Linsey A. Daman, a well-known professional dancer (Flamenco, American Classical Ballet and Latin Ballroom), is the Founder and Artistic Director of Cultural Arts Center of St. Louis. Combining a lifetime of cultural dance, International travel and foreign study experience, she offers a unique blend of dance, language and cultural opportunities to explore in life. Linsey is also in the process of writing a book about building and creating the Cultural Arts Center from scratch.
Interviewed by Stephen M. Thompson, Ph.D.
Welcome to OpenBeast. Could you briefly introduce yourself?
Thank you, my name is Linsey A. Daman. I am an Italian/American having heritage from Torino being a fourth-generation Italian. My Italian heritage comes from my father’s side of the family. We still have family aboard in Torino; they own a cutlery and live above the meat shop from what I’ve been informed. They don’t speak a word of English and when visiting them they will generously try to feed you Italian pasta all day. We also have relatives in France who used to live on the island Guadalupe but have traveled back to their native France later in life. I’ve been actively trying to track down these European relatives of mine. My cousin in California has most of the family’s paperwork and she is helping me locate my family and apply for dual-citizenship with Italy.
What is Cultural Arts Center of St. Louis all about?
The Cultural Arts Center of St. Louis, LLC is primarily a performing arts company showcasing dance, vocal talent and theatrical arts. Our largest season is Cinco de Mayo due to our strong Flamenco Spanish dance programs. We offer “Art of Flamenco”, “Flamenco Fusion” and “Symbols of Flamenco”, which are completely different from each other but still honor this traditional dance in a sacred way. We will soon be offering two Halloween programs called “History of Halloween” and “Angels & Demons”. The history program is an educational lecture that explains the origins, history and reasoning for this uncanny holiday, where as “Angles & Demons” is a traditional ballet performance featuring esoteric songs and chilling visual effects.
So how and why did you get into dancing?
I actually started off watching the gymnastics during the Olympics and thought the tumbling was amazing. I started bouncing around the living room jumping on and off all of the furniture trying to be a gymnast. I almost injured myself and this is when my mother decided to enroll me in classes for beginning acrobatics. I studied this for the entire year and wanted much more but only one level was offered and that being beginner. So she enrolled me in several dance classes because these acrobatics classes were held at a dance studio in my home town. My very first dance lesson was at Dance Art in Eureka, Mo. I stayed with them for many many years studying all forms of dance but eventually moved on to St. Louis Academy of Dance in Creve Coeur, MO. Here I studied my first cultural dance, Irish Clogging. I also studied Ballet at St. Louis Academy of Dance as well as at Alexandra’s Ballet. I then moved up to the St. Louis Ballet and studied in their dance training school. At this point, I expanded out to training in Latin Ballroom over at Simply Ballroom in Brentwood, MO, and even tried my first attempt with Flamenco with Just Dancing, another studio on Manchester. In the background, I was studying Pilates and Japanese Martial Arts to keep my skills sharp. I later branched out to Korean, Chinese and Brazilian forms of Martial Arts only to find my preference which is the Japanese Art of Ninjutsu. In high school I cheered for our wrestling team and in college I cheered for our basketball team. All of these skills came together later in life to help form who I am today – a professional dancer. I have specialized in Flamenco Spanish Dance but still enjoy all dance forms. I recently created the “Angles & Demons” program to allow myself to get back into ballet because I trained for 15 years in ballet and have been dancing for 20 years. I started when I was 4 years old and found a passion that has never left me. Dancing helps keep me balanced and calm in life. Anytime I feel out of sorts – I dance and it helps me find my center again. Dancing is a wonderful activity that allows me to be creative, enjoy music and feel body movements. I honestly couldn’t find anything else the makes me happier than dancing. I’ve tried many different hobbies over the years and find that dancing truly is where my heart is at all times. It would be a dream come true to be able to dance in New York and share my talent with the world.
Tell us about the Dove billboard in Times Square with your headshot?
Dove, the hygiene company, contacted me about “sharing my beautiful skin” with the world. One day I opened my email and found a letter from them asking if I wanted to be featured on Dove’s Ad in Times Square. I was shocked because I’ve never been on the Dove newsletter before and actually wondered how Dove got a hold of my contact information. Nevertheless, I thought it was a great offer and I submitted my picture for approval. They had me fill out a simple survey about their products and asked me to testify which products I personally use on my skin. I gave them my answers and they said I would be contacted when my image was released in New York. I actually found out about 1pm on Apr. 30th, 2012 that they had my image up in Times Square showcasing me as a Dove enthusiast. I believe they were collecting names of all people who use their products and showcasing people around the world. I believe my ad said “Linsey D, Missouri” it was a little hard to read because I think it was raining in New York when they took the picture. But nevertheless, I was happy with the result!
What is your one big achievement thus far?
My biggest achievement so far would be producing my book called “Bridging St. Louis: One Cultural Step at a Time – St. Louis’ Dyslexic Entrepreneur – A Cultural Center in the Making”. This is my largest achievement because publishing a book has been a lifelong goal for me and being a dyslexic it has made it even more of a powerful moment. This book talks about my trials and tribulations of being a dyslexic in school, the workplace and at home. It talks about the struggles we face and how to conquer them and succeed as a person. To be honest, as a child many people didn’t think I would be able to learn my own native language English because of this learning disability. They considered holding me back in school and even had me sign up for special tutoring after school. I’ve clearly worked through those issues and now speak French, Spanish, Italian and some Portuguese and speak my own native language with fluency. I don’t have a problem communicating – actually just the opposite I enjoy talking quite frequently and compare myself to the Kathy Lee Gifford of all languages. I’ve just about finished the book; I recently added a photo section to the back of my book. It has been a long process and a process that has given me many headaches, but once the book is finished I will have a major goal to check off my list. This is by far one of the largest achievements I’ve conquered to this day; I couldn’t be happier with my book. I plan to have it released very soon, possibly May/June of this year.
Talk to us about your team.
My support team is small but mighty. My largest supporter, fan and faithful friend would be David A. Goldfarb, CPA. He is much more than the company’s accountant he is also our tech support for all things computer and TV related. He primarily aides us with computer issues since he is a wise at all things on and offline. He actually helped us set up our company’s website and sponsors our Cultural Arts Meetup.com. David’s two best attributes that brings to the cultural center are Financial Advice and Tech Support & Assistance. He is the kind of guy who you can call at 10 o’clock in the evening and he will drop everything for you to help add a simple page number to your word document. He truly is that nice and willing to help at all hours of the day and night. We’ve been working together professionally on my company for the last two years and his advice is always very solid regarding all aspects of business. Janet M. Doyle is our wardrobe coordinator for our on-stage events. She helps select outfits before the show and inspects all hair pieces and pins before anyone heads for the stage. If you have a run in your tights, missing bobby pin or need an extra pair of dance shoes – Janet is always there ready to help with any assistance she can provide. Working in the dance arena for many years she knows what the stress of “behind the stage” is like and handles it calmly. Without her the show wouldn’t run as smoothly.
What other services or programs your Center offers?
Our center is very diverse because we also offer help in a spiritual sense. For example, if someone feels their home might be haunted or simply feels a little spooky they can call into our center and one of our representatives will listen, give advice and take their case if they would like an in-home investigation. As the director, I normally would lead my team out to this troubled area (home, building, etc) to get a general “feel” of the place first before any paranormal research begins. We would take a neutral person who has no previous evidence, information, etc of this venue and place them in this location. Our “sensitive-mediums” would conduct their business and our “neutral” person would go about their own way. We would compare notes afterwards from a scientific approach first before coming to any paranormal conclusion. If paranormal evidence is found on site then a Native American cleansing ritual takes place of smudging all of the rooms in the home and holy water, oil and white candles are used throughout this process. If any uncanny activity occurs then I would call in a Catholic Priest (who I know personally) from the area to do further cleansing and spiritual releasing.
Any upcoming projects or initiatives you would like to discuss?
I’m currently composing an audio CD of nine songs to be released later this year. I’ve written nine songs rather than ten or an even number because the number nine is very important to me. For spiritual people, such as me, the number nine has much more than a numerical value as it has folklore, superstition and good luck tied to it. The songs themselves are already written but I would like to collaborate with a local musician to help me with a score for this CD. I’m currently seeking someone to work with who is talented musically and has an ear for melody. I have never composed an audio CD before so I feel a little out of my league here but I wanted try something new this year. Each year I try new things for the cultural center, for myself professionally and personally – this just happens to be the year of singing and bringing those songs alive on disk. It would be a great honor and privilege to record the songs that have been in my head for so long.
What are your leisure time activities?
Lately I’ve been learning how to play the viola because I thought it would be essential for future musical ensembles. Normally my leisure activities revolve around the company’s objectives and goals. However there are times when I simply like having fun with badminton. For example, I’m seriously considering joining one of the badminton leagues around St. Louis because it is my all-time favorite sport. I’m quite competitive and even have a badminton set in my front yard. It is something I enjoy every summer but wish to find others who explore this particular sport. When I’m not playing music or exercising then I’m normally found inside in front of a good movie. I enjoy all types of films but prefer thrillers and mystery. Typically when I watch films I watch them in foreign languages such as French, Spanish or Italian. It is easy for me to relax with a French film because of all of my foreign language skills French is the easiest language. So relaxing at home with a French movie is definitely something I like to do in the evening time. I occasionally will relax with a Spanish or Italian film but definitely prefer my French that is for sure. I normally watch American films but use the foreign language track offered under “special features”. There is a certain quality and standards that American films have that I can’t seem to find in foreign films. In college we had to watch many French, Italian and Portuguese films for my degree and honestly I couldn’t find one that I enjoyed. So foreign films aren’t really my thing but I do enjoy a good classic American film but in another language. That way you can have the French language but also enjoy good acting, strong plot line and solid dialogue. Of course, there are millions of people out there that enjoy foreign films. I on the other hand am not one of them.
If you could live anywhere where would you build your dream home?
I’ve always dreamed of having a second or even third home somewhere in the world but my location is unknown as of yet. I would probably pick a tropical and lavish place that speaks French, Spanish or Italian. But I’m quite interested in other languages and cultures as well. I’m truly interested in the Samoan Islands, Papua New Guinea, Bora Bora, the Australian outback and of course Madagascar. I would love to see tribal Africa someday, but to answer your question of where I would like to have a second home – I guess my answer would be “vamos a ver”, which is Spanish for “we will see”. I don’t know if I can give an answer to this question because there are so many places in the world that I would consider; where does one even start?