Getting Fit with African Dance! (CFC Spotlight Thursdays)

My friend Cassandra is a wellness coach and also teaches the “Kukuwa Dance Workout”, a hi-energy West African dance exercise program that’s sure to burn excess calories! Read about Cass’ fitness story, her work as a wellness coach and how you can get fit through African dance!

1. Tell us about yourself!

I am a fitness and wellness fanatic who enjoys helping others and making positive energy contagious! I was born and raised in Washington D.C. but I hail from West Africa. Have been a resident of New York City for the past 7 years. I seek to see people and families living longer and healthier lives by changing their habits and committing to making their health and wellness a priority.

2. In a recent interview with Ebony Magazine[1], you talked about what inspired you to become more fit and healthy. Can you tell us a little bit more about this?

I’ve been involved in sports, fitness, and dance literally my whole life. However, it wasn’t until a few years ago after my sister became deathly ill with lupus and was healed through nutrition, that I realized the connection between my weight, health and eating habits.

Paralyzed from the waist down, 70 lbs, hair all lost from numerous chemotherapy treatments the doctors tried, my sister was literally given days to live. My mom refused to accept that fate for her and pulled her out of the hospital. My mother was told by the doctors that if she pulled my sister out of the hospital and my sister died my mother could be sued and charged with murder. So my mom knew she was making a risky decision but she also knew she couldn’t sit there and watch her child die when she knew better.

Determined that she could heal my sister naturally without all the medicines that the doctors prescribed, my mother took leave from work and juiced nothing but greens and veggies for my sister, night and day everyday every hour on the hour for a solid month (no actual food just juicing). In the second month she added food but only organic fruit and vegetable foods. These two months were a very hard time for my family but my mom’s determination and my sister’s slow but steady progress back to health kept everyone motivated.

By God’s grace my sister not only gained full feeling back in her legs but came back to health fully! It was like a miracle. My mom says “I’d like to see what ‘Dr. Doomsday’ has to say now!”. Lol! My sister also now teaches the Kukuwa Dance Workout. You wouldn’t even know that she was once paralyzed or even deathly ill. My sister continues to stay active and fit through teaching Kukuwa Dance. My mother teaches the class in various gyms throughout the D.C. metro area and teaches African Dance to students at George Mason University in Fairfax Virginia as an adjunct professor.

After witnessing my sister’s recovery, I decided to become a wellness coach to combine my passion for fitness and helping people live happy healthier lives.

3. You currently work as a wellness coach. What services do you offer? What certifications do you have and how do they inform your work?

As a certified Kukuwa Dance Workout® Instructor and American Fitness Association of America Certified Personal Trainer I utilize my personal training and group fitness expertise to provide a holistic approach to my wellness coaching. I received my wellness coach training from Integrative Nutrition Institute, where I was trained in more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. Drawing on this knowledge, I help clients create a completely personalized “roadmap to health” that suits their unique body type, lifestyle, preferences, and goals. My vision is to see people live life with more vitality by making healthy choices habitually.

My company, “Wellness with Coach Cass” ( is a full service wellness and fitness practice dedicated to helping people and organizations reach their maximum vitality through practical education and instruction. My clients benefit from personal training, wellness coaching, diet review, goal setting and enthusiastic encouragement.

4. Do you have any anecdotes of how you’ve helped a client that you’d be willing to share?

I encourage lifestyle changes rather than crash diets. This belief lends itself to a method called “crowding out” in which you “add” healthy things to your diet and “crowd out” the not so healthy things. So with one of my clients in particular, we set weekly goals of what healthy things he was going to add to his diet. For example, he used to drink 5 cans of soda daily. He started adding a glass of water to that soda intake and it eventually started to decrease his craving for soda! He actually began craving water!! Needless to say, this client has lost 25 lbs by adopting healthier eating habits and just adding water to his diet. Crowding out soda was one of the many key lifestyle changes he made working with me.

5. Tell us a little bit about the Kukuwa Dance Workout!

Get ready to work muscles you didn’t realize you had! Kukuwa Dance Workout® immediately has you moving your arms, waist, hips, and legs to a blend of African soukous and other West African rhythms. This low-impact, high-energy class is designed to target your cardiovascular system, improve your fitness level and pump fun through your veins. You can burn up to 1000 calories in a 60-minute KDW® class. It’s open to participants at all fitness and dance levels.

The Kukuwa Dance Workout® is really unique because it’s literally a full body workout targeting every core area of your body (arms, back, quads, hams, gluts, abs). In African dance, West African dance specifically, you are moving your whole body. Your body is intertwined with the beat of the drum and the instruments from the music. When your hand goes left so do your head and your feet, all the while isolating your pelvic area, bending your knees and arching your back. You really work muscles you didn’t even realize you had! The best part about it is you’re having a blast and get to travel the African continent through the music- without a passport!! You can visit to learn more.

6. What advice do you have for someone who is just beginning their fitness/healthy eating journey?

I would say that the very first step on your journey is making the conscious decision that you are going to do whatever it takes to have a happier healthier lifestyle. You have to be motivated as if your life depended on it because in actuality, it does! For weight-loss specifically, if your only plan of action is to workout without any intention of changing your diet, you will be sorely disappointed. Making sure that it’s a lifestyle change and not another crash diet destined to fail. You have to take a holistic approach, which includes both fitness and nutrition, to see results!

*** What an inspiring story! Have you tried African dance for fitness? *** 


About ChicFitChef

My "deserted island" checklist: a BCBG dress, a healthy & diabetic-friendly meal and a few workout DVDs. ;-)
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5 Responses to Getting Fit with African Dance! (CFC Spotlight Thursdays)

  1. Dee says:

    Love this!! Thank you. xoxo

  2. Pingback: 3 Healthy Weekend Frolics! (NYC – 1 New Addition!) | ChicFitChef

  3. Del Janrhett says:

    Health and wellness should always be our priority since it is very costly if we get sick. Medical bills these days are quite enormous. :’..,

    Many thanks

  4. Pingback: How I Broke Up with White Cheddar Popcorn & How You Can Too | ChicFitChef™

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