Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Resurrecting the Dance

Two weeks ago I was swallowed up in a mighty jubilation, high on life, happy about my new magical dancing shoes, excited about coming to Miami for Earthdance. Life seemed to be coasting smoothly and effortlessly in my favor. The sun kissed me when I landed in Ft. Lauderdale and I didn't look back. My body greeted every opportunity to move with thanksgiving and everyday was one long, joyous booty shake. My spirit soaring with the waves at the ocean, my legs leaping in delight with the gentle caress of sea breezes. Everyday I met people who wanted to expand inside the dance, either to promote me here, or dance with me there--it was all going my way.

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

Getting in the Way...Intentionally

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!

sunrise in sunday

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
planet venus
dark ocean waves crash
white into shore
the moving bodies converging
into one more

i am dancing the sun up
into sky
my hips moving widely
across horizons

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
of renewal
of hope
giving thanks for the waves that
replenish worn soles
and water the living seeds

Sunday, September 16, 2007

EarthDance Miami 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 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

Swimming at the Library

Whoever thought of utilizing the abundance of space to be found amidst the rows and rows of books in a 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

Listing: OSA 114-147

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

Sacred Space is Open Space

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

OSA 146
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