"When the Soul Dances"

Written By: Cuando el Alma Baila
Translated By: Farah Baghdadi
You’ve probably seen how children react to music, moving their body to the rhythm, bouncing their heads or shaking their hands in unity with the beat… To a certain extent, we are all born dancers.

Cuando el Alma Baila

But, I’m sure you’ve also heard this expression “my child could dance even before they could walk” well those children are the ones born with a passion to dance. When I was a little girl, my mom used to always play music at home. Actually, I don’t remember my house without music playing in the background and myself swaying with the beats. My mom also narrates stories about how, at the age of 3, I used to master the choreography of school plays in no time and how I used to greet all people I meet by reciting for them my role in “Il était une bergère” (There was a shepherd) play. And moving into elementary classes, the school didn’t offer any dancing classes, so my passion got buried within me. During my adolescence, I used to free dance in my room and I was addicted to dancing movies such as “Step Up” and “Dance with Me” till I memorized every second of their scripts. At that time, I knew that dance and music could evoke in me feelings that were unparalleled to anything else in this world, but I didn’t know that this was indeed the passion of my life.
To the luck of human existence, we never lose our passion, even when the whole world is against it, even when it gets buried within, life has its own way to evoke it. At the end, this is the noble reason behind our visit to this world, no? Life revived this buried passion within me at 21when my close friend urged me to accompany her to a salsa night because she wanted to meet the guy she liked there. God knows where is this guy now but I am very grateful that he crossed path with my close friend at that time. As in all salsa nights, even non-dancers are invited to try their luck at this speedy bubbly dance, and I was no different. I honestly do not remember who invited me, but what I can never forget was the feeling that overcame me when I attempted to follow. At that moment, my passion kicked in. I won’t lie and say I danced magnificently but I could follow innately, I felt the music and the dance. This night changed my life forever.
To dance, beautifully, you need both passion and proper technique. After trying many dance forms, I discovered that Argentinian Tango was my true passion and reflected every aspect of my personality. Martha Graham said: “Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion” and this is not something I fully agree with. Passion is not enough to excel in what you were meant to do, it is like any other flower, if not watered enough with persistence and hard work it dies. And for Argentinian Tango specifically, the key to a fulfilling dance is mastering the technique enough to know where to stop being technical and let passion take over. It’s undoubtedly one of the hardest dances to learn yet the most rewarding. But once it takes over your life, Tango is an uncompromising partner for life. You start to spend hours at the dance studio, taking classes, rehearsing, repeating steps time after time… I had the opportunity to perform many times and it just adds to the thrill and the love of the art form, knowing that for fleeting moments I was actually communicating my passion with others, especially non-dancers.
But as I said, it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. There were literally blood, sweat, and tears. When people see someone dancing, they see the beautiful movements, completely synchronized to the beat, the elegant dress and suit, the connection between the dancers, and the dream they are selling to the audience; which makes it easy to assume it’s easy to replicate it. However, as many students can confirm, mastering the dance, especially social dances based on improvisation, prove to be quite a hard feat. In addition, this dream that is appreciated by many is also belittled and mocked by many others. In a culture where dancing remains a taboo, countless are the times that I hear people criticize my choice of hobby because good girls don’t show off their bodies like that, comparing dance to promiscuity. Being a “good girl” who gets high grades, graduates with merits, lands good job opportunities; it’s hard for some people to understand that she can also be a dancer. Here’s a few examples to illustrate the absurdities I have heard: “Dancers are all prostitutes”, “Who will marry you now that you’ve been dancing on TV”, “It’s time you stop this folly and concentrate on settling down”, “Do your parents know that you dance?”, “No man will accept to date you if you keep dancing”. This is a small sample of the comments I have actually heard to my face, let alone the looks and smiles of contempt I have seen, the convictions that I’m an easy girl just because I’m a dancer, or the jealous looks from those who long to be able to do what I succeeded in doing.
Everything rewarding comes at a price and to be able to enjoy the liberating and soar-like feeling of the Tango embrace, I had to work hard at it and look past all criticism from dancers and non-dancers alike. Now after years and years of classes, trainings, workouts, rehearsals, successful and failed performances, criticism, bullying and much more, I look back at the last 8 years of my life and feel pride; not because they were easy but because they were hard and I was able to stick to my passion.
Dancing changed me from within, before 21 I was that village girl who doesn’t express herself, who is shy, aloof, who struggles with low confidence and low self-esteem. A girl who prefers to remain silent even when her rights were exploited. Dancing made me strong, courageous and independent as it takes a lot of gut to show people your vulnerability on stage and to keep up with their criticism. Dancing healed me from stage fright and gave me meaning in my life. I dance to heal from my wounds, to find peace and solitude and to conquer the inevitable suffering of this world. I dance my sadness, my pain as well as my joy and liberty. At the end is not the whole existence in a state of dance between birth and death, light and dark, love and fear, misery and bliss? I dance because I feel complete, peaceful and Zen. I feel, during the tango embrace, that I need nothing more, that I have everything I want in this world and that I can give you everything for being in the blissful moment.
My humble advice to those who will read this is the following: A passion fully lived adds color, blessings, and happiness to your existence. Your passion, no matter what it is, gives meaning to your life; it makes everything worthwhile. Stick to your passion and follow it no matter where it takes you. You will never regret it and you’ll feel more alive than ever. People will criticize you, learn how to distinguish constructive criticism from the destructive one and use it to improve. People will be jealous of you because perseverance is not easy, be their role model and maybe they’ll learn from you. People will admire you, live up to their expectations and be their inspiration. But most importantly, people are of no consequence, it’s YOUR passion, it’s YOURS, it’s what makes you YOU, so it’s none of their business! Never give it up, your passion will always be there for you, like a safety net that catches you when you fall, like a warm blanket that makes you feel safe and home… Dance, sing, write, sculpt, teach, paint, swim… Follow your passion for it shall complete you!

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