5 job and when I'm home, I'm done.  However, the longer I do this, the better I get at that challenge.

Kita: How do you enjoy the SLC area arts community?

Lori: I think we have a lot of really great art in this city.  We are lucky to have such a strong dance culture here, and I enjoy that by attending concerts by SB Dance, Ririe-Woodbury, and other touring shows that come through.  We also do partnering and outreach with a number of other arts orgs in the city, such as Utah Arts Alliance, Bad Dog Arts, The Mundi Project, Drumbus, and Salt Lake Capoeira. 

Kita: Are those closest to you supportive of your work?

Lori: Yes, they are.  I think it has been hard for my family to see my husband and I both choose to be artists, as of course that doesn't always bring a lot of money into the household, but they have watched Samba Fogo develop over the last ten years into something that they see a lot of value and promise in, and they are more supportive now than when I first started.

Kita: Do you prefer to teach or perform or work on choreography?

Lori: I prefer to do a mixture of all three of these things.  I also spend a lot of time doing administrative tasks and general management of the org, which helps to balance things as well.  I think if I tried to just be a teacher or just a performer, or just an arts administrator, I would not be as fulfilled.  Though wearing multiple hats is sometimes challenging, at least I am never bored! 

Kita: How do you handle the balance between the business side of things and the artistic side?

Lori: I see them as mutually beneficial.  I am not the type of person who likes to sit in front of a computer all day, but I can do that if I know I get to dance that evening. When I get to use my body often, and exercise my creativity often, it helps me get through the more tedious admin/business work, because I know it's for a great purpose!  Business stuff can get so tedious, it's actually a great balance to the high intensity of Brazilian music and dance.  

Kita: Once you have an idea, how likely are you to change it a lot before it gets to final performance?

Lori: Almost 100% likely.  Everything goes through a transformation as it moves from an imagined idea to a real thing that is being performed on stage.

Kita: Do you feel art is respected by the general population around SLC?

Lori: Yes, to an extent.  I think it's better here than some other places, but there is still room for improvement in terms of getting out from in front of our TVs, putting our phones down, and experiencing something live, real, and stimulating.  Everything comes so cheap, instant, and disposable these days, we have developed a sense of entitlement in terms of getting what we want when we want it, and we seem to be blind to the immense amount of work that goes into the products we consume.  This has left us with a diminished ability to appreciate the truly special things in life, like good art.

Kita: How about your forms of art?

Lori: Yes, I feel like my art / Samba Fogo has been well-received in SLC. We try to make it fun, accessible, and welcoming to all, and I think that has served us well.  There is always room for more people to see and appreciate it, though!!

To learn more about Lorin and Samba Fogo, visit their website:

Or to see them in action or try it yourself:

Upcoming Events

5th Annual Samba Queen GalaSaturday, February 8, 8pm
Urban Lounge, 241 South 500 East
Samba Fogo’s 5th Annual Samba Queen Competition, a Brazilian dance party and fundraiser.

Orixa Movement Workshop: Tuesdays, 6:30-8:00pm, January 21 - February 25
SLC Arts Hub, 663 W 100 S
6-week workshop for all levels in the art of Orixa Dance Movement. Dance for the nature deities of Afro-Brazilian culture while finding your own spirit. Live music! All Levels Welcome!

Brazilian Drum WorkshopTuesdays, March 4 - 25, 6:30-8:00pm
SLC Arts Hub, 663 W 100 S
All Instruments Provided, all levels ages 10+ welcome, workshop fee includes one 30-minute private lesson with Mason Aeschbacher on drum kit or Brazilian percussion instrument of your choice.