I fit at least one stereotype about black people; I can dance. I especially love to twist my hips, move my legs, and shake my shoulders to the tantalizing beat of Reggae, R&B, Latin, Pop, Gospel, and all kinds of music. I dance at home, in church, in the mall, at the gym, on the sidewalk, and just about everywhere.
When I saw the HBO documentary “El Espirtu De La Salsa” (The Spirit of Salsa), I was drawn to the gyrating music and moves of Salsa. However, I would never have expected that I would gain the dance lesson of my life.
El Espirtu De La Salsa brought people from all over New York City to Spanish Harlem, to upgrade their Salsa. Classes were lead by Latin Dance instructor, Thomas Guerrero, who prepared participants for an upcoming community performance.
The show was particularly interesting as it went beyond dancing to showcase the individual lives and characters of the participants. As a healthy single woman, my eyes feasted on the police officer, for no other reason other than the fact that he was pretty good to look at. But it was the single mother (for anonymity I will call her Maria), who grabbed my attention.
In one rehearsal, Maria seemed to be having fun showing off her Salsa moves. The problem was that her moves were completely out of sync with her partner, and the rest of the class. With the performance fast approaching, Guerrero expressed frustration with her for not practicing the group steps. Like a bull dog, she barked, in her defence. She said ‘she practiced, she was good, and she was not the problem!’
After some argumentative ranting, Maria apologized to Thomas, and appeared to calm down. I don’t know if the impetus for her apology was the blinding lights of the TV cameras, or the realization that she may be embarrassing herself on national TV. But I hope it may have been because she saw what she world saw. She was self-centred, hard-of-hearing, and a ‘my way’ kind of lady!
As I watched Maria’s story, I saw an answer to one of my greatest problem. I have never been able to follow a guy in a slow or Latin dance. He just couldn’t get on to my sensual moves, I thought! The idea of me letting go of me, and following his lead, was not a consideration. Like Maria, I could be a bull-dog, ready to rip apart anyone who tried to push me on that point.
But this day was different. As I listened to Thomas, I saw myself in a Salsa dance, totally glued to my partner, knowing and meticulously following his every move. I saw that dancing with a partner was not about how I moved, or how good I looked. It was about my ability to lose myself in his arms, forget my mind, and trust the leadership of my partner. It was about my ability to follow and trust the leadership of my partners in life. It was about losing Maria!
When I had the Stroke, I lost the Maria in me. I lost my ability to argue or talk-back to anyone. I lost the ability to run my own life. I lost the ability to say, “I am right.”
My heart filled with happiness, and I seemed to be always smiling. It was a joy to listen to God, my inner-voice, my family, my friends, my doctors, my physiotherapists, and just about everyone. I lost my hunger for perfection in me. I saw perfection in the dance I was doing with the people in my life.
Today, the Maria in me is not gone. However, she is like a visible red stop sign. So when I see her, I can choose to stop my single, know it all dance. I can choose to be more. I can choose to surrender and dance with the partners around me. In that space, I find knowledge, peace, joy, love and the answer to being all that I can be.
Copyright © 2010 M. Dawn Armstrong. All rights reserved.