Dancing my way to liberation

2009-10-17 11:22

AMA is Abomey’s star dancer and chief of the dance conservatory. He is also the

man hired to teach me the dance of the Amazon ­warriors.

It’s our third lesson and I am yet to see the star quality in his dancing, and leadership. And if there’s one thing not to be messed with, it’s me on the dance floor.

I have been dancing since April this year. The act carries meaning in many ­aspects of my life. Morbidly obese, I needed the benefits of “moving my body”.

The effects were starting to show when I got to Conakry in June. There, I spent three weeks as Aicha, a dance student with Soro village’s Ballet Theatre Afrikan, a delicious mix of high-voltage primal beats and wobble-shaking traditional aerobic dancing. My word, I was on fire!

Mountains of lard leaping and stomping to ­ovation because that was how determined I was to lose all my fat, I even set paces for people who had been physical all their lives. My motto ­being that there are ­journeys that we go on spurred by necessity. And once you start, you keep going, hopefully expanding the miracles within the journey.

Losing my excess weight was an epic journey from the start. I have continued dancing because I have discovered another benefit: connectivity. I am travelling in a ­region that I genuinely consider my home. So dancing is a way of remaining in West Africa long after I am gone.

For instance, my body remembers Guinea every time I move to a part of the sunu dance. I am also dancing because I would otherwise have little in ­common with West Africa.

Traditions here run so incredibly deep that even today there are ­toddlers bearing tribal facial marks and some teen girls sans their ­clitorises.

I believe in fluidity. I constantly crave change and am bound to leap into it, especially if it allows for straying from tradition. So the chance of ­tradition turning into an albatross hanging around my neck is non-existent. It’s one of a thousand differences, I refuse to accept. Things like religious homophobia.

Dancing has broken barriers. It also allowed me to connect with women I would otherwise not have shared an important link with – like me, a single vagabond, and Oumou who is wife number three and ­mother to 12. To her, I am somewhat “lost”, whereas she’s “definitely caged” to me.

Our hips being possessed by a ­primal beat made sisters of us. Dancing also ties me to the past and allows me a slice of the ­future.
In Benin’s past this was the home of King Guezo between 1812 and 1858; brutal and fearsome to a point of ­having his throne mounted on the skulls of four ­beheaded enemies. Enemies, I think, who were killed by the 6 000 fearsome female warriors the king surrounded himself with. They were so fearless they “cut their breasts if they were too big” and deemed to be a “hindrance” on their ruthless path to victory.

Women after my own heart. I am channelling their spirit via dance in my last showdown with my fat. I have put in hours of sweat sessions, tested and pushed my body. Not to ­mention sticking to a diet, which is a bitch as billions of women will ­testify.

My four weeks in Benin is my final showdown. Lerato light. Mastering the Hougan will also connect me to my cut-above-all-women Amazon ancestors.

Ama thinks it’s a joke because he shows up sans music, passion or direction. Worse, he is whimpering when all I am telling him is that he better start dancing and working me or else. The Amazons were also famed for castrating weak men atop hacking ­enemies!

But it’s just the wobble I want gone. And this Ama and the erection he had on our first day of duty said “there’s nothing” wrong with my mountain of lard. Hand me the machete, I hear balls begging to be cut off!

Women after my heart. I am channelling their spirit via dance in my last showdown with my fat. I have put in hours of sweat

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