Hey all. It’s Ronnie, here with a belly dance follow up, and the news couldn’t be better (click here for the related post). I’ll do my best not to gush too much, but it’ll be hard. It has been an incredible week for the dance world and for the women of San Andres!
The señora aerobics/dance fusion class’s show on the 12th for the Noche Cultural was a great success. There was definitely a lot of nervousness leading up to the moment, but when the ladies got up on stage, they were smiling and confident and just having fun (I certainly couldn’t say the same for my first dance performance)! They were troopers when the music played at way too high a frequency (it sounded like an Alvin and the Chipmunks song), and despite the challenges, their timing was excellent and they looked great. Click here for a video clip! At the end, the ladies strutted off stage to cheers from the crowd. We were all so thrilled and proud of the performance, albeit sad that our big hoorah was over.
The next day I decided to do a special lesson for my morning (señoritas) students. Throughout our classes the students and I have discussed the history of belly dance and its potential in the development of women’s communities around the world. I especially wanted to drive home those important ideas during my final classes. After a talk around those issues, I pulled out the computer and showed them dances that inspire me and where they can find free online lessons, and I gave them suggestions on how they can continue dancing as a group after my departure. And then of course we danced! (And boy did we! To those readers versed in dance: the same day that the girls were introduced to shoulder shimmies and undulations, over HALF of them got the shoulder shimmy – undulation down – hip shimmy routine!)
On Tuesday I was already missing the señoras, and very sad about needing to give my last lesson to the señoritas, many of whom I had gotten very close to. You already know about Byanka. There’s also Miriam, a 15-year-old who lives right next to the Biblioteca, where her mom, a student in my aerobics-dance class, runs a food stand. Although school has kept her from coming to about half of my lessons, Miriam has been one of my best students, with clear natural talent and a knack for catching up. There’s also Cesiah, an 18-year-old San Andres native. Cesiah leaves Alejandro, her very cute 6-month-old, at home with her mother to come to my classes. Her cousin Ana has come to almost every one of my lessons. Both Cesiah and Ana are beautiful, graceful dancers and have nailed every move I’ve thrown at them. It helps that they have each other to practice with! Ana is 20 years old and studying clinical psychology at the university in Santa Elena.
Those are just a few of the teens I’ve had the pleasure of teaching. But aside the teens and señoras, there were also dozens of girls aged 3 and up that often joined in (albeit less regularly) on the fun. The classes got so popular that by the end of our stay I was teaching 7 days a week, often more than once a day.
That lonely evening, after the final dance classes had been had, I was about to close up the Biblioteca when in walked Ana, Cesiah with Alejandro in her arms, their grandma (a student in my aerobics/dance class), Evelin, and the rest of the aerobics/dance students, along with a handful of younger students, too. They told me that this was to be a surprise thank-you party for me. Very efficiently, they brought upstairs a mountain of steaming, delicious food and drinks. As independence parades chimed outside, 25 of my wonderful students went around the room to each say a few words. There were appeals for my speedy return, and I was delighted to hear excitement about what had formed in so short a time period as well as things like, “Me siento joven!” (I feel young!).
When turn got to Evelin, she began to say her thanks… in English! (Thanks to lessons with Steph, Evelin has made great strides with her English and wowed us all). After translating her thanks from English to Spanish for the group, Evelin busted out some awesome moves to better express how she felt. So I turned on the music, marking the epic beginning of San Andres’ first impromptu, hours-long, all-female belly dance party… at 9pm in the library on the eve of Dia de Independencia—certainly a story I’ll be telling my grandkids! We would have danced all night (had the Biblioteca not needed to eventually close!).
It has been a few days since leaving San Andres, and the ladies and girls are already using the (internet, music, video) dance resources I left them. The aerobics/dance class will continue to rehearse our choreography weekly, and a few of the students are planning on teaching the choreography to other aerobics classes in neighboring towns. While I initially planned to make San Andres a one-time stop, the incredible response to the dance project and strong demand for our staying has made it so that I will definitely be returning to this wonderful place. For now, I’ll be doing my best to keep the momentum going by staying in close contact, sending resources (some DVDs are on the way!), and looking for dance teachers who can continue the work.