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03/09/2011

Dance, sweat and fears...

Before I begin, I have to first give credit for this to my friend Alex. She, after hearing our dance instructor say this, made a mental note to write a blog entry about it, so I borrowed her mental note, because I wanted to share all of this with everyone at home too!

So, we’re in the middle of our African Dance (for semester study abroad students, making it a lot easier for us to just let loose and not worry because it’s new to all of us) class, and we were doing some across the floor combinations. The instructor, for the first couple of lines, would be doing the steps just as he taught them. Oddly enough, though, as he continued going with more lines, he would start improvising and moving in whatever way he felt like moving. Some were disconcerted & confused, as they were relying on him to follow the steps that they weren’t exactly understanding (African Dance – pretty different from anything you do in the States). So, he came over, and said this to us:

I’m in a different mode… Or what is it you say… frequency? Yes, I’m on another frequency.

One of my favorite things about this African Dance class is that we are constantly reminded just to let go. Central to the dance form we are learning is an appreciation of the music, of how the dance is just an extension of the music, and how dance is interactive and fun for an audience. Too many times we, as students, are caught up in the intricacies of footwork, of arm placement, and of distance being traveled. Too much worry breeds an inability to focus on expressing yourself; instead, you’re just trying to become perfect (a la Nina Sawyer in Black Swan). We are all guilty at times of partially driving ourselves mad trying  to nail a step. However, what that statement tells me is that there is something missing in that style of dancing: there’s no fun.

African Dance (whatever that may be – in our lecture we have debated the idea of what is African Dance, but for all intents and purposes here I’m just using African Dance as a generally name for the specific styles we’re learning) is about fun.

That’s why we need to let ourselves go – we need to be able to get out of our own heads and enjoy the dance. Our focus was all in the wrong place, and once that was pointed out, everything changed for me. No longer was I trying to be one of the few who can nail a combination, to show that I was paying attention and caring. I let go yesterday. And while I did end up making some slight mistakes on some of the combinations, I didn’t care.

That’s brand new for me. All I did was have fun, and the feelings, the expression, and the energy began to flow. I think my instructor could sense it, because he was feeding off the energy as well. African Dance is about an exchange of energies, and I finally got to the place where my energy is ready to be exchanged (as strange as that sounds).

Although this lesson mostly applies to African Dance, I think it’s a perfect metaphor for how Cape Town is changing me. I used to be slightly anal retentive, paranoid about doing something wrong, always worried that I was going to be unable to live up to expectations in school, with friends, and in other aspects of my life.

After coming to Cape Town, I’ve learned perhaps the most important lesson I needed to learn: chill. There’s no need to be rushing around everywhere, and no need to be psyching myself out about acing an exam.  While I am here to learn, I’m also here to take advantage of everything Cape Town has to offer me. So while that may mean skipping class every once in a while to go to the beach, or missing out on some hanging out with friends to go volunteer, I’m no longer worried about what I could be doing, or what I should be doing better.

Thank you Cape Town, for finally making me see that I just need to live on the frequency of the music, need to just do what naturally comes to me, need to embrace every opportunity that comes my way. But most importantly, thank you for throwing some black swan into my white swan’d self.

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168715_1866092897215_1387800043_32260737_2189714_n Thomas Delay is a student from the George Washington University.

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