Wednesday, November 24, 2010

#6 Carnival {10 things I want from Trinidad}

“The soul of the people is in its dance…”

Imagine. A whole country dancing, everyone finding some rhythm in the body, some interpretation of the space, and sharing it with the whole. This is paradise to me. Not just the fancy costumes, and Trinidad’s tropical climate, and the sensual abundance of the féte—but Carnival as the ultimate communal dance jam is ecstasy to me! It is massive, and the whole island stops to commemorate its majesty. This is ancient genius at its best, an annual ritual where everybody belongs! Again, in the expert opinion of a Visionary Space Activator, the human community’s collective dance is how we reach world peace. Carnival is literally how we move in love.

I first heard of Carnival in a GQ magazine when I was about 16. A big feature story opened with a Carnival Queen’s huge gold feathers taking up both pages. I remember thinking, “I belong in her world. There is something here for me.” A few months after coming across the article, my friend Keita’s mother, who was from Trinidad, took a group of us to Washington, DC’s Carnival in June 1998. My life was transformed forever.

HOW I had managed to grow up in DC, just across town from this annual communal soul celebration and never know about it, blew my mind. I was soooooo at home in Carnival's street, being carried by the force of the people down Georgia Avenue. The loud bands blasting music from the trucks, the mud people streaking through us with glee. Keita’s mom bought all of us Trini flags to wave in the air, and we jumped and danced down the mashed up parade—I was in heaven!

After that little taste of dance divine, I started to crave more and more carnival. I wanted to go to New York’s labor day carnival, and then to Toronto’s…I wanted to dance in every carnival there was. I read After the Dance: A walk through Jacmel, by Edwidge Danticat (one of my favorites), and wanted to dance Haiti’s carnival. I decided I was part Bahiain somewhere in my blood and wanted to go to Salvador’s carnival. But more than any other country, I wanted to know Trinidad’s carnival. That instant resonation I felt all those years ago as a teen flipping through pages of a magazine is still strong within my spirit today.

As a Visionary Space Activator who has spent much of her life in places where movement is not fully celebrated, who grew up in a country where the closest thing to national celebration is the Superbowl—Carnival presents the ultimate opportunity to dance in peace with my tribe of indigenous dancing, booty-shaking, soul gyrating humans. Such people are certainly scattered throughout all nations. But the intensity of a million dancing bodies in one place is a spiritual retreat for someone like me who is often the only body dancing up the space. I have been loved and feared alike in the United States for my spontaneous, open space dance process. I am excited to surrender myself to the communal movement, where it's already understood that everyone can dance here.

As much as I have wanted to experience Trinidad’s carnival for myself, I have also always wanted to witness life in the country when it wasn’t carnival time. So, I chose to start my dance residency in November and stay through the winter (we’ll there is no winter in Trinidad!) months and participate in carnival in March. I am sure what little I think I know about Carnival will be exploded into a symphony of wondrous, paradoxical happenings. Whatever it is I do finally experience, the dance will lead me through!

Stay tuned to the JOYISM! blog for the complete series, "10 things I want from Trinidad." Also, I will be writing about my dance journeys in Trinidad and posting them to the JOYISM! blog. Subscribe to the blog, join JOYISM!'s mailing list, "like" JOYISM! on facebook--stay connected to the dance!

Contribute! Make a donation to JOYISM!'s Trinidad dance residency at any time. Your support is always appreciated and is strengthening my ability to create dance and peaceful exchanges with communities around the world. Find out more about my program in Trinidad at

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