Where it’s at

Thais Francis’ Soga Method

Tue, 04/30/2024 - 10:45am

The creatively talented Thais (pronounced Thi-ese) Francis, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, came to the office a few weeks ago to talk about her new dance/yoga technique: the Soga Method. She described it as a blend of Vinyasa yoga and Afro-Caribbean dance moves akin to Zumba meets “Namaste the Caribbean Way.’ Intrigued? So was I.

Thais has been in Boothbay Harbor since March 1 as part of the Work Away Program as a live-in childcare provider for a local family. Although she hails from the Caribbean, she grew up in Maryland. She graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU as a drama major. As a post-grad in 2013, she studied dance at the Alvin Ailey School of Dance.

The Soga Method was born in 2018 quite by happenstance while she was visiting family still in Trindad, and friends. Thais was hanging out with her best friend, listening to music and dancing as you do, right? Her girlfriend followed Thais’ moves and afterwards commented on what a great workout those twerking and yoga moves would be. And a creative seed, that would also honor their heritage, was planted.

“It’s Vinyasa flow breath sequencing with hip isolations – there are lots of lower body moves with the hips in the Caribbean,” Thais said. “So, a workout would be accompanied by Afro-Caribbean music from the African Dispora.” (For those of you out there unfamiliar with the African Dispora, it refers to descendants of Africa and the Caribbean living elsewhere in the world.)

Check out Thais’ website https://www.thaisfrancis.com/the-soga-method for more about this exciting new yoga/dance form.

“It is such a bold thing, to decide you are going to invent a dance technique and then have it documented for credit and for longevity,” Thais said. “I thought ‘Wow, who am I to think I can do this’ ... And then I thought, ‘Why not me?’”

Thais is a self-taught filmmaker with several short films and short documentaries to her credit. There are two significant works that I want to share: The first is “OUTCRY.” Thais wrote and produced this first stage play in 2012  after Trayvon Martin was murdered by George Zimmerman, the self-proclaimed, “Neighborhood Watch” of one. In the film, she powerfully juxtaposes the lives of black men who died at the hands of vigilantes and law enforcement to illustrate the similarities of the injustice in U.S. history over the decades. “OUTCRY” was featured in American Theater magazine.

Thais was writer, producer, and an actor in her narrative short film “Late Expectations,” a selection for the New Filmmakers Los Angeles Festival July 2015. See the film at https://www.thaisfrancis.com/creativework

Thais sent “Late Expectations” to Essence magazine. The powers that be there decided to honor her with the 2016 Discover Award from Essence Black Women in Hollywood. The film, in a nutshell, tells the story of a young black woman living in a conservative Christian community and who has to find a way to come out as a lesbian to her boyfriend and parents.

She was a scheduled speaker at that awards event that brought her national acclaim. She found herself sharing the spotlight with choreographer, dancer and director Debbie Allen, multi-award-winning actress Tracee Ellis Ross (daughter of Diana Ross), talent attorney Nina Shaw, known for representing performers of color; and Oprah who was so impressed with the film and Thais, that “Late Expectations” and Thais’ speech aired on OWN.

“Andy Warhol said everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame, and that’s when I got mine,” said Francis.

And thanks to a partnership that evolved with Emmy winner Lena Waithe and Joey Solloway, Thais was able to bring the Soga Method to the BET network. This was during the pandemic and Thais had to end that gig due to the demands of her growing company, Natiguh, and the unknowns created by COVID-19.

This year is a significant one for Thais: After completing more yoga and dance certifications, she will be refining the Soga Method. She’s working toward holding community classes and artist fellowships in the U.S. – perhaps even in Boothbay Harbor, the Caribbean and Canada, all of which she will document in her “proof of concept” documentary film about the Soga Method using her film-making talents.

To do this, she is working on raising $30,000 for this leg of her journey. She has already received a partial scholarship from the Yoga School Institute of Bali. This school is of dual importance because of its emphasis on the empowerment of underrepresented communities and as a location for the “Proof of Concept” documentary about the Soga Method.

At the year’s end, Thais plans a performance of the Soga Method and a screening of her Proof of Concept documentary for industry pros, investors, curators and other artists.

Thais exudes confidence in herself, the Soga Method, and the future. She’s an intelligent, talented, creative soul; a self-proclaimed rebel, writer and director of her destiny in the world of the arts.

For more info on Thais, her Soga Method, donation levels and what bennies come with each level, or to offer her a space to lead a demonstration of the Soga Method, contact her at Thais@natiguh.com or visit her Go Fund Me page:" Fund Thais' Unique Yoga and Dance technique."