Dancing in the Streets

Let us read and let us dance – two amusements that will never do any harm to the world.

Laissez lire, et laissez danser; ces deux amusements ne feront jamais de mal au monde.

Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique, Liberté D’Imprimer

There is currently a significant amount of strife in our world.  Yet, this week, I’m feeling the excitement of a celebration.  For a moment in time, people are reveling, enjoying festivities.  They are allowing happiness to take the front seat, while negativity is pushed to the back.   This is the time for carnival.  Around the globe, people are jubilantly carousing.  

Come, let us take a trip to Venice, Italy, where we party in Carnevale Venezia.  Then we are off to Viareggio for the Viareggio Carnevale.  From there, we go to Binche, Belgium to see the Carnaval de Binche, and we head to Tenerife Carnval in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands.  But who can forget about Mardis Gras, as we fly off to the US to collect beads in New Orleans, Louisiana?   Of course, it is the Caribbean who puts the C in carnival, so let’s go to Port of Spain, Trinidad for the Trinidad Carnival. From there, it is a quick jump to Oruro, Bolivia for the Oruro Carnival.  Just when we think the party is over, the best is saved for last.  Fasten your seatbelts, we are in for the ride of our life.   


Welcome to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.    The world renowned home of the carnival.   With up to a million tourists, samba schools (twenty six in total) spend a year preparing for this grand celebration.  Spectacular floats, talented bands, and incredible dancers parade in the Sambadrome from Friday February 24th to Tuesday February 28th, and then once again on Saturday March 4th.  The party will not stop.  Perhaps dancing in the streets is the cure for all life’s woes.      

 Image:  The Amazon float. (© Conservation International/photo by Beto Mesquita)

Reference:  Lonely Planet. (2013, January 20). Festivals of the world: where to go in February. Retrieved February 25, 2017, from https://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/76318


Shamefully Beautiful

As a child, I experienced the dichotomy of life in different cultures.  I learned the dissimilar mindsets, at polar ends of the spectrum from one another.  This was especially true in regards to the perception of a woman’s body.   One side held a conservative view.  Their intent was to preserve the beauty of a woman in her purest and most modest form. The other side was liberal, giving women the freedom to express themselves as they wished. Being fortunate enough to live in both worlds, I can appreciate and understand each culture’s mentality.   However, the transition from a conservative to liberal life at a young age was jarring.   I remember feeling naked and shameful the first time I wore a swimsuit at a community pool.  I had never bared my limbs in public before. Even though the feeling of immorality and indecency lessened as I got older, wearing revealing clothes in my twenties was daunting.   Despite living in a tolerant environment, I sensed there was a negative connotation associated with dressing too seductively.  Even though I could display more of myself, there were limitations to how much I could unveil. Socially, I would be labeled and judged based on my attire.  I realized that living in the free world did not fully abate my shame.  I continued to struggle with body image and was not confident in my womanhood.   

I became fascinated by samba dancers, passistas, because they were incredibly self-assured in bare-minimum costumes that scarcely covered them.  Rather than hide their body, the passistas proudly flaunted their exceptional physique.  They utilized their near nude bodies naturally in the art of dance.  It was through them that I learned that a woman’s shape is beautiful.  I was finally able to celebrate rather than conceal myself through the raw dance of samba. 

Image:  Uillana Adães – Queen of Rio de Janeiro Carnival 2017

Falling in Love with Dance

Music and dance have been a part of me since I can remember.  They are essential for my daily existence.  They have been my salvation during emotionally difficult times.  Yet despite my need, I never pursued these arts seriously … until a few years ago.  I walked into my first dance class with great trepidation.  Even though I have rhythm, I was in uncharted waters.  I had never followed specific steps or choreography.  I danced freely, straight from my soul, joyously without any boundaries.    I chose Brazilian samba dancing, because the African beats spoke to me.  The Rio de Janeiro style dancers, passistas, captivated me with their beautiful costumes, bedazzled with jewelry and feathers in a rainbow of colors.  Their dance was fast, seductive, and fiery.  They had the confidence of a queen with the smoldering sensuality of a courtesan.  However, the glitz and glam was not what sold me.  What lured me in was one element that distinguished these dancers from the rest:  their smile.  Passistas dance with their hearts.  They smile, they flirt, they enchant, they bewitch, they love.