Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dance performance in Congo.

The auspicious day arrived: my dance performance.

It was a crazy process to get to this point. The constant dancing, reviewing videos, studying the rhythms, asking about the history of the dances, watching dance troupe performances… I’ve hardly had a moment to myself. This has been a good and a bad thing, but for now I’ll think of it as a good thing.

Everyone needed to freshen up for the big show. Pierrick got a fresh haircut and shave. I… got my hair braided. It turned into something of a community activity, all of us sitting around, pruning one another.

The result was surprisingly good. I will likely cut my hair when I return home, but I will keep the success of this braiding in mind for the future.

My performance was intended to showcase the work I had done while in Congo. I thought this would have been more targeted to the local community. Instead, the decision was made to stage it outside of the city, near the rapids of the Congo River. This meant a procession of dancers, drummers, and children carrying drums and dance props, all streaming out of the neighborhood. We hailed a couple taxis, piled in (we were squeezing five into the back seat), and departed for the river.

While it was disappointing to lose the personal, community aspect of the performance, the aesthetics of location made up for the loss. There was also a spiritual component: visiting the Congo River, touching its waters, communing with the spirit of the river and the land. (I elected to not go swimming; I’m sure the ancestors of the river would forgive my intense fear of schistosomiasis. I waded in, spoke a silent prayer of thanks to earth and the universe, and then promptly got out and toweled off.)

Then it was time to get dressed. Goga furnished the costumes. The braided skirt accessory is a ceremonial adornment called a “raffia.” I later bought one of my own, a souvenir to bring back from the Congo.

I will upload video of the performance when I get home.

Afterwards, it was time for a quick swim to wash off. I opted out. Goga got a little silly and asked for a picture.

What is Africa without a little naked fun?

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