A couple of months back, I was sitting in a bus buried in my thoughts, listening to my favourite kizomba tune on my iPod via headphones. Closing my eyes, as if to internalise every beat, I wondered: Who comes up with these things? Who makes the rules for these structured dances? Who decides the formula? Then I thought to myself, who cares? This music is so good. Just enjoy it. I suddenly started moving to the beat, I saw myself gliding across a well-lit dance floor. I couldn’t decide whether my dance partner was Michael Ealy, a younger version of Johnny Depp or Neymar Jr. Don’t judge. A girl is allowed to dream. Oh well, let them sort it out and find out who can dance kizomba, I concluded as I did each kizomba step to the letter. From the three basic steps to the Saida. I Was on fire! Untouchable. In fact, I swore I was so into it that I stopped in the middle of the routine , forgot I was dancing a structured dance and started moving to the infamous Mc Hammer tune; “Tururu turu turu. Can’t touch this!”
A tap on my shoulder startled me out of my crazy thoughts and into reality. I opened my eyes to find an amused blonde pretty woman smiling down at me. She was trying to say something so I took my headphones off. “Is the seat next to you free? “She asked in a friendly voice. I thought her smile was weird until I realised she was trying hard not to laugh. I hoped I hadn’t been singing out loud in a bus full of people. That would have been so embarrassing!
“Yes.” I replied as I hurriedly moved over next to the window to let her sit, almost mortified of my preceding thoughts. If she only knew. Scared to go back to those wild fantasies I put my headphones back in my purse and decided to enjoy the rest of the ride without music.
“I guess you are also going to the Kizomba dance festival.” The lady said after a few minutes of awkward silence.
“As a matter of fact I am” I responded as if it was the most natural thing to start a conversation with a total stranger on a bus. Wait. How did she know I was going to the dance?
“Me too! I saw the ticket in your hand and I knew it straight away.” She exclaimed in excitement, totally robing me of the chance to speculate further. “This will be my fourth festival. I have been dancing for three years now. Kizomba is such a beautiful dance.”
“Wow! you must be really good.” I said in utter admiration.
“Am sure am not as good as you. You guys just have it in you.” What did she mean by you guys?
Not knowing what to say I simply smiled very coyly and turned to look outside the window.
“I mean, Kizomba originates from Africa and……” She wanted to explain. Could she have been reading my mind?
“Actually….” I tried to cut into her sentence but was interrupted by the ringing of her phone. She answered it. After she finishes with her phone call I will explain. I thought to myself only for her to almost immediately stand up. Apparently She had just realised that some of her friends were on the bus as well and preferred to sit with them.
“It was nice meeting you. Can’t wait to see you rock the dance floor.” She said as she left to take another seat. There was no chance for a counter response.
Damn it!!! She took off before I could set the record straight. How dare she leave before I could tell her I had never danced kizomba in my life and I hadn’t the slightest clue of the Do’s and Don’ts. At that time, the closest I had ever gotten to that dance was the wild fantasies in my head and watching videos on YouTube! I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. What if I embarrass myself? I am an African woman. I am supposed to know how to dance something that comes from my continent, right? I contemplated telling the driver to stop the shuttle bus so I could get off and go home. What I felt at that moment can only be compared to how a fish out of water must feel. My palms became sweaty as my mind reluctantly wondered to a very disturbing memory. This couldn’t happen again.
I remembered how one night, I decided to attend a West Coast Swing dance party for the first time. I don’t need to tell you how clueless I was about the swing dance. You should have seen me walk in there though, it was the kind of walk Usain Bolt has before a race. My plan was just to take the side-lines, watch people twist and move to this mysterious but somewhat interesting dance.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the Dj decided to play one of my favourite songs. Mark Ronson’s and Bruno Mars’ genius hit, ‘Uptown Funk’ hit the sound system and filled the dancing hall with rythmic beats. It would be a sin not to dance to it. It was like I suddenly became possessed by some unknown power that was taking no quarter despite my attempts to remain static. Oblivious to everything around me, my feet started to head towards the dance floor. I was no longer the master of my actions.Whatever it was I was doing had nothing to do with the dance of the night. I moved every inch of my body to the beat. Hands raised high and mouth busy singing along.You would think i was auditioning for a singing competition. Breathing rapidly, my body stopped simultaneously with the last beat of the song. It then dawned on me that I had just given some of the dancers the shock of their lives. My cheeks felt really heavy and hot. I wished the ground could have opened and swallowed me alive. My eyes met with some smiling faces, and some judging and condemning looks. A group of ladies looked at me with astonishment. Mouths wide agape as if they had just had an encounter with a ghost. I wondered what they were thinking. Maybe “Who brought this one here?” Or “Are we even in a west coast swing party?” Or “Nobody told me we were going to do the rain dance.” Or “some people have the nerve.” I was beside myself with embarrassment. That is how I left the floor and was never to be seen on it for the rest of the night.
The sages had a saying that a burnt child dreads the fire, but there I was again, seated in a shuttle bus going to a kizomba dance festival. Yet another dance that I had no clue about. I just knew I loved it so much I was willing to throw myself in the deep end. Then, just in the nick of time, when I was almost giving up on myself, I had a revelation. Wait a minute. This is not a competition. There is absolutely no way everyone can dance the same because everyone has their own style. Dance is an expression of art to which every single person has his or her own interpretation. If I love this dance so much, why don’t I just learn the fundamentals and customise the rest to suit the movements of my body? So what if I don’t dance like so and so? I am there to enjoy myself. So what if I don’t meet people’s expectations like the lady on the bus. What’s the worst that can happen? Nobody will kill me, they may not dance with me and that is it. I will surely not die if a few people don’t dance with me. With this new gained confidence, I stepped out of the bus and into the huge hall. Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know whether what i was dancing was the “proper” kizomba or not. All I know is I kept on being asked to the dance floor and I couldn’t feel my feet the next day. If only I applied this to my everyday life, it would make things a little bit easier. Well, if I did I wouldn’t be writing this blog post.
You see my dear friends. The dance floor of the world is full of surprises. Dj Life will play us different kinds of music to which we are expected to structurally dance to. It is a vital requirement to follow every rule as set by the dance teachers, who are the different societies that we live in. The irony is, everyone has their own ability of dancing. No two people will ever dance the same. Yet we are so eager to blend in and try as much as humanly possible to force our bodies to dance like everyone else. We don’t want to dance anything outside the set regulated steps lest we get stared at or laughed at or even ridiculed. Just because we miss a step or move differently doesn’t mean we are bad dancers, it is just a way of our bodies showing new movements we thought we could never make. Or our bodies simply telling us that they are uncomfortable doing other people’s moves.Maybe that particular dance isnt for us, maybe we just need to tune it a little. The ball is in our court, we either suppress our newly found body movements and hide all the beauty in it, so we can dance like everyone else and not draw attention to ourselves, or we embrace our different dance moves even if we shake some feathers.
Let us make a pact. Let us not be afraid to explore our uniqueness, our abilities, our God given talents just because we don’t want to dance out of tune. If we love something, provided our hearts are in the right place, then we should be able to go for it. We may not be able to please or impress everyone but we will live to see our inner greatness. It is, like most huge steps in life, easier said than done, but the rewards are simply fulfilling. The time to tune the dance has come. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained. For if we don’t tune the dance of life to our own beat, nobody will.
Author: Philly Yambo Makora