We had the good fortune of connecting with Maria Paula Ahumada and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maria Paula, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
My Goodbye Letter to School
I always knew I was going to be an educator, always. Since a young age everyone would ask me “Maria Paula que quieres ser cuando seas grande?” and I would respond, “I want to be a teacher when I grow up”. My answer never changed even though so many people tried to discourage me from teaching literature. It was not until I decided I wanted to become a University professor that everyone was cheering me on, but then I realized that was not what I wanted for myself. I did not realize that every time, I was getting just a little bit closer to what my heart really wanted, which was to teach dance. This year is the first time in 19 years that I will not have a first day of school.
I went from teaching English writing classes to dance classes.
I went from writing a syllabus to posting the dance class schedule for the month.
I went from choosing books to read to selecting the songs to shake our ass to!
I went from telling my students to write however they wanted, as long as they wrote about something they were genuinely interested in and wanted to learn more about… to…telling my students to move their bodies however they want, to be disruptive and cause a ruckus in the name of fun as long as they keep moving!
I went from students telling me I inspired them to want to go to graduate school to women telling me I helped them gain so much confidence, and begin to love their bodies.
I went from feeling like I didn’t belong in academia to creating spaces and communities where others can feel accepted.
I went from crying and feeling like I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, experienced enough to reminding myself I am exactly where I need to be and embracing my most authentic self.
I went from being in grad seminars and holding back tears and the feeling of wanting to run out of class to sharing my story publicly and beginning to love the sound and power of my voice.
I went from experiencing micro aggressions from peers and professors to embracing my identity in it’s fullness and celebrating my culture.
I went from prioritizing work over my health and continuing generational curses to making my health my work and breaking those curses!
I went from having everyone feel proud of me and still not feeling like I was doing enough to making myself proud and prioritizing my happiness.
I know that everything that I went through as a student and educator, is what allowed me to be exactly where I am today as a creative. I am the CEO of a powerful dance business called Recocha Vibes, that embraces all bodies through movement. Our mission is to spread the message that dance is freedom, power, and love. I have been able to guide so many women in their healing journeys towards reclaiming their bodies. As a gradual student my goal was always to do the research so that I could be in the community. However, I always felt so disconnected because it felt like the community was always far away for me to ever be able to make any “change”. Now, I make change every day just by showing up and being my most authentic self. By allowing myself to be vulnerable and sharing my story I have reached so many people across the world.
It makes me so grateful because I especially have been able to help my own community as a Women of Color in America. I have been able to center dance as resistance and liberation. As someone who has been a caretaker since my teenage years I understand the necessity for Women of Color to find spaces of joy. So it is a huge accomplishment to know that I have influenced so many women to begin to allow themselves to play! It is also a blessing to know that my ancestors are dancing in joy seeing how our music and dances has reached the homes of so many families.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As a dancer, in order to be successful I have had to become comfortable with being different from everyone else. I had to embrace the fact that I have my own style of dance and of doing things. I grew up dancing with my family as a form of survival, to cope with the struggles of living away from our home, Colombia. Dancing meant bringing everyone together, and it represented love. However, being a mid sized woman I never saw myself as a dancer.
I had to come to the realization that my body does not get to decide how I live my life, and that is exactly what I teach my students. The style of dance that we tap into through Recocha Vibes is one that allows you to move your body freely and confidently. Recocha is a Colombian slang word that translates to causing a ruckus or being disruptive in the name of fun. The word also represents the Afro-Colombian rhythms that I use and teach in my dance classes.
I am most proud of the fact that while celebrating my culture, I get to inspire the world to accept and love their bodies. I get to show them that the same feeling they experience in my classes, they can transmit to their overall lives.
It has not been easy to get to this point, there has been a lot of inner work that I have had to do to become the leader that I am today. I want the world to know that Recocha Vibes is not just a dance class, it is a movement. It is a community, and a way of living. You are welcomed here as you are, and if you are looking for a reminder that you are worthy, this is it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First thing we would do is wake up before sunrise and drive to the beach! We would get in the water and give gratitude to the moment. Watch the sunrise and journal.
We would eat breakfast at Rico Pan in Miami Lakes or brunch at The Alchemist in Wilton Manors (get the Melted Brie Slicer)! Then we would go to Hollywood beach with our bikes and bike the boardwalk. We would have to spend a day visiting the Everglades and seeing alligators.
And lastly we would need to hit up Wynwood for a good night of perreo either the Dirty Rabbit or Centro, and visit La Tiendita for some margaritas de mora!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My shout goes to all the women in my life. As women we do so much caring for others and all of the care that I have given has been given back to me in some way or another. This shout out goes to the women in my family and my closest home girls.
If it weren’t for their words of encouragement, the meals they have provided me, and their homes I would not be able to be where I’m at. It truly does take a village and for that I am so grateful to these women. The love they have given me is indescribable.
Lastly, thank you to my ancestors who have paved the way before me, and continue to guide me in my journey. They give me the strength to keep moving forward and face whatever obstacle comes my way.
Youtube: Recocha Vibes
Other: Tik Tok: @recochavibes