Noel Wetzel

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Noel brings an extensive background in modern dance to Samba Fogo. Her first experience with samba was at the University of Utah, during the beginning stages of what would later become Samba Fogo. Both Noel’s passion and compassion are invaluable assets to our company. We asked Noel some questions so you could get to know her better.


How did you find out about Samba Fogo?

When I was working on my undergraduate degree in Modern Dance at the University of Utah, our Music for Dancers professor led introductory percussion classes and invited us to participate in the community drumming samba organization that was then “Samba Gringa.” I loved it. However, I got too over-scheduled with “college interests” to do more than occasionally dabble in tamborim and surdo.  I recall that as I was preparing to move to CA the summer after college, two of my dearest friends (who had inherited Samba Gringa from Jon Scoville, and then Wayne Burdick) dreaming of massively expanding the vision and scope of the organization to include modern dance, capoeira, and fire… and I was thrilled for them and their vision! But I had to go on other adventures. Semi-annually I would return to visit, and was always amazed at the expansion and realization of their vision. Once, I was visiting during an early Utah Arts Festival gig and had the honor (truly) to participate in Fire Safety –  acting like Gollum, wiping white gas off the stage between fire and capoeira sets—and I thought THAT was the bee’s knees!


When did you join Samba Fogo?

noel2When I moved back to SLC in the fall of 2013, one of the primary lures was to dance and drum with my dear friends while working on my internships. That fall, I first joined as a drummer, and then was thrilled to be accepted as a dancer about 2 months later. I still love every opportunity to drum, but my primary contributions are to the dancing portion of the company.


What are your favorite rhythms to dance or play to?

Fogo Divino

Fogo Divino

I love dancing Ilu for Iansa. Dancing this rhythm, and with her in mind, has brought me much strength, inspiration, and power to overcome difficult times and emerge through destructive change—and that’s exactly the beauty of these rhythms and dances. You can tap into something that feels universal, connected with body, heart beat, and nature.  For the same reasons, I love dancing Ijexa for Oxum (it is calming, self-affirming, and a beautiful reminder to SEE and appreciate oneself). Also, drumming Maracatu can lead to a visceral sense of waves crashing, yet there is always the knowledge that it’s about survivors of slavery overcoming and reclaiming their own personal sense of dignity and even nobility.


What are your favorite instruments to play?

I love playing surdo! I would love to learn more timbal, especially as I used to enjoy playing atabaque and pandeiro for capoeira.


Any mistakes in a show or performance that really stand out?

Samba Fogo's Noel Wetzel for Fogo Divino by David Terry PhotographyToo many. But what really stands out is the growth process towards letting go of mistakes. I recall a huge solo I had in college, and I messed up in the first minute of fifteen, and I think it plagued me for WAY too long. In contrast, in Samba Fogo I feel we have reached an amazing point of graciously assisting one another to instantly let go of those performance blunders—why agonize when you should just enjoy and reinvest in the next blissful moment dancing or drumming together? In doing so we create a better atmosphere for us all, onstage and backstage. Of course, we can still tease each other about rehearsal bloopers, and should. 🙂


Have you been to California Brazil Camp?

Yes, I forget how many times…. I think the first was in 2002. I believe I’ve been about 12 times, helping on the kitchen crew over half of that time.


Who was your first friend at Samba Fogo?

Mason, before we ever discovered Samba Gringa. We met in Theater School for Youth (think summer camp) when I was 14 and he was 15. I thought he was soooo intimidating, but intriguing. The exact same thing happened when I next met Lorin at age 18—she was soooo intimidating, and Mason’s girlfriend, so I decided I should intentionally overcome my fear and get to know Mason’s amazing partner. Two of the best decisions I ever made.


Why do you play for Samba Fogo? What do you like about them?

Inspiração Do Fogo

Inspiração Do Fogo

I am strangely surprised that I am far happier and more fulfilled performing with Samba Fogo (as my part time, second job) than I ever was when I was primarily a “struggling artist”, juggling multiple dancing/teaching/performing jobs with several professional or semi-professional companies in California. FAR happier. I think the most rewarding and challenging show I have EVER been involved in was Fogo Divino in April 2015. It offered challenging, diverse roles and styles, opportunities for collaboration, and personal artistic growth I didn’t initially foresee.  


I love the artistic vision Lorin and Mason have brought to the table, and all the incredible artists they have brought together. I love the blissful feeling I experience after leaving a Samba Fogo event, whether a rehearsal, show, post-gig dinner, workshop, intensive camp. Regardless, I come home feeling blissed out on artistic inspiration, good conversation, support, and love.  I am part of Samba Fogo for so many reasons, among which are the mutual support, celebration, investigation, and love found inside the company. My Samba Fogo Family inspires me beyond words.



Where did you grow up?

Salt Lake City.



One amazing “little Big Brother,” who I believe is one of Samba Fogo’s biggest fans… well, except for his three amazing kids, who are also major fans.


Did you like music growing up? Did your parents or siblings play music?

Inspiração Do Fogo

Inspiração Do Fogo

I attempted violin for a moment, and it didn’t go well. But my parents enrolled me in Creative Dance classes starting when I was about 3 years old, so I grew up exploring life through creative play with scarves, balloons, leaves, feathers, various types of music… they just cultivated an atmosphere of self-discovery and play!


What are some funny fads you and your friends have participated in? 

Well, there was the disco-skating era in high school. Yup, I wore 70’s attire and quads, and even participated in couples roller skating competitions. My way of rebelling…


Where did you go to school/college?

I did my undergrad at the University of Utah (BFA in Modern Dance, BA in History, Honors Degree) and completed a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from CSUDH.


Right Now

What kind of work do you do?

Inspiração Do Fogo

Inspiração Do Fogo

I am an occupational therapist at an inpatient rehabilitation hospital. This means I help people get back to living their daily lives as independently and safely as possible… sometimes it entails relearning a self-care routine or getting strong enough to resume care of the grandkids, and everything in between! It’s truly beautiful how much my experience in dance has helped me understand my patients’ physical needs, how my experience with injury has helped me have empathy for their process, and how good humor helps with all the rest!


Do you have a companion? How did you meet?

I have Ibeji Kittens and beloved nieces and nephews.


What do you like to do? Hobbies?

Umm… samba! 🙂

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