Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Moves

I am a work in progress. I am spiraling through, evolving every second, pulsating with the breath, expanding the heart, growing. I am perfectly whoever I am right now, and of course at times I too feel that I am still not enough. I feel like I should be doing more of this, less of that, be here more, less there...you know the drill. I am also a virgo and really analytical (so they say!).

So today, I did something really challenging and atypical of me: I told my extremely beautiful, wonderful, amazing, wise, supportive, loving partner that I wanted some "space". Yeah, that vague concept of breathing room, time-to-myself thing. Spirit guides are telling me to do a "lock-in" at the Love-Joy, focus my energy on healing myself, developing my self-love rituals, and grounding myself in Binah. Year 25 was turbulent--yes, it did bring me awesome lessons that have opened my eyes to all my powers (see "The New Binah" post). Still though, I am healing from a lot of intense experiences and processing all I was awakened to. While I am aware of my ability to heal myself and the world with my dance, I sometimes feel like it's all overwhelming--balancing life, the dance, family, lovelife, the teaching, travel, finances, transportation--aaaarghhhh! You see how I could feel real bananas sometimes.

The first priority of healing myself is...MAKING TIME FOR MY SELF! (Wouldn't you know it'd be something so basic?) This is not as easy at it seems. I began OSA to make time for myself and be artistically stimulated at the same time. Of course, that's my realm--dancing! But making time for my SELF to be still, to breathe, to meditate...hmmm, not really what I wanna do! I resist it like brussel sprouts and cod liver oil. Sometimes the thought of being still turns me off so much I just busy myself even more--dance, phone, tv, computer, cook, eat, talk...anything but stillness! I am that grown-up child who still hates nap time! Except now, "nap time" is that essential, self-preservation, rejuvenation time and I can't afford to skip out on it if I'm to really experience and activate all the blessings of the Love-Joy.


As it would be, I, of course, attract myself to a person who is so committed to that Self-Love "ME-time" that sometimes I've heard "No Binah, let's link later, I have to meditate". I'm thinking, What! Move over meditation...I'm Binah! As you can imagine, I am not the happy camper when my beloved wants to "go to the mountaintop" alone. I resist, complain, interject myself into the supposed-to-be solo space and smile all the while. But then when I really overstay my welcome and have no choice but to leave, I drudge back into Binah-land with a pout on my face, only to meet my inner child who is upset that I only come to visit her when I have to. She is my last resort; she is the one I run to when I've exhausted the world's distractions. This habitual neglect of my inner child, my SELF, is not serving the sacred work of the Love-Joy. I want and need to make new moves for my SELF.


"Where to start?
Here, with me.
How...?
I think the journey will only illuminate itself to me
as I keep moving forward
."


After an emotionally volcanic weekend, lots of tears poured out in solitude, and the stench of old wounds I thought were healed, my intuition told me to go even deeper and commune with Binah in a new way. I fretted and frowned over what I felt spirit was telling me to do. I did not want to take space from the person who's energy has been a divine catalyst in me owning my healing process and transformation. And at the same time, I knew that my attitude of resistance--because "I don't feel like it..." or "I don't want to!"--was blocking me from experiencing all the abundance of the moment. Whether it's my dance, or my family, or my relationship, any resistance hinders my growth. Spirit was telling me to sit still in a new way; to get up early every morning and meditate, to schedule more times to dance and follow through, write more, to clean my space and organize, to get rid of junk, to finish my children's book, to develop strategies for my dance programs--lots of work! Work that I've been running from, or dodging, or half-stepping--work I've been resisting for too long.

Was my partner the a blockage to my process? No! I am the only one who can hold me up or move me forward. That said, I jumped out on faith and told my beloved I wanted some space to "do me," to create more balance in all areas of my life, and turn over a new leaf in my self-renewal process. I wanted to stop resisting the stillness and embrace the blessings this concentrated, self-awareness brings to me. I'll spare you the details of our conversation, but it wasn't easy. On a very, deep, heart-felt level my beloved understands the critical nature of me claiming my space and supports and loves me through whatever. I felt tension but also lots of warmth and love as we hugged good-bye. When I said "I love you," as I got out of the car, there was silence and averted eyes. All I can do now is trust in the same divine love that interwined our paths in the first place.

In an effort to move through all of these heavy emotions, I took myself on a spontaneous dance date to the roof of the Kennedy Center. I usually don't go there so late in the day, but I crossed town in rush hour (something I never want to do), and caught the sun setting in time for my Love-Joy communion. I took off my shoes and felt the warm concrete began to soothe all the mind's chatter. I spun around, swung my arms, hopped from leg to leg, pretended to be a bird, a rain drop, a statue, a tree. I dug up my imaginary sounds and created songs that I danced too while passerby speculated on my purpose for dancing by myself in public. I jumped up and down, I froze my limbs in complicated ways, wove patterns of torso undulations into the invisible space--I just let loose.

I wasn't trying to dance about anything in particular. I just wanted to keep my body moving. I bent this way and that. I stretched into the clouds, willing them to move on so that the sun showered over me without obstruction. I heard poetry coming to me for a new piece I'm working on for The Saartjie Project (check out www.thesaartjieproject.org) called "Womb of Saartjie." My freeforall moves evolved into a beautiful choreographic vision.

Some women came out onto the veranda for a chatty smoke break. I migrated away from them to a clear spot. I started to dance again but it felt stale. I was bored with my own movement. I felt like I'd done all those moves before and wanted to experience my body anew. Suddenly, I had this enthusiastic idea to discover a new dance move every day during my healing ritual time. (Right now, the next 21 days are committed to a daily ritual combining meditation, movement, and writing.) I felt excited, challenged to experiment with rhythm, levels, shapes, everything! Just think, the whole world over, there are people dancing in different ways and I want to intuit them all! It's like being a movement satellite for the globe, picking up on the collective signals of humanity with dance.

This new process lifted my spirits instantly. There's something very healing about the surge of creative energy, however and wherever it hits. I scanned my body for areas I don't usually engage. I locked my arms above my head; I usually have my arms free and wild. Then I jumped up, but kept my legs together like a mermaid; I usually have my legs separated and wide, so I can cover lots of space. I tried this "bounded leaping" several times and realized how new it felt. Ah haa! I thought, my first new movement for my body. I wonder at all the movements I'll continue to unmask in the Love-Joy. There's no rush, or finite expectations; just an eagerness to be present with my SELF enough to experience the new moves.

I trust my process. I trust in the power of love. I trust my creativity. I trust the healing is the celebration. I trust that when we acknowledge our feelings, however chaotic, or confusing, or painful, or weird or whatever--we acknowledge our true selves. I trust that love is all there is and it's all we need. Join me world! Send your love to me as I heal myself. Send your love to my beloved and yours too. They are the ones holding space for us whenever we doubt our own awesome abilities. They are the ones loving us unconditionally and reminding us to love ourselves and "not be so hard" on ourselves. Send lots of love to everyone, we've all got moves to make.

Friday, September 26, 2008

for little black girls who just wanna dance

for Sjada
and Daneisha, Shanai and Shanay
for the girl at the Y in New Orleans
for the one in Chicago
whose name I don't remember
for Erica and Desiree who asked me if I was
homeless
because I was dancing outside
for the little girls at Hope in kindergarten
for Melka reaching to the moon
even when she couldn't see it
for Mary from Cameroon
who is dancing and learning English at the same time
for the ones who followed me
hungry for more dancing
for Toni and Toya
for Kayla and her twin
for Nana's granddaughter's in Ampento
for letting me teach you the Electric Slide by lantern
for Holy in Semiyak
dancing with me and all the women
for the eyes that followed me in the dark
from the river to the temple in Hampi
for Nena and Alliyah and Chloe
for Daeshawna
for the smile that sneaks onto
your face
watching me dance for the 90 bus
so it can hurry up and
take us home
for all the little black girls
who just wanna dance
and who dance even when no one else will
dance with them
for all the ones who
reflect back to me
why
I am dancing
in the first place


Yes, her name is Sjada with an "S" in the front. That is silent. I met her on the eve of her 4th birthday. I always remember it because we have the same bday. By the time our paths crossed, she had already lived in two very different homes. Rural, peaceful Texas and now, chaotic, Post-Katrina New Orleans. Her father decided there would be work in New Orleans after the storm and moved his whole family--wife and three kids--to the last hold-out of low-income housing on the Westbank of New Orleans, The Woodlands. In the few months I was there, Sjada attached herself to me and would stay up under me even after I was finished working with the other youth. We blew bubbles, colored chalk on the sidewalk, and managed somehow to carve out a bubble of peace in what was a violent and scary village of displaced Americans.

I was new to my powers as a dance healer while in New Orleans. I didn't know why Sjada had picked me to be the source of her creative activities; I just knew I was. The other girls at the Woodlands would dance with me too. When I showed up they would run to the car and start singing and dancing, ready for us to start right there in the parking lot. I wanted to be there more often, but I also wanted to work with other youth in other New Orleans neighborhoods. And so it was, I wandered in and out of a lot of young people's worlds for the few months I was in New Orleans.

I often think about all the beautiful young people I've dance with and wonder what their world is like now. Such memories of Sjada and all the other little mamas I've been blessed to dance with skate through me as Holly, the Alexandria, VA Children's Fest volunteer, sends a group of chocolate girls to me. I am standing in the middle of a field, dancing by myself because no one has heard the announcement that I'm here to "dance and do storytelling." I figure, if I dance, the people will come. It's a diverse crowd; parents and children from all backgrounds. I am expecting to dance with everyone, but instead, the movement brings me into private counsel with a host of long lost African princesses.

First of all, I love dancing. Secondly, I love dancing with people, especially young people. And so I am overjoyed either way. But I always feel extra excited when I get to dance with little black girls. Mainly because I am fascinated by our shared experiences of growing up black/brown/dark/chocolate/nappy/chubby/ashy/or whatever else we find ourselves to be. A lot of my art is inspired from processing the irreconcilable and intangible moments of my childhood: the burns of the hotcomb every two weeks at Ms. Smith's, why my belly seemed to stick out further than my breasts, how come Rosharon was light-skinned and skinny and I was dark and chubby and ashy--and on! I used to pray to God to make me light-skinned and have long hair. My grandmother thinks it's so funny that I keep shaving my head now because all I wanted as a child was long, flowing hair like Barbie. (Once my father did offer to cut all my hair off and replace it with Barbie's. I tearfully declined.)

So when a sea of brown faces, braids, cornrows, and lollipops join me on the sunny field, I know I am home and the dance work can commence. At first I think, "This is so funny! Here is the whole world, and only the little black girls have come to dance." But then I reoriented my thinking. I thought, "How AWESOME that the little African girls chose to share a moment with me! Of course they have come to me; here I am there dancing mama--of course they have come! Let those who want to just watch sit there, but for me and my girls, we're gonna dance!"

I started us off in a circle so that we could play the Name Game. The circle grew one by one as curious faces gathered first at the periphery, and then eased their bodies into the group. The names and postures came like recreations of "my favorite BET video". Hands on hips, twist the neck this way and that, slide and dip down the torso. I don't judge or critique. I simply celebrate them all, for being there, for participating, for speaking up with their names and being bold enough to dance in public space with me.

It takes some time to get all the way around the circle. I am the last one. I always make my name dance bigger and wilder than the others when I'm with young people. I want them to see that thinking waaaaaaaay outside the box is fun and opens us up to new things we would have never imagined otherwise. I take a big leap and shimmy down and say "BINAH!" The girls repeat my move with energy, with big voices, with laughter. I give them permission to be silly, to do something different and be liberated.

Some teenage girls contemplate joining us but instead stand on the side to see what their little sisters and cousins are doing. Parents also look into the circle, humored by their daughters' choices of movement to represent themselves. Perhaps they are wondering at how brave their daughters are to be dancing in public and not be embarrassed or shy. After the name game we pretend to be different elements of nature. Then we assemble ourselves into a make-believe car that can travel all over the globe and to out of space. I ask them all where do they want to go. "Hawaii," two of them say. "Europe, to the Eiffel Tower in Paris," Melka says. "To the Moon," I say.

We journey through all these place on our little plot of grass. People walk by and some even ask me what are we doing. I have no costume, no microphone, no stage. I am actually in my favorite element: just being with the people, no frills. There's this delicate space of infinite creativity that we dance ourselves into. Here we are surrounded with hotdog stands, face painting, guitar band--and yet, we still dance our own story for the moment. I am so happy right now, sharing the Love-Joy with these beautiful girls. My movement is full today, recognizing the dance of all the little black girls is still my own.

Picture guide: 1. Dancing at the Dryades YMCA in New Orleans, LA July 2006 2. My kindergartners freestyling it May 2007 3.Sitting with girls in Kroboland in Ghana Spring 2003 4. Dancing with Holy at a club in Seminyak, Bali Indonesia May 2006.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Black Luv, The Dance

I love dancing with my people. When I was in Ghana five years ago I fell in love with communal dancing. One of my favorite dance experiences of all times was in a small village called Adalku in the Volta region of Ghana. I danced for five hours from sun to rain, from dust to mud. The musicians created rhythmic escapades with recycled metal, tire rims, scraps, and more. There were no traditional drums or instruments, just found objects. I was amazed at the improvisational genius of the indigenous human spirit. Art is everywhere, I remember realizing for the first time. After that experience of organically jamming with the whole village thru the thunderstorm, I wrote a poem that began to articulate what would become my movement philosophy. The opening line captured it all: "The most beautiful dance you do is the one you do with your people."

I really felt I had tapped into the source that would feed my whole movement evolution. "My people," as I have come to know during this growing period is everyone--Afrikan folks, women, youth, DC people, environmentalists, womb activists, healers, mothers, writers, elders--everyone, like I said! I realized that the most important thing about dance to me is that it brings humanity together. That it gives us a space to share, to commune, to grow, to heal, to love each other even more. And this is what I have put my energy into as I have been spiraling into my movement these past years.

I was reminded of the critical role of community in my dance when I attended Washington, DC's annual Black Luv Festival yesterday. The sun was blazing, the children were running, the elders were nodding, and the MCs were working hard to keep the energy high. I relaxed on a blanket, looked up at the sky, and thought, "I am home now." This is my ideal space: grass, sun, music, family, veggie food, peaceful vibrations, and dancing. What more did I need? I felt so good and full of love.

The crowd was sparse early in the afternoon. They wanted people to get up and dance to raise the energy. Ususally at that type of request, I am the first person up. But today I am grounded in my spot on the blanket, as observer--(I also know that I'll eventually be dancing later on and once I get up, I never sit back down until I'm at home). Instead, I took pictures of the growing momentum, chatted with folks I hadn't seen, and rested in the warmth of the sun. One of the MCs wanted to amp up the energy when he saw the crowd filling in. He sent forth the word for what I call the "Black People's Right's of Passage Dance in the United States"--the Electric Slide. This dance is not complicated or very different from other line dances. In fact when I was dancing with survivors of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, I learned other dances similar to the Electric Slide. Nevertheless, around these parts, the Electric slide is done at every family reunion, wedding, barbeque, graduation party, and caberet (I even taught this dance to children in Ghana, African Diaspora dance exchanging all the way!). There's no escaping it--and why would you want to? The Electric Slide is the chance for everyone to dance together. This is when all the shy people join in, when all the elders groove on the periphery so as not to get knocked over by the super-inventive youth who've incorporated a back flip into the standard choreography. The Electric Slide is, essentially, everyone's dance.

video

The power of dancing together is so transformational. That is what I tapped into while studying and dancing in Ghana. That is what I experienced in India and Bali, and in West Philly at the Trinidad and Tobago Festival, and countless other places. It's magnetic, this space of communal dance. Everyone feels loved, everyone feels welcomed, everyone feels celebrated. When we are activating the love energy, then we also activate peace, compassion, forgiveness, joy, creativity, and more. The dance is not merely social, it is survival. It is a prerequisite of healthy, stable, thriving communities. That is why we dance all these years, through every revolution, shift in humanity, the dance continues.
After the Electric Slide, the next dance we did together was the all-mighty Soul Train Line. The MC put out a call for some of us to start the line and this time I bounded up to the front. I was "ON" now, ready to agitate more movement for the masses. Several others joined me in forming two lines facing each other so that we created a "runway" which we would dance down in pairs. This is so fun because you get partnered with whoever is on the other side of line and you make the dance work between you. Talk about facilitating more peace, cooperation, and understanding in communities--the Soul Train Line captures all those themes in an instant. There's no holding up of the line. You can't not go because you don't like your partner; you must simply dance. And your cooperation sustains the momentum of the community dance. We learn so many skills for strengthening humanity in the dance. How could we not be dancing?

When we finished the Soul Train Line, the go-go band Mambo Sauce came on. Mambo sauce is a combination of condiments that you can only get in DC carry-out restaurants. Some have tried to ponder what it is, but why would you? It goes with chicken wings, and back when I ate meat, yes, I too was a Mambo Sauce connoisseur. Anyway, go-go music is also unique to DC, so the band named themselves after the one thing you can only get in DC. Go-go is DC's ancient-future indigenously relevant contemporary Afrikan music. It's syncopated, layered, ecstatic and reflects the hearts of the DC people. Growing up in DC I LOVED go-go music, and still do. So when Mambo Sauce took the stage, and the crowd was already hyped up, all factors were in place for our communal spiritual dance explosion.

I had lost my shoes long ago and was barefoot on the warm cobblestones. Encased on all sides by everybody, I let go everything. I jerked and jumped, slid and spun, bumped booties with whoever, screamed and laughed at the beauty of all of us dancing black folks. We're dancing despite all the drama and deaths, the despair and financial worries, the fear of losing something or someone--we're dancing together in this moment that is all we really have. It is in these moments that I am happiest. Cameras wove in and out of gyrating bodies, the crowd roared along with the band (because we all know the words even if we don't "listen" to go-go"). I danced with sisters I know and those that I don't. It was a beautiful moment of infinite black love. Imagine the wondrous potential of all the globe's inhabitants to generate that much love in a dance we do together. Such is the intention of the Love-Joy, and we're just beginning.

Vintage Binah: March of 2003, dancing in Adalku with village dance ensemble

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Spinning Mary

Love is Dance
sweat falling
in place of tears the sun breaking through
to ancient membranes
activating
sacred spaces
rituals from before
carried out in the now
wild womb warrior
willing her way
to move
to evolve
to transform the galaxy
mother make me a
mover
I got places to go
and I got to take my babies
with me
on the road


I love spinning until I get dizzy. I feel like it's a catalyst to reaching that space where you're "out of time," you know, neither here nor there. I stumbled into a spin yesterday at the National Arboretum while easing my way into the Love-Joy session for the day. I didn't have any particular intention for the dance work when I arrived, rather a spectrum of projects that I needed to plan out--mainly outlines for several dance workshops coming up this weekend and the next few weeks. In addition, I have started developing movement for "I am the Mother"--a series of dances exploring the lives of all the motherwombs I come from as reimagined by my intuitive self. So far I am developing story-dances for my mother, grandmothers, great-grands, and a few more aunties. I'm at about 13 women. This is my soul's core artistic project right now, outside of planning workshops for youth, elders, community groups and so on. And so, even when I have other work to do, I often wander deep into the dance of my mama's mamas.

I started the movement with stretching out on the warm earth. I love grass; it's the best floor to dance on. The sun was warm, the wind refreshing, and I wanted to soak it all in. I reached my arms above my head, letting the sun melt into my belly and activate all of my creative energy. Closing my eyes to the sun-pierced clouds, I relaxed into the organic art process of the Love-Joy that was soon to come.

Upon rising from the grass, I bent my back around to all the sides to see how flexible I was today. Rotated my knees, loosened up my hips, and did an all-around body scan. I started singing a Native American chant that I want to use in the dance for Malissa, my grandmother's grandmother who was half Cherokee. The song opened my lungs and my voice transitioned to the old gospel song that I am going to use for Mary Rand, Malissa's daughter and my grandmother's mother. The song, "I'll Fly Away," is one of my favorites from growing up in my black baptist church. It's imagery of flight inspires me and I find myself singing its verses random times.

I am still picking my mother and grandmother's brains about who Mary Rand was. What I know of her now is that she was a hardworking woman who had four children. Her husband died cancer of when she still had young children to raise. I know she spent long periods of time far away from her home and family in Wake County, North Carolina and "scrubbed white people's floors" in New York. She was tall and commanded a strong presence. My grandmother, Mary Malissa, was her only daughter. I began to envision her story of one where she's speaking of moving within the confined realities of a life of hardships. I started to imagine movements that reflected the energy of breaking out of a cage, but simultaneously expressed the sensation of being stuck.
I had already developed Mary Rand's gesture for the "I am the Mother" project, but had not fleshed out how I would relay her story. A swirl of ideas continued to flood me and I spun myself around to feel something different other than confusion. That's the blessing of movement. It allows you to experience emotions in an alternative way. The mental juggling of my great-grandmother's life leaked into my body as a spin. And as I was spinning I realized, "I haven't gotten dizzy in so long!" I remembered how much I loved to spin and get dizzy, and so I spun and spun for a long time, forgetting for the moment my preoccupation with how I was gonna dance Mary Rand's story.

And that's when it happened. Inside the spin I got the grand plan for introducing Mary to the world as a dance. I imagined her movement morphing from the stiff postures as I narrate her story about cleaning countless houses for little pay, being evicted from the family land, being separated from her children and on. And that as she begins singing "I'll Fly Away" she starts to spin and then comes into the dream space where the movement expresses her hopes and visions. Through movement I can expand on things she didn't get to physically do with her own life, things I intuit as an extension of her in the present moment. Of course, today's Love-Joy journey was just the beginning. There's so much more dance to which I must surrender before I know these mothers' life-movements. A surrendering that will ultimately lead me through my own life's dance.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Leap into Love


The Love-Joy: A dance of infinite possibilities is my movement entity. It's a whole world where anything and everything is possible. The Love-Joy is my mobile sanctuary, my temple-on-the-go, my dance laboratory that can manifest anywhere I am. The Love-Joy is the space I surrender to, the place where I dive into my creativity and trust whatever comes out. I strive to commune inside of the Love-Joy as often as possible because it makes each moment of my life more purposeful.

Every adventure to the Love-Joy is a miracle unfolding through whatever I happen to be doing. This weekend I attended the "Women & Courage" conference at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. It was an amazing experience and I wanted to leap into the Love-Joy from the very beginning of the journey.

We are a sea of women, mostly strangers to each other, all gathering at the New York City Port Authority Trailways gate #26 for the shuttle to the Omega campus in upstate New York. Thanks to a one hour delay--rain, broken down bus, Friday traffic (and because it's New York!)--we had ample time to bond before reaching the conference. I, surprisingly, wasn't in the mood to talk to all my new potential sisters. Instead I found myself rotating my hips in a circle and singing a song to myself. Why was I randomly booty shaking? Because I had stuffed myself with food and had gas and didn't want to take it on the long bus ride. Yes, a lot of times, the entrance into the Love-Joy is merely an attempt to conquer digestive blues.

"Excuse me," a voice from the woman behind me calls. "Is that some sort of exercise you doing?" A common question that I hear all the time. Most people ask me "what type" or "what is it"? I'm continuously exploring this fascination with labeling and categorizing because it is such an anti-Love-Joy process and yet I am expected to deliver an answer. I change my response everyday. Somedays, I just say "yes" to whatever people think I'm doing: "Sure, it's yoga!" or "Yeah, it's belly dance."

Today, though, I'm inclined to actually tell the sister about Bootyism and how I believe in activating the power of the booty for the optimum life experience. She loves it! She starts shaking her booty with me, right there in the line. We introduce ourselves; she's from the Bronx and she's on her way to the conference because there will be a screening of a documentary about the alarming phenomenon of black women diagnosed as HIV+ in which she's featured. Chavelle is bright, bold, and definitely eager to explore this booty dance that I tell her will relieve menstrual cramps, prevent fibroids, release stress and anger, and--she adds enthusiastically--give her more creative ideas for lovemaking.

"Yeah boo!" Chavelle screams into her cell phone with hips a-shaking. "I am doing this Bootyism right here in the bus station...It's good exercise for me, this woman says...Yeah, I'm gonna have some new things to show you when I get home!" Chavelle is ecstatic about her newfound booty motions. I ask her how she is feeling, reminding her to be gentle with her body, honoring any discomforts or pains that might come in the knees or the back. She slows her booty rolls down so she can carefully scan the movement in her body.

I am swelling with joy as I connect with Chavelle during her booty discovery process. It is such a delicate, beautiful, and sacred journey to bear witness to someone's consciousness expanding around the power of her body. This movement exchange is especially powerful because I am with a woman who has been stigmatized and judged because of the very choices she made with her body.

A man passing by us stops to leer dramatically because he assumes our booty movement is an invitation to some sexual thing. I, of course, am used to this misinterpretation of my booty expressions because I do this dance all the time and get lots of reactions. I usually ignore it and keep dancing and they move on. Chavelle, my dance partner for the hour, flips my script.

"It's exercise!" she screams out at the man. "That's right, it's exercise. Not what you thinking!" It's so comical to me because I never engage in such dialogue. And yet, in using her voice, Chavelle clearly tells the man to "step off" with humor. Later, one of the Port Authority employees stops to question the booty energy. Chavelle is now the official Bootyism spokesperson. Even if I wanted to get a word in, I can't! She is explaining the philosophy and power of booty to everyone passing by and encouraging them to booty shake. Her girlfriend, Lizzy, comes back with a sandwich for her and Chavelle doesn't miss a booty roll. She keeps moving and updating me on how she's feeling all while picking apart a spicy chicken wrap that has too much rice.

Energetically, I feel the space is now warm. With our booties, Chavelle and I have activated the space, created our makeshift sanctuary, and transformed the potential of what would otherwise be a frustrating, idle time. Now that I am deep inside the Love-Joy, my movement begins to expand. I begin singing again and exploring movements for a dance I am creating about my Grandmother's grandmother, Malissa. Occassionally I swing back into a booty roll as I move through lots of different gestures and movement phrases. I am not writing anything down or trying to remember exactly what I do. Rather, I am intuiting movement from the emotions I imagine Malissa would have experienced at different times in her life.

I am so grateful for the fertility of this Love-Joy moment. As I dive into unchartered movement a woman and her young sons sitting across from me are following every move. Chavelle is chatting away with Lizzy as she experiments with rhythmic variations on her booty rock. Other women who I'll soon be at the conference with come up to me to ask me what I'm doing; some of them throw me a booty bump in support of the movement.

I can always tell when I'm inside the Love-Joy because I am worried about nothing. All seems well, feels well, and I don't feel any pressure to move on to the next thing. I am completely absorbed in the movement, in my interaction with the people and surroundings and observe everything as a happening, a miracle that otherwise would not exist without the convergence of all these factors. When they finally signal that we can board the bus, I am ready for the long bus ride (a daunting place for someone like me who wants to be up and moving around!) I simmer my movement down, returning to my slow booty rolls to accomodate the heavy bag propped against my right hip. I smile at the opportunities ahead, excited about all the beautiful kindred beings who will share in this Love-Joy with me.


Ps...a vintage Binah pic: Me leaping in "girlchild in the promisedland" for my senior recital at The College of William & Mary in 2004...my mother loves this picture!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The New Binah


This year for my birthday, I hosted a “Celebrate Binah Festival.” It involved three consecutive days of dance, celebration, and community gatherings. I wanted to leap into my 26th year with gratitude, enthusiasm, and of course as much dancing as possible. I really believe I have to be living the dance in order to be blessed by the dance.

The first day of the festival, which was also my actual birthday, I held a “Dream Dance-a-thon” at the Kennedy Center, my favorite OSA spot. For five hours I kept the sacred space of my dance laboratory that I had carved out of the open space of the Terrace. The sky, the beaming sun, the scorching concrete beneath my bare soles, and the occasional guard asking me for my phone number all came together to support the opening of the Celebrate Binah Festival. I invited the world to join me, physically, mentally, spiritually—whatever fit your fancy. My dear sister Samaa came to the sacred laboratory after a few hours and took a nap in the shade while I willed myself to dance, even when it seemed as though nothing was coming today.

Frustrated I was that I had allotted this concentrated five hours to dance magic and had yet to stumble across my next choreographic genius. I moved in circles, sang songs, chanted ancient sounds, waved my arms, bent my knees into funky angles, shook my booty to the sun—I did all these things and still three hours in, I didn’t “feel” the dance taking my over. I didn’t feel myself inside the groove of galactic, transformative movement that I was so sure was coming because it was my birthday and I had scheduled myself to be there for my creative awakening!


I knew this much: creativity comes organically and the only way to experience it is to be in the present moment. I thought I was pushing myself too much, so I lie down next to Samaa trying to get comfortable in the shade, and still was restless. I closed my eyes, pretended to meditate, still nothing. For a moment, I almost talked myself into leaving my own celebration early because it wasn’t going my way.

After a few minutes, I realized something really that seemed funny to me. I felt like I was waiting in the clearing of a big forest for a big miracle to drop on my head. It was like I was expecting some external sign to bless me with what to do next and in the meantime, I was missing out on the abundance of the present moment. Here I was, healthy, happy, whole, loved by everyone, blessed with birthday wished galore, in a huge space without any constrictions or limitations, and able to try any dance I wanted—and I wasn’t diving into the infinite possibilities of it all. The “ah-HAH!” moment for me was when I realized I was already inside The Love-Joy. The Love-Joy is what I am calling my movement; it’s not a company, or a troupe, or a school—but the “dance of infinite possibilities.” I thought to myself, “DUH, Binah! This is it! You’re in the Love-Joy! Dance! Dance! DANCE!”

I closed my eyes and saw that I was not in a forest waiting for a message from the Divine about my next creative project, but that I was in the fertile galaxy of my dance and every and anything was mine to craft and mold into a physical expression of my emotions, my stories, my relationships, my life. I saw light beams coming at me in all directions; I saw images of everything I want to do, all my dreams floating at me and all I need to do was reach out and grab it. I felt a surge of energy flow up from the ground and through my whole body. I started to run, to laugh, to play with lots of movement variations. I made myself the every-ready canvas and found new dances underneath old muscle memories. I began to have fun with myself and new I had finally arrived at my celebration.


Samaa awoke to me bounding from corner to corner, spinning, yelling, singing. I had tapped into my abundant creative zone and she came to dance with me for a bit before heading out to meet my mother at the grocery store to purchase surprise goodies for my birthday feast the next day. (Samaa is an amazing chef!)

I was soooooo happy to have embraced the power of the Love-Joy on my birthday. This is the space of limitless opportunity that I surrender to everyday as acceptance of the creative vessel that I know I am. Joy flooded my being as the dance flowed out easily and abundantly in my newfound awareness. And so it came to me to do a dance that honored the challenges and triumphs of my 25th year of life on this planet and Samaa recorded it for me. There’s so much more coming, and I am here, I am present, I am excited to be alive inside The Love-Joy.


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