Tuesday, July 31, 2007

as of Day 72

Photo: OSA 67, June 23, 2007 "Family Playground" dance workshop

Day 72
Thursday June 28, 2007, 7:30 am
outside Greater Harvest Baptist Church
corner of Lamont and Sherman Ave.. NW in Washington, DC

It has been so long since I’ve stopped to write about my experiences. I have danced in many places these last 71 days. In different cities around the U.S. I’ve scared people, gotten people stopped at red lights to dance with me from their cars, avoided being run over by men who jump the curb at Safeway parking lots in Bowie, danced at parks where the only day time entertainment is pooping pigeons and pissing drunks, on the metro station platform during the mourning commute, in front of enormous condos where I weave in and out of second-hand smoke wafting down from balconies because $1 million doesn’t get you a yard—and over 60 more places, all different, all organic. This is such an awesome task, trying to recreate every moment for you. And I’m not going to do that, but I do want to give you a taste of my experiences. And it is my prayer that you will be “moved” to join me in at least one of my 600 days dancing around the globe.

There is a man who comments on me dancing at the corner of 13th and Park Rd, NW. He says (everyday I see him), “Yeah, I know that’s dancing you doing...Yeah, I know you not on crack! See these other people think you on drugs, but I know you doing that moder-ryn dance.” I smile, what do you say to an endorsement from a community-man who celebrates that you’re not a crackhead? He is so genuinely excited to share that he knows the secret that apparently no one else knows. He keeps going, ensuring me that it’s okay for me to dance here because I’m doing something good. “Yeah, I like that moder-ryn dance because it don’t disrespect the man or the woman. Yeah, you know what I mean, it...it’s nice, it respect the man and the woman...” I nod, feeling warm-hearted for indulging his street wisdom. For him in this moment with me dancing (I never stop dancing to dialogue with passerby), a sacred space has opened and he’s delving into an artistic truth. Maybe I’m the only one who’ll ever listen. I keep dancing.

In New York City, outside of Madison Square Gardens at 7:48 am, I dance with scores of police cars surrounding in order to prepare 8th Avenue for a marathon. There are people meandering on this early Saturday morning, some look as if there has been no separation between the night before and the day at hand. Homeless black men in identical white, black and gray, fatigue tank and short sets appear at random intervals around the corner. Everyone is surprised to see me. Some stop and stare a while. Some go to great lengths to “not” see me by not making any eye contact. Prince, from Queens, comes to ask me what church I dance at. A man from India watches me the whole time, smiling, elated to be sharing in the moment with me. I keep spinning, a collage of oranges and reds disturbing the gritty wash of gray that smothers every inch of this block. I keep spinning, praying that I can accelerate the breaking of the clouds when the sun has mercy and pours a little light on all these ashy New Yorkers.

If only I had known before now how ultimate healing comes from dancing, I would not have wasted so much of my time last year lamenting a lost love with tears and tantrums. I am learning in my own way. It is just after 7 am. I awake to my own tears in a friend’s house in Chicago. Everyone is asleep; no one available to console my broken heart. I want to not be by myself in this moment, but everyone is sleeping and I know for some, unfair, divinely perfect reason, I have to cry this one out alone. All of my muscles stiffen in disgust that I am once again drowning in the lake of self-inflicted illusions and choosing to lay in this negative space. Covering my mouth with my hands, I slide out of bed, careful to not wake anyone up with my tears. In the bathroom I avoid my eyes in the mirror. Moving quickly I wrap my hair, grab a t-shirt and head downstairs and out the door. Walking down the street I have no idea where I will go. I keep walking, crying louder now that I am safe in the anonymity of the outdoors. Two blocks from the house there is an abandoned lot with overgrown grass and broken bottles. I pick this place to be my sanctuary. It is only day 5 and already I find myself grateful for this committed personal time. I had not intended it to be my therapy, but it has become that in so many ways. I am crying so hard now. I stare at the mirror of my shadow thankful it can’t distinguish my scowl from my form. I will myself to move, to swing an arm, to bend a knee, to do something, anything that will make me the victor over my negative emotions. For nearly ten minutes I merely twist my torso side to side, my legs immobile under the weight of my anger. With each swing I toss more rage into the universe and into to the laps of the spirit guides who arranged this painful, heart-beaten ordeal. Slowly and stubbornly I surrender to some movement. I play with my shadow like a child banished to the corner and mad at her mother. On this day, it takes me the whole hour to finally move my body fluidly. My anger and pain stifles me, constricting what would be a graceful bend into a stiff, energy-depleting statue of rage. It takes so much time to heal; and on this day I experience the duality of pain and thanksgiving in one, slow dance.

Jumping, leaping, spinning, we hurl our bodies into the stagnate space of liberty on the west side of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC. Tourists pass by pointing us out like we are circus freaks. We sing, we chant impromptu songs about freedom, we melt into the darkness as the sun falls down on the other side of buildings. We shake wildly, daring others to abandon the lifeless gray boxes positioned along the arteries of the world’s most powerful city. Within a walk’s reach of the White House, I know there is surveillance, so I want whoever’s watching to have something artistically stimulating to watch tonight. “BE WHAT YOU WANT TO BE!” we scream at the top of our lungs as we dip and dive in and out of people’s way. A woman at the 52 bus stop stares through us. I wonder why she doesn’t just acknowledge us with eye contact. It takes so much energy to be disconnected from people. Naturally, I move in circles, the path of the indigenous dances. I dance around a lonely tree, envisioning the dance that the Africans from Benin did before crawling into the bottom of slave ships. It was a dance of forgiveness around the Tree of Forgetfulness; seven times in one way, seven times the opposite. The dance was done to erase the memory of those kin who had sold them to the Europeans. It was done so that when they reached wherever they were going, they wouldn’t curse their brethren from a foreign land. In this space, 600 years later, I am still dancing their prayers of forgiveness. We sing freedom with our bodies on a sidewalk bordering the pillar of the Free World, asserting our liberty with a holy dance in the midst of static cages. How blessed we are to know that we can always access our freedom internally.

This morning, as I moved through all it was to have reached day 72 I thought about all the places I’ve yet to dance in. Southeast, DC where I lived for 20 years, Brazil, where I’m moving to next year, Texas, where I haven’t been since I was born. The path before me is so infinite. Day 71 at the Lincoln Theatre dancing on the balcony to the musical magic of Eleggua, I spun bold spirals into the darkness with my arms and leaping legs. My back an endless river of possibilities twisting me this way and that way into all manners of opportunities. I felt the suspension of fear, the levity of freedom oozing into my toes and dripping off the sweat from my forehead. I was so happy and ready to take on the world with my dancing journeys. This morning, my body stiff (because I have an aversion to properly stretching), I gently swayed to the rhythm of Sherman Avenue’s rush hour. A singer pulls up to the curb, gives me his CD, and tells me that he needs a “cute, lil’ dollface like me...” Raul wants me to stop my dancing and walk with him and his five year old daughter, Rhianna, up the street. The 68 bus drivers steal glances in between the steering. I shout and cheer when I feel it’s been an hour into the blinding sun. One more victorious day being beautiful, wonderful, dancing me.