I lost the desire to move. I have not danced in so long, I fear I have forgotten how to. My hips seem confused, stiff and less fluid than I remember them to be. How I used to dance. How I used to love losing myself in the music. It was torture pulling myself away from the bomba, the palos and punta. I used to stay out late just to dance. Just to feel the vibration of the drums rise up in my legs and rock my hips. I was hypnotized by the sica, yuba, balance. I would watch the skilled dancers move into the middle of the floor as we did our paseo in sync with the buleadores. The energy rose from the slapping of hands on skins; building. Waiting to coalesce. Explode. Como bomba.
I always knew when the primo wanted me to converse with it. I’d arrive and scan the dimly lit room for a spot to put down my things. Working my way through the crowd, I would stop and greet fellow dancers, the drummers, the singers. I would squeeze into a space and order my first sangria, the one to warm me up. A swig of fruitful liquors and wines washed over me, drowning inhibitions, giving me a little more courage. Then the band would assemble; the excitement began to course through me. As they began the first song, the drums whispered my name. Filling my soul with beats my heart slowly pulsed to, I felt alive. My blood ran electricity, corriente, through my body. I caught visions of past lives filled with whirling skirts and expert movements, and the spirits wanted me to dance. I was pulled to the edge of exhilaration. I would feel excited, almost nervous at what would happen if I let go.
The primo drummer would always find me. They would beckon me, first with their eyes pointing at the ground in front of them. When I wold stall, a mischievous c’mon-son smile would creep on their face and they’d signal on their drum. Now I knew I had to. Before I could stop myself, my body was pulled. And I began to speak. My rhythm ricocheted off the drums as I held my body expertly, using the language I learned in class. Piquetes that were now my vocabulary, my music rolling off my hips, my hands, the hem of my skirt shaken and snapped, instructing the drummer to pay attention and keep up.
My hesitation came from the secret that would be revealed by my movement: that woman can dance and she sure can move her hips. I’ve felt exposed, being told that there were men salivating, nearly soaking their drum with drool. That my jiggling ass was distracting. I memorized them. Made them shift uncomfortably in their seats, repositioning themselves. My breast a focal point as they too spoke as any extension of my body verse. A gyrating body in ecstatic motion. Some of the men watching would drip their slime on me, thinking my hips were an invitation. I walked away from dancing out of shame of being too sexual. I shut down. I didn’t feel empowered by my sexuality. I felt endangered by it. I did not like the attention.
This year, the drums are getting louder as my hips cry to me for some exercise. For their prayer. I need to dance to shake off a lot. Dancing is a way to release trauma. Shaking is very effective at moving energy out of your body. It is how our ancestors survived for so long. I have been able to heal a lot of my womb from dancing. I am relearning how to move my body and not fear its power. I miss dancing. I’m actually quite good at it. A friend of mine told me that I cannot let my fear of being sexual stop me from dancing. My heart wants me to move fiercely and furiously. And so it will be.
Esa Mujer Esta Bomba
Her hands are the first thing they notice as she adjusts the hem of her white flowy skirt
They study her physique, her top clinging to her every curve
Every moment is measured, precise and artful
As though her very being were paint and this world, her canvas
Dark brown eyes gaze at mine from beneath a wild mess of hair
That shakes when she moves her head along with the rest of her body
The way she holds her height is full of power
You can feel the spirits that guide her with her always
She was born to dance
Born to open channels of movement at every jam she goes to
At her full height, she is full of presence
A flame dancing on a votive that cannot contain her
When the guitarist strums his cuatro
The percussionists start beating barriles
She is on fire
Her body moves to each beat, each rhythm
Skillfully weaving in and out of each syncopated pulse in the ground
She has erupted, open and fluid; becoming bigger than herself as she is in communion with the sounds
As the bangles on her wrists speak with her clapping to the music
She is the only one dancing in the middle of the room
The clave speaks to her, tells her it’s time
She propositions the drummer, her skirt bunched up in her hands
She looks at the percussionist, challenging their skill
Her hips begin to move slowly, teasing, whispering
Can you keep up?
All at once, she becomes a fury
Her footsteps become a map of where she’s been as the dust lifts around her
The drummer goes wild in an attempt to contest with the dancer
The crowd is clapping, shouting and cheering her on
Habla! Habla! Habla!
The tempo gets faster
She is unquenchable
The drummer smile at her as she stops and stares
Bowing down to them for being a worthy opponent