Wednesday, October 31, 2007
We sang, we swayed in the chairs. I wondered where will I dance when they break out the drums; there's just no space here, I thought. There was a song permeating the spaces between our bodies, filling in the gaps of misunderstanding and judgment. This song connected us across barriers of ethnicity, age, colors, talents, spiritual traditions, love interests, experiences--this song was the life blood of love, and we all sang it together willingly. The song, "Thank you, For Letting Me, Be Myself, Again," was Henry's favorite. We clapped together; there was an unspoken current of cooperation present at the service. That level of harmony that we more easily manifest when someone is dead, saying inside, "He would have wanted it this way."
It is so hot in my seat. A man crouching, tired of standing behind me, is breathing down my neck. My claustrophobia is scratching at me, and I kick my shoes off and stand where there is no more room for anyone to stand. I clap, I raise my arms to the Creator, lower them for the ancestors, and spread them to the side for all of us still alive. The Drum Lady, Kristen Arant, is leading the artists and the youth in front of Henry's closed casket. The dance is welling up inside of my heart and I release the anxiety of "where" will the space be to dance, and just dance.
I dance with Ms. Dana first. We spin and dip, rock and break together. I feel as if we might have been dance partners for a very long time. My partner's clothes spin beautifully in waves of brown and white and we smile in Henry's spirit. People start moving folding chairs out of our way. And suddenly there is SO MUCH SPACE! We are leaping, jutting are arms and knees into spaces, calling others up to dance with smiles and loving stretches. Please people, won't you come and dance the love of our beloved? Won't you come and sway and play to the drum's celebratory mourning? Won't you love Henry one more time with a big dance?
And they did. I dance up to the front where Henry's sister, Lecia, sits watching us moving. I reach out for her to take my hand and dance with me. A beautiful light emanates from her as she rises into the dance. She stomps, she shouts, she flings her arms, rocks her hips, she is the love, the sorrow, the grief, the joy. She is the dancing life that survives her brother's deceased body. I am so in love with her dance that even as my chest cavity burns (as I am still recovering and am dancing too hard because I just couldn't resist sharing dance at such a spiritual event), I am called to dance more. The family, the friends, the children, the elders all join in the dance more. The songs and voices of the mourners is transforming into calls of joy and elation. It's such a blessing to be here in this space, sharing a bit of my soul with everyone; healing the woes with constant motions of love.
"Love is just Love," the minister says. And how we all did love a man named Henry Moses, with our dance, with our song, with our tears, with our words, with our drums, with our smiles. When we come together in truth we activate the miracle of love, it's eternal "present-tense" quality. Tonight our love, collectively and individually, is expressed now and forever. Thank you for the dance, my dear, dear Henry.
won't you dance
into your feet
your body carries
the joys and sorrows
of the whole
the ancestral celebration
it is all
of our brother's spirit
(poem dedicated to sharing the dance with Henry's sister.)
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Today is OSA 183, and I have been bathing myself in the awareness of my eternally flowing blessings. Last night at a Navaratri (night nights of the divine mother) celebration, I was singing with a throng of beautiful people and felt tears of joy welling inside of me. I danced in my seat, with my eyes closed, seeing all the beautiful ancestors who have come before me join me in the dance. We shook booties, rubbed bellies, jumped into each others arms, and rolled in the sands of time until our tears of laughter brought water back to the Sahara. We celebrated how many places I've been, all the beautiful people I've met along the way. I felt so free, so full of bliss, high on life, thankful for all the awakenings, sharings, meditations, and healing coming through me in this transitional time.
As I am restructuring the Open Space Activation project, please journey with me to dance-miracles that occurred before April 18, 2007 (OSA 1). This entry, "The Place Where Life Begins" is excerpted from a book, "Moving Sukma," about my dance work in Bali, Indonesia. This story takes us back to May of 2006, to a magical time in a little town of Ubud. Enjoy the dance, it is upon us, seeking us at every moment.
Winding through the intricate, natural garden of the Ananda Cottages in Ubud, Bali, I have no idea what journey is about to commence. It has been less than two hours since disembarking from the twenty-four hour flight that began at Washington Dulles. Upon arrival to Bali, Singapore Airlines informs me that JFK forgot to load my bag on the plane. I am exhausted but there’s still ten more hours of day in Indonesia. My rambling thoughts are crowded out by the endless marvels of this lush passageway. In a space so ripe with life, with sound, with mystery, my petty grievances begin to evaporate in the humidity. Sensing my awe, the Balinese guide is silent as he leads me to the in-progress Quest for Global Peace & Healing’s Pre-Conference “Youth In Action” Summit. My left arm rises instinctively and moves through countless cycles of my “give thanks” movement prayer. It is, after all, a miracle that I am even here.
I stumble along the narrow footpaths that weave together the muddy rice paddies in what has to be the green paradise of Mother Nature’s original design. Trees of all sizes loom above. Their branches bless me with gentle nudges and pricks. A parade of flowers welcomes me into their sacred space. “Give thanks,” I dance through my hands, “the Mother of Movement has arrived.” Wrapped in yellow and pink lapas, traditional cloth wraps African women wear when dancing and doing everything else we do, a smile overtakes me—I, too, am one of these flowers. I feel so small in the enormous majesty of this garden’s universe. The fertile ground underneath my feet awaits the dance I have come to bring; a new home is forming around me.
The eighty-five other youth activists who arrived the night before from all over the world have been in conference all day. The energy of the open-air meeting room is heavy with heat and analytical-brain overdrive. I can tell they have been sitting too long because their eyes jump with relief when I enter the space. A huge smile comes over an African boy’s face. (A sigh of joy, I’m not the only one.) I am suddenly preoccupied with scheming up a plan to get us dancing. What good is preparing for a “Movement” if we ourselves are not moving? No worries, I communicate with gentle eyes; I will make a space for the movement. We must, in spite of everything, always integrate the mental work into our physical bodies. We must be willing to move our-Selves for the sake of the whole Movement.
Looking around I see that we truly are a global assembly—representing all continents, colors, ages from sixteen to thirty, religions, skills, students, teachers, healers, artists, entrepreneurs, scientists—we are the world, literally. An editor from Bangkok, a math wizard from Mumbai, a youth counselor from Sydney, an economics major from Capetown, a teacher from Denpasar, a poet from New Mexico, the leading mayoral candidate from Machu Picchu. We have all come with our different stories, our impressive three-page curriculum vitaes, our sure-fire plans for healing our communities, our globe. But who, I wonder as I look around at my revolutionary sisters and brothers, has come to heal themselves?
Gathered in small groups for a series of ice breakers, I share that my “global healing” is the literal movement, the dance that we all do together. The breath is the first dance, the origin of all movement, the indication of a life force. When we start there, when we start with Self, when we honor the unifying truth that the breath makes us all One, then we embrace a harmony of spirit that enables a global shift in consciousness, in values, in compassion for human life.
Samantha, one of our facilitators, instantly connects with my words and decides that the group needs a movement interlude. “This is what you do, right? You can do like fifteen minute energy booster on-demand?” she asks with intensity. “Yes!” I assure her, zapping out of the slump of jetlag. A request for dance always brings me back to full awareness.
During the snack break my mind races over all the movement activities to choose from; there are so many! I could really do a fifteen-day interlude if they let me! I am too overjoyed. I think, what a blessing it is to be able to share my gifts with everyone—and I just landed! I am reminding myself to breathe, to not talk too fast, to be natural and let the dance do its magic.
I assemble everybody in a large circle. I want to see all of their beautiful faces as I introduce myself. “I am Binahkaye, and I am a Mother of Movement. I translate the energy of the universe, the energy around me into movement. The breath is the first dance. Let us breathe together. Inhale—” I can barely hear them! “No, inhale so we can hear it!” Everyone takes a deeper breath, trying not to laugh. “Good, now exhale slowly.” We continue breathing a few more rounds; a peace illuminates from our circle.
I begin sharing the “give thanks” movement prayer with them. “This is how I begin all movement experiences, with a prayer, ‘give thanks.’ I will show you the basic moves, but once you have it, make it yours. It’s your own prayer.”
First, we reach up to give thanks to the Creator for giving us life.” Arms of all colors rise up to be in unison with me. The composition of our elongated bodies mimics the tall trees encircling our space.
“Then we reach deep into the earth and give thanks for the ancestors that support us, that give us wisdom.” We widen our feet, bend our knees, extend our arms downward, reaching symbolically into the wood-paneled floor. Curving our spines down and letting our heads surrender to gravity, we relax our necks. We allow whatever is clogging up the brain to slide onto the floor.
“Then we pull the chi, the life force energy from the earth, up into our center, the home of our creative chakra, and give thanks that we are here to give our love back out into the world.” Grabbing the invisible energy with our hands, we rise slowly. Bringing our arms into our abdomen area first, and then extending them outwards and around to our sides. We repeat the “give thanks” cycle several times in silence before moving on.
It is such a blessing to be a witness to the multitude of experiences occurring. Some move with hesitation because they have never “danced” before. Some are naturally in-tune with their movement and have their eyes closed so that they can relax deeper into themselves. Some move in perfect imitation of me, keenly watching for the next move because my English was too fast for them to understand anything I said. Sensing that “give thanks” has warmed the blood, I begin to initiate bigger, “louder” movements to wake up the rest of the body. We jump, we stomp, we spin, we laugh, we shout—we are now ready to play.
I am about to experiment with a new game I have just conceived—“Shake-a-Hug”—literally ten minutes prior. I think, this type of arena is the best inauguration my idea can have anyway, good or bad! “So that we can get to know each other a little more,” I begin, “we’re going to do a hugging exercise. Try to hug as many people as you can. All the while we’ll sing and clap to the beat ‘Shake, shake, shake—Hug!’ When you shake, let your body loosen up some more.” The circle breaks a part in all directions as we meander through the space trying to shake and hug and clap to the beat. It brings forth much laughter and relaxation. Simple things can get us out of our head and into the joy that is our true nature. After singing many rounds and hugging lots of people, we reconvene in the big circle. Reading the group’s vibe, I can tell we are ready for more.
“Find a partner,” I instruct, “preferably someone you don’t know.” Murmurs begin. Bits of many languages pop into my ears as everyone makes sure that no one is left out because of a language barrier. “This game is called ‘Mirrors’. The shortest person in the pair will be Partner A. The taller person, Partner B.” Everyone’s eyes bounce around, what are they going to have to do, they wonder. “Partner A will start, and can do any movement or dance and Partner B will follow. Try not to talk. When I say switch, Partner B will be the leader. Feel free to do any type of movement!”
As it would be, my partner is a tall, beautiful goddess named Kasey. She is a graceful mover, completely trusting her body with my movement. We dip into the floor with knee bends. We spiral our torsos and wave our arms. We are in-sync. You wouldn’t be able to tell that I was leading and she was following. We smile. In between movements, I steal glances out into the room to gauge how the group is responding to the exercise. Everyone appears to be having a good time. I see so much creative movement happening all around me. After a couple of minutes, I announce it’s time for the switch. Kasey leads me into expanded swings and turns, I am having so much fun that I don’t want to stop our activity. All around me I see and hear the joy coming from the group. Each pair is forming a sacred bond unique to this sacred moment, specific to this shared movement.
When we finish “Mirrors,” we reform the big circle. I invite any volunteers to share movement that came up with their partner. Jim from Australia steps forward with his partner and they do a dance mimicking the kangaroo; he says it is native to the aboriginal peoples. Everyone is excited and applauds them. I look around to see if others want to share, but no one steps out. Now that we have returned to the big group, fear and hesitation are crippling some people’s feet to the floor. I smile and remind them to “just honor where you are. Be aware of that feeling or that voice in your head that is holding you back from coming forward. Don’t judge yourself, but just be aware of that resistant feeling you may be experiencing to come into the center.” Some people chuckle as they admit to themselves that their reluctance to share is rooted in that fear.
It is only the first day, I tell myself. In this moment I will not delve into the implications that their “reluctance” to move has for the greater, global “Movement”—the subject we so passionately came to meet about in Ubud. I recognize the delicate and, for most, new space that the dance activities has brought everyone to. Within the diversity of our circle I begin to see the magnitude of the dance work I will be sharing over the conference. I sense it will manifest in many ways with all the different types of people I am going to meet and move with.
How to bring others into the powerful awareness that the “Movement” begins with our actual, moving bodies? How to bring people into a space where fear can arrest and truth can take over? I ponder these thoughts as I scan the faces of my peers. With a deep breath, I begin “give thanks” to close out the movement interlude. “Let us end where we began with ‘give thanks.’ Remember to make it your own.” They join me in the prayer. A natural silence falls over the movement. After four cycles of the prayer, I gather my palms at my heart and bow to all of them, moving my hand from the heart to the floor at their feet in all four directions. They receive me and give love with claps, cheers, pats on my back, hugs, smiles.
Stepping out of the center I turn the floor back over to the facilitators. I am listening, but really my heart is racing. I am so wired, so amped up, so ready to dance more, share more. My awareness of all my blessings is expanding exponentially—the flight was safe, the people liked my dancing, Ubud is so beautiful, so fertile, there are trees everywhere, we are breathing fresh air—what better way to birth and nurture our dreams than immersed in all of this life energy?
Inhaling the beauty of the moment, I am overwhelmed by my wealth of life. I am so honored to be in a space to share it all with others. I sit, breathing, contemplating, imagining the infinite ways in which this journey will spiral outwards, beyond me and into the world. I give thanks for being in such a fertile place, for bearing witness to the birth of the movement.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I have been on a journey within. The dance these past weeks has been an insatiable quest of knowing self. I am developing a series of essays to elaborate on all that this means, for me, for my dance work, for the OSA endeavor. I thank you for your enthusiasm, your prayers, your encouragement in this time of healing. It is my prayer that you honor yourself, and listen closely to what your body is telling you, always. In the meantime, I will post some pre-OSA Dance 600 stories while I craft the writings about this intense, transformational chapter in my evolution as a total being.
Let's rewind to February 2006, to India, to a little village in Karnataka called Hampi. I call this one, "The Priest at Sunset".
At sunset, I always pray. It has become more of a natural part of my day than a concerted effort since being here in India. Eleven days ago, the journey began in chaotic Bangalore—near-death misses with road rage and rikshas, hordes of bright-saried women grabbing my locs, incessant horns honking amidst five-way intersections, non-existent paths through the bush attempted by moonlight, impromptu dance explosions with Indian brothers on dirt parking lots all the while rousing dust into the mouths of onlookers—and it is time for a rest.
Now I am in Hampi, a quiet town of ancient ruins, holy temples, gypsy women, feisty monkeys, and of course, priests—the caretakers of tradition. It takes us an uncomfortable, overnight train ride from Bangalore to arrive at this oasis. I am eager to move after being crammed into the luggage rack for ten hours, with someone else’s legs and feet as my pillow. When we find a place to throw our bags, we set out to explore wherever we can get to on foot. Now that the sun is shifting out of reach, I begin to seek out a place to give thanks with a dance. A drum calls me into the temple.
The temple is massive from the inside. It is the tallest structure upon arriving to Hampi. Ornate carvings and smooth stone floors have witnessed many generations of humbled feet passing through to make offerings. There is a big elephant being guided on the path opposite us. We can see it through the pillars, illuminated by light seeping into the dark rooms of the temple. Even though we want to film this big giant, we don’t because cameras are not allowed in this temple.
While some Hampi residents use the temple as a shortcut from the main road to the back road, most people there are making offerings in the room where drumming and chanting are coming from. Migrating into the clearing at the entrance of the temple, I drop my camera and sandals and slip my feet into the warm, sacred space of the temple’s stone floor. I have found my offering place.
I begin prayer as I always do, by giving thanks. I reach up into the sky with both arms. It is a majestic flood of pinks, oranges, and light purples. The sun is painting us the last picture of the day. Soaking up the creator’s energy from above, I surrender to gravity and release my spine and knees low to the earth’s temple floor. I graze my hands over smooth stone and feel my ancestral awareness growing. I am grateful, I say to myself, for all who have sacrificed for me to be here. Pulling all this love into my center, I rise with my hands coming into my stomach and blast my self with all this positive, healing energy. I smile as I extend my arms back out into the world, giving thanks that I am here to bear witness to my own life.
I continue to move through cycles of the dance-prayer. Four times in each direction, north, south, east, and west. Each set of four is different as I experiment with new ways to reach up and spiral down. Sometimes I leap up and then dive into the earth with outstretched arms piercing through stagnant space. A few people slow down as they pass our moving bodies. Are they South Africans? Are they really dancing? Eyes of wonder bridge the language barrier never to be resolved. Yes, I smile back, we are really dancing in this holy space!
As the prayer evolves, I reach my limbs into unchartered movement. Spinning on one leg at a time, trusting the lean of the universe will catch me if I stumble—I never fall when I’m in the spirit. There is so much space around us. I close my eyes and follow the intuition telling me when and where to place each foot. I twist my torso and hips, honoring the sacred womb of all creation that rests within me. The drums are steady but if they stopped it wouldn’t matter; the dance has taken us over.
I sense a crowd is forming because of murmurs and the sixth sense you have when you are being watched. I open my eyes and sea of women, girls, and babies wrapped in saris is planted a few yards from our dancing feet as if we are the evening show. I smile at them all and move my hands from my heart to the ground at their feet to acknowledge them. They smile and nod back at me. They want us to keep dancing. They have never seen such a happening in their old temple.
Lost in the flow of joy, we do not see the angry man approaching us. Had I not been waving my limbs about the blessings of the universe and finding harmony in my pelvis with the pulse of drum, I might have known the violent gestures of the approaching man was not a dance, but a warning. I might have prepared a response to the attack that was imminent.
“Stop this! You must stop this at once!” he screams. He was dressed in slacks and a button-up shirt. I keep spinning, barely hearing him at first. I look at my partner who is ecstatic with praise; his eyes are still closed. In the absurdity of the man’s anger, there is something fleetingly comical. For a moment, I think I am about to laugh.
“Stop this. You cannot do this here!” he insists. We still are dancing and praying. I never can comprehend being told to stop dancing. Would the Earth any sooner tell the ocean to stop making waves? Would not the whole planet die if the ocean did in fact obey and stop breathing? So too is the delicate relationship of our dance to our beating hearts.
Who is this man who challenges my right to live through the dance? This fiery opponent to our movement appears to be one of the leaders of the temple, likely a priest himself. Perhaps he has already made his offerings and that is why he now has time to harass us. His aggression brings me into the moment with him; he is not playing, he really wants us to stop.
Not that I am going to stop dancing, but I am taking in the whole scene now. The women at our feet are yelling at the priest. More people have surrounded to watch this exchange. The priest is reaching out to us with more than words now, but with his hands.
“Please,” he pleads, “this is a holy place. You cannot dance here!” With that he thrusts himself further into the circle of dance we’ve created around ourselves. He attempts to physically halt my partner’s movement and grabs his arm. We both dodge his desperate grasp. Wow, this man’s crazy, I think. He really thinks he can stop our movement with his hands!
“This is Shiva’s temple!” my partner bellows, pivoting on one leg and hopping out of the priest’s reach again. He never misses the drum’s beat through the holy man’s assault. “Shiva is a dancer,” my partner continues, laughter swelling into his tone. “How can we not dance?” We laugh at the blatant hypocrisy of the priest’s demands. Here we are embracing the pure essence of Shiva, and his servant, his keeper of the faith, his custodian of the sacred—the priest—does not recognize our dance as holy.
I wonder how many others have had the misfortune of being silenced in their spiritual exuberance because one of the Lord’s servants does not feel the spirit. When did our spirit, our inclination to dance in celebration, to praise, to sing, to run in harmony with the raging winds of our hearts, become the judgment of a (so-called) chosen holy man (authority figure)? Really, my global family, do we have time for such backwards behavior? In this urgent time when our spiritual freedom is increasingly essential for any “Movement” we purport to participate in, do we have the luxury of dimming our light for the sake of preserving the comfort zones of the less courageous? Is it in our best interests as a human family to allow our leaders to suppress the very thing that gave us all life in the first place? These questions and more zoom through my consciousness during this sunset prayer. In between flailing arms and asymmetrical legs, bent backs and rotating hips, I see that there is still so much that the movement has for us to explore as a world village; there are so many reasons why we must keep dancing, despite the protesters.
Even still, the priest is not the first misguided authority figure that I have out-danced, out-loved with a shimmy. In the middle of our dance-in, our movement gives way for an even bigger miracle of humanity to emerge.
The community has become our petitioners. In a language not our own, they tell the priest to leave us alone, we are praying, we are holy people. He barks back at the women, but he is clearly outnumbered, out-spirited really. The movement emerging in love never ceases; the holy dance won’t be sacrificed for the ignorant.
The priest’s frustration hardens his face and stiffens his body. He has lost and we have won. We are all relieved that he goes about his grumpy way. The women smile at us, nodding once more that we should continue dancing. I begin the eternal spin of joy’s rapture. Losing myself in what would be dizziness if it weren’t for my awareness, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that these people defended us, strangers on the outside, but kindred folk on the inside. We are laughing now; it is all so humorous they ways in which God plays with us.
My dance-prayer is beginning to settle. The sun is no longer in sight, but its warmth moves through my body. I slowly return to the original movement prayer of give thanks. Reaching up delicately into the bottom of the heavens, curving my body down into the earth to gather the strength of the ancestors, and then pulling it all into me so that I may give more back out to the world. I repeat this gentle motion to all four directions. As I open my eyes, I honor our defenders who are still at our feet, touching my hand from my heart to the stone gathering around their soles.
As we put our sandals on, the people rise and move with us outside of the temple. We do not say so much in words because our tongues are different, but we speak volumes in gesture, in nudges, in smiles. Several women clasp their palms into prayer hands and bow slightly towards us. I am so happy; they recognize that we too are a branch of the cosmic priesthood. Our energy resonated with them, burst through superficial barriers of language, race, gender, class, faith—and they protected us from the wrath of man-made authority. Their love of the spirit honored our pure intentions of celebrating in movement. The people, after all, are the caretakers of the spirit.
(This essay is an excerpt from my auto-choreo-biography about my early artistic awakenings that took place from February 2003 to February 2006. My journeys through India in 2006 opened me to my dynamic, artistic, spiritual beaming-light self in a way that hadn't been done before. The pictures in this posting are from various places in India. A more in-depth exploration of my India experiences is coming.)
On with the healing...
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
And then change blew in from the ever-shifting universal forces, and my dance collapsed under the weight of shattered expectations. My movement ceased, my body ached all over. I cried. On day OSA 160 my dance drowned in a steady stream of tears. Stubborn, bitter, angry, I moped about like a child. I was embarrassed by my behavior in front of my happy roommates. Inside I felt the duality of chaos and slumber. All I wanted to do was sleep, but the whirlwind of negative emotions blocked my sleep. I pretended to try and breathe and meditate, but still the dance lay buried and motionless under the layers of disappointment. What becomes of our divine light when we can't even see it ourselves?
OSA 161 I awoke on the verge of tears again. I called people to vent about everything that was going not my way, but that I was working through...trying to sound more positive. I felt so bad for not being in the spirit of dance. I tried to stretch my body, the feeling was so fleeting. Nothing would sustain itself. People ask me if I ever don't feel like dancing--sometimes when I my emotions are low, the dance suffers. And this time, because my body hurt, I lacked all initiative to dance.
Something drastic had to happen.
One of the people staying in the Miami apartment is on a journey around the world. She says she's a key-less wanderer this year. She's bold, sassy, loud, funny, loves spicy food, and very courageous--nothing scares her it seems, except for little Florida critters in the night. I'm amazed at how different we are most times, but because I see everyone as my mirror, I know that everything I see in her, I possess within me. She has this "let it go, let it flow," attitude about life. I thought I could use this outlook on life about now. I didn't really know how to go about connecting with her, but I trusted she'd help me out of my funk.
Just when I was preparing for another exciting day of staring out of the window, she suggested we take ourselves on an adventure to the beach. "Take the bus?" Hmm, I wasn't feeling the bus, but I was also tired of being so funky-spirited. I figured her outing adventure might spark a new disposition within me.
We set out to chase down the 8East bust in Little Havana. We got turned around several times before landing on the bus to South Beach. A storm was approaching. We laughed. I realized I hadn't laughed in so long. When we arrived at the beach, many people were leaving, seeing the clouds looming above. Our adventurous mission led us closer to the shore though. She's a speed-walker and I got a thorough workout having to walk so fast (I like to stroll). She gave me an impromptu lesson for rock-skipping. It was so funny; I possess no rock-throwing skills and she's an all-star athlete.
The ocean was growing rough and crashed into my legs. The water was warm and soothing in the cool breeze coming off the water. I reflected on the constancy of the waves. They refresh, wash out the old, bring in the new. Nature has a destructive grace about it. It takes away, undoes what no longer serves us, and delivers us into more productive, nurturing spaces. But it can only do this when we surrender to it's cleansing schedule. My funk and sadness was the result of resisting nature's maintenance plan. And this was a painful ordeal.
Being at the ocean reminded me of the power of nature to give and to take. Here I was able-bodied, healthy, young, vibrant, creative--powerful--yet sitting on all my gifts and refusing nature's blessings in my bad mood. I wanted to hurl it all back into the ocean. I listened to the rock-skipper's stories about her adventurous life and all the characters she's met. She told me I should speak up more, but really I just wanted to listen. She has a raspy undertone to her fiery voice. Everything she says is a piece of a story. We kept walking and laughing at my amateur throwing capabilities.
When we arrived at Lincoln Road Mall, an outdoor strip of everything you don't need, (including three Starbucks in one block!), I felt like dancing! Wow, finally, the movement resurged. I started twisting, spinning on the street, my favorite studio. Homeless, drunk men mumbled incomprehensible things to me as I spun weaves of gratitude. Grateful nature didn't take my dance away from me because I "didn't feel like it." Life is so delicate, a dance is not to be taken for granted, ever. I danced my way down many blocks as we walked the streets looking in vain for veggie-friendly restaurants. Finding none we went to the grocery store and danced in the cereal isle. I wanted to ask this woman to dance with me, but instead we chatted about our favorite dances while she picked out granola. I heard myself laughing, felt the life oozing back into my limbs, my hips, my heart. Today is OSA 162, September 26, the full moon. There's much movement to be making today, and everyday.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
OSA 154, Tuesday, September 18, 2007, 9:00pm, Winn Dixie in Little Havana, Miami SW 22nd street & 17th ave
I love dancing in places where no one ever sees dance. I am happy to liven up the mundane activities of life with dance, and so I seek out places that are dry, stale, stiff--begging for some movement, some sign of LIFE! Such was the scene at a grimy Winn Dixie in Little Havana this evening. Cluttered with food and beverages we don't need, chips on sale 10 for $5 and mountains of Budweisers scraping the ceiling. Searching for the fresh produce section is tedious and I begin to move to speed things along. Little children dash past me to the bin of hideous, cheap Halloween costumes. They don't notice me, but their parents give me weird looks, "get away from that crazy lady," they might be warning with their eyes. I dance my way to a skimpy strip of greens that I am supposed to choose from to make a salad. I feel like jumping, spinning, screaming, being childlike. Feeling free to warm up the cold air threatening to freeze my movement over.
A woman asks me if I am doing belly dance. I tell her I'm getting in a little exercise before dinner. I graze over the hundreds of cans of beans, packages of pasta, bags of chips, and wonder how long it's been since these foods were in the earth's hold. My movement mimics the discontinuity of the modern-day food chain.
Nothing on the shelves excite me because I know when I eat them I'll also be ingesting pesticides, food dye, and salt and sugar additives. What will this do to my movement, I wonder. Spinning inside the cocoon of imaginary food, I am overtaken with laughs and leaps, as I embrace the absurdity of it all. Here I am at the "market," and there's hardly any real food to be found, just skeletons and suggestions that were once-upon-a-time natural.
Later the people working the checkout counter are all smiling and pointing at me. Speaking in Spanish, I don't understand all they say, but their body language signals they're enjoying my spontaneity. I keep dancing until I get inside the car with bags of bananas, granola, and, fresh veggies for a salad, and (my weakness!) a huge bag of tortilla chips. Pleased that I have activated yet another sacred space in the hearts of those never exposed to the healing powers of organic creative expression, I can now go home and overdose on munchies in peace!
dancing on the beach for a wedding, sunday, september 16, 2007, OSA 152, sunrise, south beach, miami @ 3rd street & ocean drive
under star sirius and
dark ocean waves crash
white into shore
the moving bodies converging
into one more
i am dancing the sun up
my hips moving widely
inside the dance of eternity
i traverse the same waves
that brought my ancestors to this land
the water is blue
despite broken bodies that bled red
still i dance in the constant rhythm
giving thanks for the waves that
replenish worn soles
and water the living seeds
Sunday, September 16, 2007
I came to Miami for Earthdance 2007. The line up for Miami's earth celebration seemed a lot more extensive and exciting than DC and I thought I'd meet lots of people in this international city. I came with grand expectations of throngs of people in ecstatic praise dancing in trance, celebrating, healing, loving, living in the moment of endless dances. One should not have expectations, just openness to all experiences. And this is what I was learning to do as I danced in the open space vacated by a mostly seated audience at EARTHDANCE!
I walked in dancing. The music was good. The people of Little Haiti pleasant and beautiful as I walked from the car to the Area 57 Studio where Earthdance Miami was being held. While we communed to the good vibrations of South Florida's earth praising, 350 other cities in countries around the globe were having similar themed earth-raising programs--Brazil, South Africa, and on. (check out www.earthdance.org) Perhaps if I had read the fine print, I would have noticed the musical focus of the "Earthdance," which of course is why it all seemed weird to me that hardly no one at "Earthdance" was dancing!
My movement began fast and wild. Kicking up stagnant human energies with my feet. Throwing away the decay of egos with my fingers. Flinging my hips into the rusted pillars of excuses so many people internalize as to why they are not dancing, or can't dance, or will dance "later." Hello people, I scream with my body, is this not EARTHDANCE! What more can you be doing if not dancing to raise the energy of the Earth? To celebrate the multitude of blessings that we are still alive, despite pollution, trash, abuse of waterways...and the list goes on.
I continued to dance, at times shifting my focus to others isolated in pockets of seated people, who found themselves moving their bodies too. I play with a woman across the floor, mimicking her hips swaying. She laughs, and we switch back and forth sharing each others dances and never saying a word to each other. A man comes to me and says, "Hey, you're a REAL dancer!" I'm thinking, Are not WE ALL REAL DANCERS! Are we not all breathing together. The breath being the first dance, I find it hard to comprehend living, breathing people who tell me they "can't" dance. If it was so, you'd be dead by now. Nonetheless, I hug him and thank him for sharing his enthusiasm with me.
The cameras follow me all night. People protected by the darkness call out and whistle in approval of what they think is my "performance." I hug lots of people who come to me and tell me I am beautiful, that I dance wonderfully, that they can't wait to see me perform, that they love the way I move. I hear this all the time. I am not impressed. I want everyone to DANCE WITH ME! After all, I came with grand expectations that I'd be one of hundreds dancing, that'd I'd be swallowed up in the abyss of movement, dancing as one body of peace. Instead, or even more critical, I am initiating others into their movement today. I see today's movement blessings come from me encouraging the babies to walk before we can run in a relay race together.
Finally, before I leave (I chose not to stay until 4am because it just wasn't happening!), a Miami-based South African dance troupe takes the floor, calling us into a circle with drums and women dancing in festive traditional clothes. I am hollering from the circle. I am amazed at what I see in the crowd. People are actually still sitting in the presence of these ancestral rhythms! I can't believe it. I want to run out in front of the sitters and dance them up into action. Honor this indigenous sharing that has survived slavery, war, colonization, apartheid, racism, famine, poverty--this is HOLY MUSIC and DANCE, I want to proclaim. I yell louder. I don't even try to stop my elbows and legs from bumping seated people. Since this is Earthdance, I figure dancing people have the right of way at all times!
When the South African ensemble finishes their choreographed pieces, they invite us all into the circle to dance with them. I almost knock a woman over jumping into the circle. So many people leap into the anonymity of the circle dance. People too shy to dance alone, now find joy in the communal sharing of movement. I am happy to see the dance finally rocket into the feet of the masses. How boring to only dance with a few when we can always be dancing with the many. I don't know who I dance with. It is all a blur. I keep dancing until the drums stop. I know I bump into many people, hit many heads with flailing arms. My feet avoid getting trampled by others. I move like water around chaotic formations of rocks, always finding new paths to flow into when another is obstructed.
I am thankful for this sharing, for this lesson in always being grateful for the opportunities presented before me. I realize, again, that when I abandon my expectations of what I wish everyone else was doing, I leave lots of energy to dive into all that the divine dance is allowing me to experience. I am learning to be more patient, to accept the movement of others where they are. Nothing as natural and divine as a dance can ever be forced.
I danced atop a man-made floor, channeling my movement down into the core of the Earth below. Activating the open space by sending endless prayers for everyone to dance with me, to get up and love themselves with the dance as much as I do. And for about three wholly, ecstatic minutes, I got just that.
All photos from OSA 151, EarthDance Miami, Florida, Saturday, September 15, 2007, Area 57, after 6pm and on into the night!
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Whoever thought of utilizing the abundance of space to be found amidst the rows and rows of books in a library...to dance? Leave it to me to uncover this wealth of SPACE at the John F. Kennedy Library in Hialeah, Florida, a suburb of Miami. It is OSA 150, and I am officially 25% of the way through my 600 days! Give thanks. I am waiting for a friend who is downstairs on the computer and bored out of my mind. So I take myself on a little adventure looking for open space to dance in the library. I wander into an auditorium and interrupt some people having a meeting (oops!). Next I'm meandering to the second floor where people are reading at little study tables or talking quietly in small groups about things that seem all too important for me.
Something draws me to the last row of books on the top floor. An all-Spanish books section lined with biographies of Malcolm X, La Lupe, Escobar, Churchill...and a bunch of other people. I think how funny it is I wind up on this aisle and I can't read in Spanish. I flip through some book, catch glimpses of phrases here and there. I reach with exaggeration for the books, intentionally stretching out tight muscles in my back. I shift my weight slowly so I can open up my hips, and inevitably opening up the stagnant space of a library.
As I push through the air, I feel the weight of things unmoved gradually giving way to my presence. I imagine the spirits of the deceased subjects of these books being bored with sitting on the shelves day after day unused, unrecognized, discarded into the cannon of literary history. I look at images of people, some who I know, and some who I don't, and I dance for them. I try to imagine what the Spanish texts are saying about each person and internalize that in a movement. She is a sensual singer, he an aggressive warlord...and on. How do their realities play out in a dance. Who is a leap. Who is a bend? How is a big booty roll (my favorite dance)? A few people graze by me on the way to the water fountain. One person smiles as he packs up his laptop. I am certain they've never encountered a dancing reader at the library.
My movement is quiet and not obstructing the space in the library. I remember how much more information I retain when I am dancing if I am at a lecture, or a watching documentary film. If only I had danced during Chemistry 101...haha, I might have not struggled so! Anyway, I am glad to be at the library today. I smile, remembering fondly my mother, queen of taking her children to any open libraries at any time of the day regardless of our wishes. It's ironic, she always wanted us to appreciate the library's resources; I'm sure she never imagined I'd be activating the biggest resource of them all--idle space!
Videos: OSA 150, Friday, September 14, John F. Kennedy Library, Hileah, Florida @ 11:30am
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
OSA 114 THURSDAY, AUGUST 9, 12AM & 8:15PM, “Can A Sista Rock a Mic?” concert, and outside CVS on Columbia Road, in the rain on my way to WPFW Radio interview
OSA 115 FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, outside elevators in front of TransAfrica Forum lobby, 6:00pm, and inside showing of their African Film Festival
OSA 116 SATURDAY, AUGUST 11, Bronx-bound 3 train, NYC metro transit, 10:45pm
OSA 117 SUNDAY, AUGUST 12, at Central Park’s Summerstage Angelique Kidjo and Zap Mama concert in New York City, 3pm
OSA 118 MONDAY, AUGUST 13, dance workshop at St. Stephen Church, noon
OSA 119 TUESDAY, AUGSUT 14, in front of Plymouth Congregational Church, 13th Street, NW at sunset
OSA 120 WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15, dance workshop at St. Stephen, noon
OSA 121 THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, sunset time inside drained pond across from the Willard Hotel, near White House
OSA 122 FRIDAY, AUGUST 17, under the American flag, outside Harriet Tubman Elementary, making songs with zfree and observing violent communication between parents and infants, dancing to the tunes of liberated thinking and prayers for more love, 11pm
OSA 123 SATURDAY, AUGUST 18, corner of 14th and U streets waiting for 54 bus home, dancing to the rhythms of DC’s summer nightlife, 11pm
OSA 124 SUNDAY, AUGUST 19, aboard the Spirit of Washington with my family for my Aunt Sandra’s 50th birthday celebration, noon, and in front of my house on Lamont Street, sunset
OSA 125 MONDAY, AUGUST 20, dance workshop at St. Stephen Church, noon
OSA 126 TUESDAY, AUGUST 21, interview with a vampire (who claims he’s from Transylvania which he insists is in East Africa...) in Adams Morgan at corner of Columbia Road and 18th streets. vampire inquires as to whether I am homeless and tells me he can smell my mortal blood. also had an impromptu photo shoot with Chen Photography, 7:30pm
OSA 127 WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22, dance workshop @ St. Stephen Church, noon, promoting “A Weigh With Words” documentary film release on 7th Street @ Gallery Place, 6:30pm and inside Gallery Place after hours eatery celebrating film debut, 11pm
OSA 128 THURSDAY, AUGUST 23, prosperity dance on Connecticut Avenue, a few block south of Chevy Chase Circle at L1 bus stop, vibing on themes of limitlessness, infinity, and joy, draped in all green @ 9pm
OSA 129 FRIDAY, AUGUST 24, waiting for ride at Greenbelt Metro, 5:30pm
OSA 130 SATURDAY, AUGUST 25, awaiting the P6 bus at Rhode Island Avenue Metro under imminent thunderstorm, 6:00pm
OSA 131 SUNDAY, AUGUST 26, in park near Eastern Market, sharing movement games with my sister Angelique, 4:30pm
OSA 132 MONDAY, AUGUST 27, in trails of Rock Creek Park with the drum lady @ 11am, and Bar Nun upstairs, before the Luv Lounge @ 8pm
OSA 133 TUESDAY, AUGUST 28, Mt. Pleasant and 19th Streets, sunset, dancing to themes of love, freedom, and beauty
OSA 134 WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 29, outside my house on Lamont Street at sunset and Janika and Toby’s bon voyage to Germany party, 9:30pm
OSA 135 THURSDAY, AUGUST 30, outside house on Lamont Street, looking at the very big yellowy moon, sending all my prayers and questions up into the universe, 10:30pm
OSA 136 FRIDAY, AUGUST 31, thankful in the fresh air of the night, somewhere between Connecticut Avenue and Adams Morgan, @ 10pm
OSA 137 SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, moving day from Columbia Heights, subtle dances found in between the gaps of packing, sorting, clearing space all day
OSA 138, SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, outside Afua-Fana’s bridal shower, 7pm on Longfellow Street NE and outside friends house @ Lamont and Warder Streets, NW, 9:30pm
OSA 139, MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, B30 bus stop at BWI Airport, 8:48am and at Great Fall, Virginia sunset in the rocks with Ma, Aaron and Eleniye
OSA 140, TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, MY 25th BIRTHDAY!!! dancing the year’s intentions and prayers inside the Azalea Garden at the National Arboretum, 12:21pm and in between leaps at trapeze flying school, Baltimore Harbor, Maryland, 6:30pm
OSA 141, WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, waiting for 90 bus to Adams Morgan at Eckington Place and Florida Ave, 7pm, and at Bar Nun’s Salsa Party, 11pm
OSA 142, THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, roof of the Dorchester, 16th Street, at sunset
OSA 143, FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, (shadowing super-mom in Laurel, Maryland, all day), communing with the nature of suburbia as I watch 4-year old Joshua outside in front yard
OSA 144, SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, outdoor art installation near Metro Center, between H and I and 9th and 11th streets, 11:30pm, sharing movement games with a kind tree climber
OSA 145, SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, outside the Goddess Palace before the New Moon gathering, Todd Place, NE, 6:06pm
OSA 146, MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Grand Foyer, 5:11pm at Brazilian musicians’ Millenium Stage & Metro DC Dance Awards reception at the 600 Watergate Restaurant, 10:35pm
OSA 147, TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, African American Civil War Memorial, 2:21pm, dancing in the blessings of the rain, singing "one drop don't make a rain, it take many drop to make a rain"
Video & Photos: Video, OSA 108, August 3 @ Kennedy Center for Performing Arts; Photos: in red t-shirt, coming up for air at St. Stephen Church OSA studio, OSA 109, August 5; OSA 131 at park, August 25; last photo--rare image of a Seated Binah...haha! on OSA 106
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Photo: OSA 131, Sunday, August 25, 2007, park near Eastern Market @ 4:30pm
The dance belongs to all of us
It always has
It always will
Monday, September 10, 2007, 5:11pm
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Millennium Stage, Washington, DC
I am loving every phase of my journey. Today finds me dancing again at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Something drew me here, even though I had made plans to dance somewhere else. Synchronistically enough I wind up celebrating Brazilian Independence Day with musicians Richard Miller and Patrick de Santos and their ensemble at the Kennedy Center’s daily free shows for the public. (I am on my way to Brazil to dance in November 2008.) I am dancing in the biggest stretch of open space in the Grand Foyer. My body negotiates the intrusion of new instruments into my organic dancing. Their music and passion is so invigorating. Despite a spitting headache, I dance harder, drink more water, will the dance to heal my pains. A woman asks me if I am doing the samba, and I smile, opening my arms wide as I dance my truth—“I am always doing all dances,” I say. She nods in approval. “I like it...whatever it is you’re doing,” she says.
Photo: OSA 111, Monday, August 6, 2007, on the "turf" in Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland @ 7:30pm
The traffic in the Grand Foyer picks up as the Brazilian music keeps going. Some people stop to stare, some to take a picture, some to tell me I'm beautiful. After a sequence of many turns and sharp arms slicing the air, I pause for a long arm stretch, opening my chest to the heavens (via the ceiling). A thought of immense gratitude comes to me: I am dancing my soul's truth. If life were to stop now, I'd be living my highest existence. I thought how blessed we artists are to live and breathe our life's love every day. This heightened awareness made me want to dance even more, to encourage more people not to waste a second more sleep-walking through life. In the moment I felt the infinite extension of my dance reaching into the souls of those thirsty for more than what they think their life is. I internalized the sacredness of the space I was activating as a slow, prayerful dance to hidden rhythms inside the music of the Brazilians. With deep bends and elongated reaches, sculpted spines arching into the unknown, each motion of mine giving permission for all of us to move together.
Raul from Mexico comes to join me for a few minutes. We slip and slide to alternate sides. We pretend we are competing at the ballroom dance competitions in moments of intense eye contact and dramatic posing. I love when people passing by come to dance with me. Several people ask me why I’m not on stage dancing in front of the non-dancing audience. I remind them that I’d much rather be communing freely away from the cage of the stage. That if I wasn’t in the open space, the dance would be limited to a tap of the foot or the shy rocking of a head. But out here in the infinite playground of the open spaces’ moment, the dance is unbound. People come and dance with me as they please. The ego takes a backseat to the flood and exhilaration of the now, of being outside of the normal spaces for dance.
Photo: OSA 127, Wednesday, August 22, 2007, jubilee jumping with my high school students at St. Stephen Church, @ 1pm
Thursday, August 30, 2007
OSA 63, Tuesday, June 19: Experimenting with some sunset leaps at my favorite movement playground, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC
What type of dance is that?
Is that supposed to be some sort of exercise or something?
Are you doing Tai Chi?
I know you not on crack! See other people might think you on drugs or something, but I know you doing that dance...that moder-ryn dance!
OSA 88, Saturday, July 14: Moving my hips in tune with the Atlantic Ocean, Ft. Lauderdale Beach, Florida, Sunrise
Are you homeless?
Can you do that in my house?
I used to dance like that!
Why you don't put a cup out here and collect some money!
Can I take your picture?
Is that balle-ray or something?
Pre-OSA, April 14, 2007, doing Cosmic Booty Roll with sisters at a house party
How old are you?
Do you just do this everyday?
How do you make money?
What your boyfriend say about all this dancing?
Can I get some of your water?
Where are you from?
OSA 31, Friday, May 18: Dancing "Funky African" at the Potter's House artists sharing, drummers, Takada and Colivia
Is that African dance?
You African? (a question, not an affirmation)
Was you the one dancing down at the Malcolm X Park...yeah I seen't y'all...Y'all sure can dance!
You go to that dancing school up there?
Can you teach me to do that?
How long you gonna be dancing out here?
I see you girl...you working it...y'all see her working it!
Pre-OSA, Feburary 11, 2007, Activating stiff space while dancing beside a seated crowd as Elegua, an all-female Afro-Venezuelan ensemble, sings
Go on! Don't never give up...DO IT! DO IT!!!
Look, honey...she's dancing?
So can I dance with you?
Friday, August 24, 2007
the movement sways me
I bang my soul up against the harsh words
we speak to one another
my spine shrinks
as I dip into a safer space
to a time when men did not call me bitches
closing my eyes, I imagine
my enthusiasm for life
than the anticipation of a blow job
wishing I could jump a little higher
up into the protection
of indigenous grandmas and griots
circles of trust
communities of accountability
longing for the time when
rocking hips conjured celebrations of life
I bend low to the earth
via the concrete
I visualize the green that used to be here
under my jumping toes
giving thanks for the life
of the dance
for continuity despite obstructions of sanctuary
A man one day had one eye. Puss gathered in and around it. His smile was crooked and gave way to broken, yellow teeth. He asked me to dance in his living room. He said for $75 that I couldn’t beat that. I wondered at his absurdity. I wondered at why I still danced there. I had drawn a circle on the ground with water from my Deer Park bottle. I danced inside the circle, and he never entered it. He stood from afar hurling perverted comments at me. I kept dancing. I asked him if his own daughter, who he said was a singer, (and who was apparently older than me), performed naked for $75. He ignored the question. I kept dancing.
This encounter disturbed me, angered me for a long time. Why did he have to taint my sacred dance ritual with his trifling jabber? Why didn’t he recognize my goddess-powered, divine, from-the-heavens dance praise worship! How dare he disrespect me. WOULD HE TALK TO HIS MAMA LIKE THAT!?!? I went on like this for days. Angry at anyone who even looked like they would say something nasty while I danced. It took so much energy to always be on guard with my movement.
I gradually came to a space of acceptance of his role in the evolution of my movement. We are all reflections of each other. Whatever I see in him, whatever is ugly and shameful in him, I must first recognize within. This is the painful, extremely essential boundary I had to breakthrough to release the anger and rededicate my dance to its higher purpose. I am not dancing to be “better” than anyone; I am not dancing to pass judgment on others. I began to ask deeper questions, (and still as I write this, I am asking), what in me attracts people who carry that energy? What fears or judgments have I preconditioned in my brain and serve as magnets for that which I despise, which I detest?
I thought of all the drunk and high people who are always the first to speak or “dance” with me on the streets. Their sentiments (not always vulgar or perverse) connect on some very basic level to the source of my movement. They are not afraid of me. They embrace the dance more willingly than most sober people passing by. They celebrate me in a humorous, strung-out sort of way. There is something very real and beautiful, very indigenous to our exchange in those brief interludes. Those times when they are more than just mumbling drunks and I more than just a dancer on the corner. These moments are our sacred portals of transformations, the delicate threshold when we hold the power to share our truth with someone else. How many of us take advantage of the opportunity to really share?
Before I could honor such a sacred bond, ephemeral as it might be, I had to first see myself in every one of them, even in the heart of the man pleading with me to dance in his living room. I had to make peace with the truth that many will come to share in the divine gifts of my dance; just as the tree does not discriminate with its shade, so too is my dance a universal gift of love. A token of appreciation for the good, the ugly, the beautiful, the disgraceful—and every other manifestation of myself I may or may not want to accept.
Photos from preview of Sunday Buffet, a play by Zaccai Free and Binahkaye Joy; here I am performing the character of Breezy Eve, the church crackhead, as she morphs into a dancing priestess.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Central Park @ Summerstage in New York, New York, Angelique Kidjo and Zap Mama concert, 3PM
I yell into the crowd, first with my booty shaking vigorously to drum beats, then with cosmic spins spilling into the crevices nestled within the crowd’s shadows. Some shadows have a low-frequency buzz to them, generated from a subtle knee-rock, or a quiet hip-sway. But most shadows are static illusions of barriers that I trample over with my praise dance. Why are there even forms motionless enough to distinguish in such a vibrant dancing space? I do not comprehend this backwards scene—how anyone communing with the celestial voice of Angelique Kidjo and the mystical rhythms of her band could be standing still is beyond me. I wonder at the collective consequence of our negligence for refusing to be the caretakers of the divine dance in this divinely opportune moment? What becomes of a people so stiff in our movement, so reserved when it’s time to release our bodies the music’s flow? Must we be so out of tune with the planet and ourselves that we perpetuate our confinement with bleachers, gates, and police tape to mark where we can or cannot dance?
Finally, I dig deep into my throat and surprise even myself: “Shake the booty ladies! Shake those fibroids off!” It’s one of those moments when I wonder, “did I really say that out loud?” And, yes, I did! I am so excited for myself, speaking up. I realize I am surrounded by so many women in the crowd, most of whom have no awareness that dancing can help them naturally cure and eradicate fibroids and a host of other dis-eases taking over their bodies. A surge of energy shoots up my body from the ground and my movement grows even more ecstatic with praise. I am so happy that I am aware of my power to heal myself through movement. And even though I already know this, my truths are reaffirmed when I share them in communal spaces.
Some women look at me and giggle. They acknowledge the truth of what I’m saying. If they don’t have fibroids, or breast cancer, or high blood pressure—they know someone, or actually a whole lot of women, who do. And I know they’re going to go home and repeat and imitate what I am doing. I feel good sparking waves of healing with a booty roll. “That’s right, mamas! Shake the booty. FREE THE BOOTY! LET THE BOOTY BE FREE! LET IT GO!” I am laughing with myself now too. More people are looking over my way, nodding in agreement as they contemplate taking me up on the offer to allow the dance to heal their bodies.
Photo: OSA 109, a close up of the sacred booty in orange, at Full Moon gathering, Saturday August 4th
I see some women rocking their hips with a little more intention. Others even move their arms a little wider than few inches allotted by bent elbows. I am blessed to be here and activate the space with these beautiful people today. I see the diversity of movement throughout the people’s dances. I borrow some dances from my new dancing companions. I play with mixing and fusing what I see others doing into the dances moving me. Our open space is an infinite laboratory of possibilities. My dance is an activator of these sacred spaces.
Friday, August 10, 2007
August 4, 2007
St. Stephen Church Auditorium with Ma and Aaron
Last Day of Summer Dance Jam
Give Thanks! I have completed the Summer Dance
My mother is an amazing woman and she tries very hard to support all her children, and other people’s children in everything she does. Just release, I am telling her. She holds all her tension in her shoulders. The weight of a long line of matriarchs resting on her. The pressure of being everything to everyone—wife, daughter, sister, mother, auntie, deaconess, science fair project coordinator for our family’s youngsters, keeper of the DC and PG County library systems, grocery store expert—all of it. She’s tight. We breathe repeatedly. There’s blockages; the same blockages that hinder all of us from living fully at every moment. The hesitation to breathe, the reluctance to release and go with the flow. The tense and stiff muscles we mistake for normalcy. Here, as we dance, we undo those things that no longer serve our elevation into our higher selves.
Again, I say, Ma, let go. It’s only now I realize the totality of the tightness, the tension. I am asking her release millenniums-old, wrapped, tucked, tied, twisted stuff—in one breath no less. She’s moving for all mothers in this moment. She is breathing into belly with all our hands on her stomach for every mother, for every womb-bearing being that has held on so tight, so tight for the sake of everyone else, that they sacrifice their own release. I am breathing with her. Staring into her eyes. Seeing Debra, Mary, Malissa, Martha, and Mary again. Seeing Vashti, Lillie, Laura, Rossie, Charlotte. All these aunties and grandmas and great-grandmas, some of whom I never even knew, now dance with us. They are cheering Ma on, telling her with each deeper exhalation the old wisdom they too learned—it’s okay to let go. Let it go. The dance flows when you let it go.
As I place my hands on her hips to stress which muscle I want her to gyrate, or twist her torso further as she exhales, or walk my feet next to hers so that she gets on the right rhythm, I wonder if she ever dreamed of this moment 25 years ago while she was awaiting my birth. I wondered if she ever imagined she’d be dancing with me, in my open space studio, receiving instruction on how to pump her pelvis, lift her chest, breathe. All these things I learned while dancing around her womb, and now she is relearning them in a new way. Are not all things a big circle. A circle, what goes around, loves back around.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
OSA 73: FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 8:15PM, corner of 14th & Monroe Streets, NW, met one-eyed Lawrence
OSA 74: SATURDAY, JUNE 30, 9:45AM, community dance classes with parents and kids at St. Stephen Church, 9:00pm, Eritrean family celebration in Northern Virginia
OSA 75: SUNDAY, JULY 1, @ 3PM, parking lot of Harriet Tubman Elementary School, Kenyon Street, NW, danced to the colors of the light spectrum, creating movement for each shade
OSA 76: MONDAY, JULY 2, 8PM, choreography workshop at St. Stephen
OSA 77: TUESDAY, JULY 3, 9 AM, St. Stephen church dance warm-up/lesson planning, Family Playground dancing with parents and children, 6:15pm, African Joy dance class and Galaxy Playground with Samaa and Saaku
OSA 78: WEDNESDAY, JULY 4, @ 10AM, in front of my house on Lamont Street, dancing to CD of meditation music
OSA 79: THURSDAY, JULY 5, 6:30PM, Samaa’s bellydance class at St. Stephen Church with Jen
OSA 80: FRIDAY, JULY 6, 8PM, AFRAM music festival, Baltimore, MD beside Camden Yards in the middle of a stiff crowd, dancing to the groove of Fertile Ground and Musiq Soulchild
OSA 81: SATURDAY, JULY 7, 9AM, St. Stephen’s dance classes, and in Philadelphia for Aimamet-t’s Freedom Party @ 11pm
OSA 82: SUNDAY, JULY 8, 4PM, Washington Square Park in New York City, with Monica and Elen with Jazz band, learning Afro-Peruvian dances and playing the “name game”
OSA 83: MONDAY, JULY 9, 8:15PM, choreography workshop at St. Stephen with Tameka, and waiting for hug from Amma at Shirlington, VA Hilton, 11pm and into the next morning.
OSA 84: TUESDAY, JULY 10, 11:15AM, family playground and dance classes at St. Stephen, artists’ galaxy playground with Samaa and Saaku in the evening
OSA 85: WEDNESDAY, JULY 11, noon, teenage dance workshop at St. Stephen’s
OSA 86: THURSDAY, JULY 12, 6:30PM, Samaa’s bellydance class at St. Stephen’s
OSA 87: FRIDAY, JULY 13, 10PM, outside White Egrit condo in Ft. Lauderdale, FL on 33rd Ave to Zaccai’s mbira
OSA 88: SATURDAY, JULY 14, sunrise, inside the Atlantic Ocean, moving to the rhythms of ocean waves at Ft. Lauderdale Beach, experimenting with balance, hip gyrations, and embodying the polyrhythm of water’s motions.
OSA 89: SUNDAY, JULY 15, sunrise, inside the Atlantic Ocean, dancing prayers in honor of my mothers Ft. Lauderdale Beach, and at Lincoln Road Mall in Miami @ 4pm
OSA 90: MONDAY, JULY 16, 1:30PM, home of Kia, and balcony of condo @ 10:30pm
OSA 91: TUESDAY, JULY 17, 6:15PM, dance classes and galaxy playground at St. Stephen Church, choreographing movement for a documentary film, “A Weigh With Words” with Liz, Saaku, Zaccai, Aliyah, and Zakiyah
OSA 92: WEDNESDAY, JULY 18, noon, dance workshop for teenagers at St. Stephen Church
OSA 93: THURSDAY, JULY 19, 6:30PM, Samaa’s bellydance class at St. Stephen Church
OSA 94: FRIDAY, JULY 20, @ 3PM, inside the Sculpture Gardens and @ 7th and Madison on the National Mall
OSA 95: SATURDAY, JULY 21, 9AM, dance workshops at St. Stephen Church, and at Mt. Sanai Hospital in Baltimore, MD, in labor and delivery waiting room @ 9pm
OSA 96: SUNDAY, JULY 22, 10PMish, outside house on Lamont Street, slow, frustrated, stubborn, funky mood and movement
OSA 97: MONDAY, JULY 23, noon, dance workshops at St. Stephen Church
OSA 98: TUESDAY, JULY 24, 10:30AM, dance workshops at St. Stephen Church
OSA 99: WEDNESDAY, JULY 25, noon, dance workshops at St. Stephen Church
OSA 100: THURSDAY, JULY 26, 6:30PM, Samaa’s bellydance class at St. Stephen Church
OSA 101: FRIDAY, JULY 27,10PMish, in front of my house on Lamont Street, waiting for friends to go to dinner
OSA 102: SATURDAY, JULY 28, 10AM, women’s healing dance celebration with Kiki and Carolou, and in Newark, NJ with the newlywed Bellards
OSA 103: SUNDAY, JULY 29, 2:41AM, a club, Hiro, at West 16th & 9th Ave, New York, NY, at ?uestlove party
OSA 104: MONDAY, JULY 30, noon, dance workshops at St. Stephen Church
OSA 105: TUESDAY, JULY 31, 10:30AM, choreography and classes at St. Stephen Church, choreographing movement for mothers in my family for “Spiral Dance,” and “Who Made Mar’Lissa?” dance pieces
OSA 106: WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 1, noon, dance workshops at St. Stephen Church
OSA 107: THURSDAY, AUGUST 2, 6:30PM, Samaa’s bellydance class at St. Stephen Church
OSA 108: FRIDAY, AUGUST 3, 6:08PM, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Grand Foyer
OSA 109: SATURDAY, AUGUST 4, 10AM, Summer Dance Jam Finale at St. Stephen Church, dance and yoga with my mother
OSA 110: SUNDAY, AUGUST 5, 12:37AM, Creative gathering at Todd Place with artist family, and sunset in front of my house @ 8:14pm
OSA 111: MONDAY, AUGUST 6, sunset, the “Turf” at Silver Spring on Fenton Street, platform of Silver Spring Metro Station and 60 bus stop at Ft. Totten Metro
OSA 112: TUESDAY, AUGUST 7, sunrise, in front of my house, and 10:20pm in front of my house
OSA 113: WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 8, noon, dance workshops at St. Stephen Church, and sunset outside Rock & Roll Hotel on H St., waiting to get into “Can a Sista Rock a Mic?” show, and inside Rock & Roll Hotel
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Thursday, April 19 11:30am
African American Civil War Memorial, 11:30am
Photo: OSA 46 outside Madison Square Gardens, New York, NY, June 2, 2007
Friday, April 20
Outside a Handlebar restaurant, 7:45pm
Saturday, April 21
She-Boom Drum Circle, moving the Greenfest audience, 6:00pm
Sunday, April 22
Corner of W. Huron and Ashburn at abandoned, weeded lot, 7:30am
OSA 6 into OSA 7
Monday, April 23—Tuesday, April 24
Wednesday, April 25
Thursday, April 26
Low frequency, bitter, anger, tears, complaining, jealousy
Friday, April 27
Green Line from Southern Ave Station to
moving in my seat, mad and sad, a woman laughs at me, thinks I’m crazy, today the dance is stifled, my body molded to the patterns of negative thoughts. This is the night I almost killed my movement with my stubborn, self-critical, unforgiving, bitter heart...until I had a dream.
Saturday, April 28
Morning of the revival, I awake thinking I almost died and rejoicing that I am still alive to dance. In the dream the doctor told me I only had 6 more hours to live and I was so scared. How was I going to do 600 days worth of OSA in 6 hours? I fretted and soon an African man came to dance with me. As we danced I got stronger and happier and wasn’t afraid of dying. I awoke renewed with life and emailed lots of people. So many people responded to my testimony and committed to supporting me complete my 600 days. After sending the email, I rushed outside to do OSA. Two teenage girls approached me while my eyes were closed doing the movement prayer, “give thanks.” Blasting me back to the hustle and bustle of
Sunday, April 29
Malcolm X Park, 9am, before kriya
Monday, April 30
Tuesday, May 1
African American Civil War Memorial, 8:48am
Wednesday, May 2
Dupont Circle/Rock Creek Park, near P and 23rd streets, playing dance games with Michael and Samaa, 5:10pm
Thursday, May 3
“The Mourning Commute,” dancing on the Green/Yellow line from
Friday, May 4
Saturday, May 5
Takoma Funeral March, 10:25am on busted-up basketball court at Piney Branch & Cedar roads, NW
Sunday, May 6
pre-drum circle at Malcolm X Park, 1:05pm
Monday, May 7
“Beatboxing at the Back of Ghandi,” with Michael beatboxing rhythms for me to groove to, 21st and Q streets by Dupont Circle @ Massachusetts Ave., 5:32pm
Tuesday, May 8
African American Civil War Memorial, 10:00am, filming for OSA documentary
and @ 14th and U streets, outside McDonalds
Wednesday, May 9
honks, horns, lights, yells, whistles, claps. random man yelling from car: “keep doing it, keep the faith, do what you have to do! Don’t never give up!” Curtis comes to inquire: “Is it yoga? How old are you? How old are you again?”
dancing for DCPS (District of Columbia Public Schools), who is accountable for praying for these schools, for the students, the teachers, the staff, the administration, the parents? all of these schools need an OSA prayer. It comes to me to dance on as many playgrounds and school fronts as possible before school begins again in September.
Thursday, May 10
The Mall @ 7th & Madison Streets, NW, dancing for the standstill of cars in “rush hour,” 8:00am-ish. Wondering: does
Friday, May 11
Carter Baron @
Tenleytown H4 bus stop, 7:11pm
Saturday, May 12
Malcolm X Park, 12:33pm
Sunday, May 13
Mother’s OSA Booty Shuffle at corner of Georgia & Lamont @ 2:30pm. dancing for all the mothers I know, I do a rotation of give thanks movement prayer for each mother past and present and future. knuckleheads at eddie leonard’s carryout yell across
Monday, May 14
Lamont & 11th streets, 10:54pm, the last hour of the day. singing, chanting spinning dancing with zaccai and bhakti. per-a yelling about the power and magic of black people into the windows of innocent, hard-working, sleeping latino families.
Tuesday, May 15
14th & Girard at urine-infused basketball court under the feet of old men and alcoholics, 9:05am. the old men play chess, listen to the radio and ask me what I’m doing. they tell me I’m doing a good job.
Wednesday, May 16
10:01pm Kenyon and
Thursday, May 17
11pm, Kenyon & Park Road, NW, planning sound score for show in my head, practicing different combinations.
Friday, May 18
Open Space Activation @ Potter’s House Show, 8pm
Saturday, May 19
3131 Connecticut Ave, fountain in front of high-rise apartment building & Cleveland Park @ Connecticut & Porter Street, 3:00pm
Sunday, May 20
Artomatic, 8th floor, 4:00pm
Monday, May 21
Tuesday, May 22
waiting for Ellen @ M & 3rd Streets, NE, 9:45 am
Malcolm X Park, 4:00pm
Wednesday, May 23
dancing to laugh counselor Carla’s laughter at Silver Sprung, 5:30pm
Kenyon & Park Rd, 10:00pm
Thursday, May 24
Museum of the American Indian, around 10am
Friday, May 25
Saturday, May 26
11th & Lamont by Arthur’s w/ boxing man in all red, 10:30am
Sunday, May 27
Kenyon & Park Rd, 7:50am
Monday, May 28
National Airport Metro and car rental line, 8:00pm
Kenyon & Park Rd by T-Mobile Store, dancing to Zaccai’s sermon and poetry, 9:30pm
Tuesday, May 29
African American Civil War Memorial, 10:45am
Wednesday, May 30
Union Station, outside main door by the fountain, 9:00pm
Thursday, May 31
Union Station, gate E18 in
Friday, June 1
Saturday, June 2
outside Madison Square Gardens @ 8th Ave & 33rd St, 7:40am; 1E Foyer inside Javitz Center, 12:35pm and autograph line #29 for Deepak Chopra, 2:00pm
Sunday, June 3
11th Avenue between 35th & 36th Streets across from Javitz Center in New York City, 12:35pm, inside Javitz Center at booth 939, 4:20pm
Monday, June 4
dancing with my shadow on
Tuesday, June 5
Green Line Metro platforms @
Wednesday, June 6
Thursday, June 7
Green Line @
Friday, June 8
Saturday, June 9
Emergence Community Arts Collective during a film screening about political prisoners, 6:50pm
Sunday, June 10
Monday, June 11
Tuesday, June 12
African American Civil War Memorial, 7:00pm
Wednesday, June 13
Busboys & Poets, waiting for Elen’s birthday celebration in bookstore area, 8:30pm
Thursday, June 14
Friday, June 15
Saturday, June 16
Sunday, June 17
Malcolm X Park, drum circle, 5:45pm
Monday, June 18
Tuesday, June 19
11th & Lamont, with Zaccai playing mbira in the circle of water he poured onto the concrete, and Lamont & Sherman Ave, 7:00am
Terrace Level of Kennedy Center at Wyclef concert, 8:00pm
Wednesday, June 20
Thursday, June 21
Friday, June 22
Saturday, June 23
Sunday, June 24
Monday, June 25
Choreography Workshop with Fiona, 8:08pm
Tuesday, June 26
Facilitating Family Playground for Summer Dance Jam, 10:15am
Playing “Moving Lightpost” with Hawah, noon
Wednesday, June 27
inside the Lincoln Theatre at free concert by Brother Ah’s World Music Ensemble and Eleggua, back of orchestra level and balcony, 8:00pm
Thursday, June 28
beside and in front of Greater Harvest Baptist Church, 7:30am
Corner of Lamont & Sherman Ave