Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Dance Brings You Home"

I was blessed to participate in the recent Symposium on North African Dance & Culture at Rutgers University, Newark. When I signed up for this event, I had no idea of what I was getting myself into. I just knew that I have a desire to research why people dance. When I heard Morocco (Caroline Varga Dinicu) open with "Where there is no dance there is no life" I was intrigued. When Amel Tafsout later said "dance brings you home" I knew I had much to learn.

Morocco spoke on Dance As Community Identity in Selected Berber Nations of Morocco. I was fascinated by the Guedra, which means spreading soul's love and peace to the beat of the heart. In North African dance you learn dance in the family. It is communal - people dance as a way of life. Dance is their pride and a statement of their ethnicity.

Amel Tafsout, who is from Algeria, spoke on body Art: Symbols, Henna and Tattoos in the Maghreb. During our movement workshop she spoke with such pain and passion about the persecution of her people but when she danced she was filled with joy. She explained that when she dances, she is with her grandmother, who taught her to dance. "Dance is such an integral part of their society, that everyone learns the dances from the grandparents, parents, siblings, etc..."

As I danced with Morocco and Amel I thought about how many in our culture do not dance. I thought about my students who have never seen their parents dance. Our dances are taught in studios and schools, sometimes without meaning, just as a means or performance. I wonder would our children, our society be different if dance were more a part of our daily lives, our celebrations. Dance brings such a release for so many. So why don't we dance daily, at family gatherings, in church, in school?

This year as we celebrate my dad's 86 years of life at our family Thanksgiving celebration, we're going to dance - maybe Swing dance (which he did in his younger days) or just a line dance. I believe we will all remember that experience much longer than the turkey or the drama that sometimes comes along with family. I'll let you know how it turns out.

I dance because dance always brings me home!

Friday, November 6, 2009


This year to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month we introduced ZUMBA to the students and staff. We had a great time learning dance movements from Salsa, Merengue, Cha-Cha, Reggaeton and Cumbia. It was a great opportunity to show my students how Hispanic culture has influenced our world. It was great to see students dancing with each other and being excited and happy about dancing merengue and salsa. They didn't get into arguments about where they were from and who danced better - they just danced. The parents were treated to a morning ZUMBA class - which they loved. As the parents danced I heard them yell out "Yeah Daddy Yankee" and "We're not used to sweating like this!" This workout is a great way to lose weight, exercise with your family or just learn about Hispanic culture. How different the world the dance would look without the contributions of Hispanic culture. Look for your local ZUMBA class. Its a great workout and a way to continue to dance your way to good health.