Home is Where The Dance Is
When I was 8, my claim to fame was ‘best dancer’ champion at family friends’ birthday parties. Yet, at that age, I never imagined that the at-home dance sessions and “Nkay, oya come and dance for us” my young adult aunties would demand, would materialize as a career largely based in dance. I knew I was magnetized by dance, and dancers. Yet, I didn’t have the ‘when I grow up I want to be a dancer’ ambition. I never imagined it was something a person could be.
Typically for people of African descent, dance is in the fabric of our being. It’s a core part of our social environment. It’s how we pass time. How we survive. How we show love. Most of our introduction to dance was ‘informal’. You didn’t need permission, or second-by-second instruction of what and how you moved.
When I got this opportunity to Guest Edit, I knew that I wanted to start from ‘the beginning’. The home. I was excited about exploring how dance shows up for us without the barriers of institutions, without the constraints of capitalism, and without the judgment of society.
This issue explores our intimate and informal connections to dance. Even though the feature articles focus on ‘dancer-dancers’, I wanted to know more than what we see on stage, or in classes or at events. You get to explore how traditional dance practice in diaspora connects back to the places of origin via three Bay Area multi-generational African Dance families; Dioufs (Diamano Coura), Muisi-kongo & Kiazi Malonga (Fua Dia Congo), and Kanukai Chigamba (Chinyakare Ensemble).
‘Ancestral Re-memberance’ employs prayer and a playlist to connect to our roots. ‘Uninterrupted Refuge’, and ‘Wash Spin Repeat’ poetically express emotions associated with dance at home. ‘1st Dance Party’ and ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of the Soul Train Line’ are hilarious takes on our connections to dance in social environments. In ‘How We Danced At Home’, we see regular folk who don’t consider themselves dancers share memories. ‘The Conga will set you free’, and ‘Discarding our Dance means Defacing Ourselves’ are willful reflections on tradition in the face of societal erasure.
As we continue to emerge from isolation I invite you to dance with 8 year-old me, through this issue.
This article appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of In Dance.