Dancing Queen, Day 3: West African

What in the what now?

It’s Day 3 of this dancing week and that means West African…

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So by now you know that I choose dance classes based on just how intriguing they sound. I didn’t know anything about West African. And I’m not entirely sure I know any better now other than WOW.

I thought the little bit of samba Afro-Cuban Jazz had drizzled in was difficult. At least my ten year old self knew a thing or two about ballet and those elements, and while it was a struggle to hold my limbs in certain places at certain times, at least it was my speed.

Oh man, the speed.

I am starting to get that while all of the classes I picked for this series are labeled “beginner,” they are drop-in classes and tailored more towards “all levels.” And while I was never unwelcome and everyone was very helpful, for a total beginner like myself, this was definitely an upward hike for two hours. One of the others in the class had never taken West African before, but she clearly had dance experience, and she took to it with panache and a bit more grace than I did. I kept practicing getting out of my head, not getting sucked down into the pit of “I can’t do this.” And just kept going. I had a singular focus in class and that was to watch the instructors’ feet and copy them to the best of my ability.

You could tell the dancers with more experience from those who didn’t, not just because they were executing the dance moves with more finesse but because they had tied skirts around their work out pants.

For the first hour or so, the instructor and the more experienced dancers (members, I assume, of Afromoda Theatre, the group providing these classes at Joy of Motion) walked us through different dance sequences while drummers trickled in and out. This was pretty fun, despite the escalating difficulty, but even more fun was just watching the more experienced dancers.

This became even more true after we’d practiced our dance moves and all of the drummers were present and accountable in the room. The instructor had us lined up against one wall, and in 2s or 3s, we would cross the room doing dance sequences.

This was AMAZING. I felt like a warrior at war with the drummers. First, listening acutely for the drum that told you when to jump into motion, as if you were darting into the fabric of the music, only able to escape unscathed if you hit this step and that step. And then there was the advance, as one bold dance move after another took you closer and closer to the drummers.

Did I mention how much sweat was spilled all over that dance floor? Didn’t matter how masterful you were, this was no joke.

The class was capped with a freestyle circle, in which dancers would come directly in front of the drummers, egging them on, I swear. They would feed off each other, driving each other to wilder and wilder heights.

I am so tired, so aware of how uncoordinated I am, but oh so happy to have been part of that.

NOTE: As a budding filmmaker, I am highly inspired by how invigorating dance is. I want to shoot a series of Dance Gives Me Life videos around Washington, D.C. I want to showcase the city, showcase different kinds of dance, and most of all, showcase how dance gives me and others life! If you’re a dance or a filmmaker local to Washington, DC and this sounds invigorating to you, email me at thecreativity.ambassador@gmail.com.

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