What do we humans really have in common anyway? Everything, according to some. And painfully little according to others. However, there is at least one undeniable fact. That regardless of shape, size, or colour, we all have a body. And that is where we live our life from. That's where we hang out day to day. It’s where we breathe from, where we love from and where we grow through life from. Right?
I’ve spent my whole life in a hugely paradoxical relationship with my body, by first of all inhibiting it as my home, by secondly becoming hyper conscious of every small possibility of my body through dance, and thirdly, by spending large chunks of my life, running as far away from my body as possible. And when I look around, I know I am not alone.
Everyday when I look around I see so many people who are simply not home. They are fleeing from their body. For whatever reason they are not present. They disassociate from their bodies and fly off into lala land somewhere. Some work against their body, pushing, self punishing, or self harming. Or some are simply somewhere else, never stopping to check in with themselves, never being present to truly hear the pangs of hunger, the desperate call for sleep, or the shaky nerves of stress. Many times I still catch myself doing the same, and in one way or another, fleeing my home.
Dancing has been both my saviour and my worst enemy when it comes to truly knowing and loving my body. Each person has their own dance journey, and will find solace in different styles and experiences. I have come to find that each dance brings an particular energy to a person. Like a gift or a lesson which you swallow with each step, until you let it transform you.
My journey started with Ballet. Ballet epitomised the ‘flee your body’ energy. The very structure of ballet seems to defy nature and the ideas it brought to my body were ones of perfectionism, hard work, and never good enough. Ballet taught me to work against my body, pushing through pain, injury and sickness to reach an unattainable goal. And then ballet taught me to disassociate. That sneaky, overused trick. It’s like you leave the lights on and the TV going, but you have fled your house. No one is home. This is a dangerous trick to play.
People come to use this method to cope with their life for a myriad of reasons. A trauma, a specific life event, grief, or a ballet class. The list of possibilities is endless. But one thing is for sure, we are living in a world of many vacant bodies.
Later I discovered the call of African dancing. I learnt Senegalese Sabar as well as traditional dances from Guinea, Ghana and Colombia. The live drumming, grounded and body shaking movements brought me back to myself with a wild snap. I came back to my body, I came home. The healing earth energy of these dances was extremely powerful, and freeing. It felt like someone had taken me back into my house and told me it was time for a spring clean. With every foot stomp, whirling arm and cutting leap I cleared out my body. I let go of so much 'stuff' I did not even realise I carried with me each day. Eventually, the wildness of the dance wore me out, I felt like I had been through an emotional washing machine, and I wanted a more gentle healing.
Then I met Kizomba. Finally, I really came back home. Many people have talked about the healing aspect of Kizomba, people often comment about the sea of calm that seems to ooze out of the kizomba room. And they are right. Because, Kizomba invites us back to ourselves. Ever so gently, yet with great power, Kizomba gives us a space to return to our bodies, be present, explore and express ourselves.
The groundedness and smoothness of the movements hold us in a safe earth dance container where we can come back to the moment of the dance. The music holds us in the present. The isolations and control through our lower bodies calls us back to ourselves and asks us to really pay attention. The subtleties and difficulty of the dance makes sure our mind cannot drift. We cannot dissociate. Then when we are feeling comfortable, taking time to reconnect with our bodies, which we have no doubt ignored and abandoned for the majority of the day, Kizomba takes us one step further. Kizomba invites us to share our home with someone else.
When we share the kizomba embrace with someone, be it a partner, friend, or total stranger, we come into a new state of connection. We are connected with ourselves, and then, to make the dance work, we extend this presence to be with our partner. To really get into that Kizomba melt stage we have to allow our partner to share our home for the duration of a dance, or two, or three. We have to give them trust. We have to stay with them, and dance with them. We do not have to dance for anyone else. Because Kizomba does not invite spectators. Infact, she discourages them. Tricking them with her supposed simplicity, she saves the subtle beauty of the dance to be shared between the dancers. Onlookers only see that bubble of calm which extends from the dancer's matching sleepy smiles they don’t even realise they share.
The curious onlooker thinks a kaleidoscope of things when they see the dreamy Kizomba dance. Their mind races to all sorts of strange places. Many probably flick the dissociation switch right there and then. Or they at least think about how the closeness of the dance would make them want to promptly flee their own home. I have spoken to several people who would do anything to avoid dancing kizomba at all costs. And of course many others who thinks it's a bit of grindy, grindy, sexy time with strangers. Because again, kizomba invites us into our bodies in a way that is not so common. It invites us to be in a platonic sort of intimacy, a non sexual touch with others. A kind of touch that many people can only relate to sexual intimacy. And of course, there spirals the ‘bad reputation’, or rather, misinformation about kizomba.
Without going into details, I will say that Kizomba has been an integral part of my personal healing journey, and has allowed me the space and time to reconnect to myself in a beautiful way. The dance has invited me home, and allowed me to experience blissful mindfulness without having to be alone on a meditation cushion in a remote ashram. It has allowed me to express myself with my body in a way that honours my femininity in a safe embrace. And it has allowed me to meet many beautiful humans who have shared in their own version of the kizomba journey, and are coming back to their own homes.
May you continue to meet and love yourself through movement.
~Genevieve Rogan ~ 26/ 4/2017
~Photography - David Bonnell ~