Once upon a time, a white woman laughed at another white woman who had taken up a course in African dance. The laughing white woman considered it insanely absurd to watch white women stomp around as if they were African. The other white woman suddenly felt ashamed and stupid. She stopped taking classes.
Belly dancing. Capoeira. Acupuncture. Pan-flute. Yoga. Tango. French chansons.
Indeed, how mad and confused are we?
I can’t remember ever not dancing as a child. Whatever the country we lived in, Ghana or The Philippines, as long as I could dance and swirl and twirl I felt connected with the people I was dancing with, and more importantly: with myself.
Salsa, merengue, ballet, jazz, street dance, tap dance, modern, samba, axé, waltz, rumba, vogue-ing (remember that?) – I have tried it all.
Then came flamenco.
It has taken me three years to begin to understand how difficult this dance is. I started out thinking “I’ll throw my arms up in the air, stomp around a little, shake my hips and wear a polkadot dress. Olé!”
Since that first time, it feels like I haven’t learned a thing. I have gone through various frustrations and been exposed to my limitations. I have – in fact – been unlearning everything I thought I knew. My body aches me, my feet throb, my sense of rhythm fails me. I look at the mirror and see someone who thinks her shoulders are straight but is reminded, continually, just how tight her shoulders actually are. Her neck. The lack of control she has over balance. I am – I conclude – a stressed out, unbalanced person.
Professional flamenco dancers see right through window dressing. As long as you haven’t mastered the basics, it’s no use trying to dance a choreography, let alone jump in and improvise the moment you hear a buleria.
And this, my friends, is exactly the same for writing. Deconstruction is key.
If you’re still reading this then here’s my advice to you: take up classes in African dance. Please.
ps: never forget Carmen. Set in Seville, yet written by a French author, who was inspired by a Russian poem about gypsies, then composed by a Frenchman. About Spanish dancers and toréodors, with Cuban influences. Why not?