Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dancing in Brazzaville: a validation.

Sometimes I wonder if mosquitos can laugh. The way they seem to ignore my bug net, the way they will float around my ear, just to let me know they’re there – somewhere. It must be them mocking me.

Overnight, I got bites on practically every inch of my index finger. It’s swollen to the point that I cannot bend it into a fist.

Later that night, we went out dancing. Joined by Jean and his friend, we met up with Pierrick and a few of his friends. Pierrick is the person Muisi-kongo, my dance instructor, put me in touch with. I was surprised that Pierrick would bring his friends so far out – halfway to Talangai, which is a long trek – but he’s cool like that.

Went into this bar that was deserted, save for the staff and one woman dancing on the floor. Afro-pop music was pumping through the loudspeakers. The entire space felt like a meat locker, with its ten-something A/C units working full-blast. It was a little saddening to see them so grossly overestimate demand. Hope springs eternal, right?

Me and a few of the others got to dancing. It was my first time catching a groove in the Congo, and I’d say I wasn’t too shabby. We were all solo dancing, but playing off one another endlessly. This is the kind of club dancing I can enjoy – one where its interactive. It reminded me of soloing at a blues venue. They immediately picked up on my movements and would mimic it or engage in a call-and-response. Way fun. Pierrick seemed really impressed with my movement.

After an hour or so, we parted ways. I wanted to go back home, but Jean pushed for another bar stop. We picked another – this one with outdoor patio seating surrounding a central dance floor. The seating was packed, the dance floor was empty. Something about being exposed in the round like that makes it very difficult to start the dance pack. You feel like you’re on display. Satisfied with my dance experience, I sat back and nursed a beer while the company chatted intermittently in French.

When it was finally time to go, I got up and happened to be waiting by the door. Out of sight for most, I grooved a bit to the song playing. Maybe 30 seconds tops. Then we’re out the door, but just moments later I’m accosted by a tall man, speaking assertively to me in French. “Uh… uh… no… parlez vouz Fran├žois …” I was worried I had done something wrong.

Jean translated: “He says he’s extremely pleased by your dancing. You move like a traditional African dancer. He wants to know how you learned to dance so well.”

I returned home and soon went to bed, a smile from ear to ear plastered on my face.

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