Journal Entry 2: The dance

by

As soon as I heard the words “gypsy cave”, I was sold. As we walked along the edge of Albazyin, next to the moat outside the Alhambra, and up the hill toward the restaurant built into an old cave where we would watch flamenco dancers, I became even more excited. The night was cool, and just as my legs began to give out from walking uphill, we arrived.

Three women walked out to dance, each clearly from a different generation. They were soon followed by a man who would sing vocals, and another man who would play cajon and occasionally dance. When they started, all the pictures in the cave stopped. Their dance was an elegant blend of structure and spontaneity, of a clear form and a clear passion. I was transfixed.

The three dancers were all part of the same family; one was the grandma, the other the mother, and the last the daughter. Each clearly danced flamenco, but each had clearly applied the dance in a new way that fit the time in which they grew up in, and the age they were when dancing. I can barely explain this variety within structure. It was beautiful.

Near the end of their dance, they began to pick people from the audience to dance with them. The oldest dancer caught eye contact with me, and instantly I knew I was doomed. She motioned me forward, and me knees locked.

As I walked up, I became scared to take part in something so intricate and so foreign to me. I was worried I would somehow offend their honor for the dance that had been preserved through generations of their family. But soon I realized that the invitation was sincere. The woman showed me the dance moves, and laughed at me when I couldn’t quite get them right the first time. There was a desire for me to learn in this interaction, and there was grace for all that I clearly didn’t know.

This became true of my time in Spain and Morocco. It’s terrifying to encounter something so foundationally different from your own culture. But it also can bring tons of life. As I began encountering these cultures with more openness and respect, I found that there were people all around me willing to help me along in my journey, and willing to laugh with me when I didn’t know what to do next. All I needed was the guts to step onto the stage.

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