The Power of Dance
my frozen Canadian hips don't lie
No amount of expert driving was going to stop me from smashing into the side of Land Rover as we tumbled our way down the path. I knew we were getting close though because I could hear drums and singing rising over the sound of gravel under the tires.
When we got there the community was out in full force, singing, dancing, welcoming us and I, the funny Canadian proudly sporting her brightly coloured chitenge, got out and busted a move. My hips did the talking for me, as I shook hands and laughed, and danced with these wonderful people who were going to let me sit on their meeting.
I didn’t speak the language and I didn’t understand much of what was going on, so it wasn’t until after, back at the animator’s house, that my Zambian coworkers told me we had arrived hours late and the community had been up in arms until I had come out dancing, and it was so funny, [and so good- I swear it was also so. damn. good.] that they had forgotten all about being mad and just danced with me instead.
behold. The power of dance.
Later, my coworkers also told me, “we didn’t know you could dance like that!”
That’s because I couldn’t before. But I had practiced. I practiced in rural communities when they sang welcome songs and drummed under the moon and in the morning we talked about women’s rights being human rights. When my coworkers welcomed me into their offices on my first day in Zambia. After the world cup qualifying soccer match, in the living room of a woman my age who had started a school for girls. Making one-pot pasta in matching zebra leggings with my Canadian Zamsisters. In the shelter with the girls teaching me their games singing about peri peri sauce.
My frozen Canadian hips had finally thawed.
And it was wonderful.
And years later, at home in Canada, I attended a wedding and the music started and called to my hips with the same beats that had finally found me in Zambia. I hit the dance floor, moving in a way that made me smile the way you can only do when your heart is full. When you know you’ve mastered a skill and are moving with confidence and joy and pride and it comes out of you in every way, from your eyes to your hips. It felt so good.
A man saw me dancing and walked over to me.
“Why do you dance like such a slut?”
it Doesn’t matter what country we live in. We’ve got some work to do.
The group that sent me to Zambia, VIDEA, is working actively for gender rights and youth empowerment, both here at home in Canada, and overseas, is an incredible organization and I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. I’ve almost never seen an organization do so much with so little. Every year they do a fundraising campaign, and I’ll be making a donation to Lynn, the ED’s team this year. If you’re so inclined here is the link