Community Building 

Encinitas residents Diane Panella and Rachel Leshaw are both passionate about the African arts and cultural communication. Together the friends would carpool to African dance class in San Diego at least once a week until finally realizing Encinitas’ need for an African dance class in the area. They decided to book Lamine Thiam, a Senegalese dance teacher and drummer, to teach classes in downtown Encinitas. According to Diane and Rachel, the classes have brought the community together for what they call “the happiest hour.”

Both women are extremely excited about introducing newcomers to African dance. “For those who are not aware, West African dance uses the whole body, from the feet to the head, in coordination with the rhythm of the music,” Diane explained. “Sometimes it’s energetic and fast-paced with jumping and turning. Other times it is graceful, mellow, and low to the ground.” African dance has a way of bringing people together as well. “No matter what our cultural background, we gain the benefits of education, joy, fitness, and fundamental rhythmic skills with African dance,” shared Diane. And the community has responded well to these benefits, finding common ground in dance. “We’re all tired from the work week, but we show up anyway and as soon as we hear the drums start to move, we get energized. The community of drummers helps keep our spirits up and our bodies moving,” said Rachel. To learn more about Diane and Rachel and African dance classes in Encinitas visit