Dancing My Way through Life.
Recollections from my childhood growing up in Jamaica conjure up a collage of joyous images on how I entertained myself.
Dance class on Saturday mornings was perhaps my favorite. We’d even assembled a modern dance troupe at the all girls’ high school I attended, and I can still vividly recall the Flash dance, Soul Train quasi rendition that we did to GAP Band’s hit Burn Rubber, including my Dad’s flash sports car being driven on stage with us dancers adorned all over it, from rooftop to bumper!
Then there was badminton; for a brief spell, I represented Jamaica in regional games. Competitive swimming featured briefly at some point though I must confess that perhaps my attraction there was to drool at the male species training for water polo at the National Stadium’s pool.
A child without siblings, I quickly learned the art of having my very own private parties. Dressing up the dolls for tea parties became a weekly ritual. Nancy Drew novels were another obsession.
The allure of dancing, with all of its magic and intrigue to this day, remains a powerful force in my life.
For my 10th birthday my grandmother had bought me a Sony record player. It had a sort of modern day MACBOOK look to it; it was plain white with a black turntable, and it opened and closed almost like a laptop. Whenever I got my weekly allowance, I’d anxiously awaited Saturday mornings to rush to the record shop to buy the latest releases so that I could come home and practice my slick dance moves in front of the mirror. Donna Summer’s Best of Summer and Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall hold especially fun memories.
Dance serves as a universal language through which all human beings communicate with themselves as well as the Universe that surrounds us.
Movement on a physical plane transcends, and impacts the being at subtle yet profound levels. One of the things I’ve noticed is that just about every culture engages in some form of dance or movement that serves as an intrinsic part of who they are. Many of these rituals are performed in a circle; symbolic of the all-inclusiveness that one’s cultures, norms and beliefs aspire to be. In Africa for example where most dancing is done in a group as opposed to a couple, their performances usually portray a story of some aspect of the culture from whence they came.
A few years ago while in India, I participated in a workshop based on the principles of Mary Starks Whitehouse’s authentic movement; about the healing effects of movement. Transforming the body into a compass, participants were invited to allow their bodies guide and move them, with eyes closed and focused inward, invoking an altered state of being present. Someone would bear witness to our movements and then afterward we’d sit together and the observer would share with the observed what they saw with surreal accuracy, re-affirming the extent to which our stories are deeply encrypted in our being.
Recently in Bangui, my present place of abode, quite spontaneously, I decided to go to a Central African dance class that is taught with live drums being played as the backdrop.
OMG, alive and in Africa I truly was! On bare feet, we moved in time to the drumbeat, almost revivalist (think re-birth here) in nature. Absorbed by the primal impact of the drums on my body, I abandoned all restrictions of myself, granting my feline soul the permission it needed to roar!
Many of the movements we learned that night were adapted from tribal living – the bow and arrow for example, which ironically, was made world famous by the world’s fastest runner, Jamaican Usain Bolt. For those of us who watched him complete 100 meters in 9.69 seconds in the Beijing Olympics, besides ardent training, we intrinsically know that movement at that velocity and speed must take place from an evolved level of consciousness.
By the end of the class, I felt an awesome exhilaration that returned me to my childhood. I was completely drenched in bliss-filled sweat, from dreadlocks to little toes. The portal to my childhood magic had been re-visited in that hour-long class. Later, as I excitedly shared the experience with a friend on the phone, she commented that even my voice sounded lighter and brighter.
Remember how when we were children – we may even do it to children in our lives now – that burning question – who do you wanna be when you grow up? Sometimes so ignited by the possibility of our dreams, nouns would spill excitedly from us, perhaps even accompanied by us jumping up and down – I wanna be a fireman, a pilot, a nurse, a dancer!
As time elapsed, we took all of the necessary steps to put us on the path of our dream. We went to school etc., so that we could be all that we could. In that process, we may have shifted from being to doing and in this linear process lost some of our magic.
Personally, I feel like I had to go through those series of roles – parental, societal, and organizational – to return to my true essence. On the other hand, perhaps I needed to travel a circuitous route to have a true appreciation of my Divine gifts and call to serve humanity.
A dancer, that’s who I wanted to truly be.
So fast-forwarding to many years later, it comes as no surprise that yoga forms the basis of my life. For in movement, I am one with the Earth Mother. In movement I am able to access my pain as well as my joy.
Sacred movement through yoga is, after all, the divine dance of the God and Goddess alive within every being and feeds our soul.
By engaging in vinyasa where I combine my breath with my movement, I am releasing pain that is beyond its expiry date so that indeed when joy comes dancing along, I am able to embrace her lovingly, with open arms.