How To Dance From Your Soul and Not Embarrass Your Ancestors
“Moving With My Back And My Hips Like My Ancestors Did” — Jill Scott
All my life I’ve always felt the NEED to dance, as if a spirit was constantly wrestling inside of me to express it myself. Today, 24 houses into my first real trip to Haiti, that spirit set itself free.
The community where I’m working in Mon P’tit Village located in Leogan has been working diligently to repair the ruins that were left after the tranbleman tè (direct translation: The Trembling of the floor) that devastated Haiti several years ago. But when the people of Mon P’tit Village aren’t working — they’re celebrating life through spiritual praise. Singing, eating, praying and of course dancing.
The community’s Head dancer and choreographer Maxo entertained the community with a traditional Haitian dance. I watched in awe observing the role his movement played in the community. His dance, every jerk of his spine and kick of his foot resonated with the people — as if his body language spoke for everyone. As if his dance articulated all of their untold stories.
I always suspected that this was role that dance played for our cultural ancestors. Before the commercialization of it. Before the pimping of it. Before bands ever made anyone dance, spirits did. Some people felt spiritual frequency on a level so deep it forced them to dance. People that weren’t gifted with the expression of body language but we’re still divinely touched especially valued dancers.
Soon after Maxo took a bow someone volunteered for my JussCome Haitian-American ass to perform next.
My face tho… 😳
But alas who am I turn to down a performance for a culture so rich in its appreciation for art and spirituality? I had no choice but to buss a move. One thing I’ve learned for certain along my journey is that your gifts are not yours to keep and you should share them as often as possible. So that I did.
It’s really interesting improvising a cultural dance for a culture you have a diluted relationship with. Yes I’m Haitian, but I’m way more American. Born outside of Boston and lived in the U.S. all my life. Prior to this gig, I’ve only been to Haiti once when I was a year old and of course don’t remember a lick of it. But yet there I was, summoned by the Queen to perform for the people — a real Haitian dance in front of a real Haitian community. Woy! I wanted to emulate the raw emotion of Maxo’s and in turn honor my people! But it wasn’t long before my first generation ass went OFF in true New York fashion. Brooklyn was certainly in the house! The drums took me away. People walked out of their apartments and started to gather around. I saw smiles of approval. And the fact that I was dancing before a crowd of Haitians IN Haiti, the place that created my mother, father, grandmother and every ancestor I’ve ever had post the Trans-Atlantic slave trade made my soul queef. I lived.
After a few rounds of free-styling with the majestic ness that is M I had to tap out. After a hearty applause, I came back to my room dumped myself in the shower and passed out on my mosquito fish-netted bed immediately. I was tired and my soul was exhausted. For over 20 years it’s been begging me to play outside and today it ran wild and free — like a fearless child chasing the sunset.
Take Away: Honor your soul. Respect its story, because it’s bigger than you and your puny little finite life. Your soul is ancient and bares the story of your ancestors and they passed it down to you for a reason. Make it a goal to always express your gift. People dig that. Even in tiny villages on tiny islands across the world.
*When You Find What You Love In Life, Go Dance With It