Dance and other disasters | Ngoma na balaa nyingine

Last week I started taking a Senegalese sabar dance class, and today I almost quit.

Let me first pause and laugh at the absurdity of that for a moment. Someone once said to me a long time ago, I don’t quite recall who it was, “Sylvia, you give up too easily.” Do I?? Maybe.

If my first class was challenging, today’s handed me my entire rear on a stainless steel sinia. I just got home half an hour ago, overwhelmed by the urge to bang out this post fuelled by frustration — yet I really shouldn’t be frustrated at my body for being unable to adequately do something it has only ever attempted twice! Nevertheless, today’s class did not help.

We had a guest instructor this evening — a lady who, as soon as she stood at the front of the studio, arms akimbo, my lower jaw headed south. I thought to myself, “We’re supposed to learn from you??” For starters, it did not help that she was very easy on the eyes with her enchanting face and haircut similar to mine but which just seemed to look better on her. Then she demonstrated what she wanted us to begin with; arms and legs flying energetically with measured force punctuated by flavour, it was then that I noticed that she was also pregnant. At this point, any vim I had to attempt to mirror her moves evaporated: all I wanted to do was sit and watch her dance.

Speaking of mirrors…mirrors are why I detest the weightlifting section of the gym. Those unflattering reflections intended to help guide one’s form that just end up making me look like a stick figure struggling to lift a 10-kilo barbell. When I looked at myself in today’s mirrors, I saw a bag of limbs flailing in an ungainly manner. Inhabiting a body structured like mine is a dichotomous experience when one inhabits the worlds I do. In one world, this figure is desirable — shout out to my flatmate who complimented me as having “Michelle Obama arms”. In the other, it’s lacking — shout out to my older brothers who taunted me growing up saying, “What kind of girl is so skinny?!”

Here I am, almost at the end of my twenties, and still not quite sure how I feel about the form I’m in. Stationary, I love it; in motion, not always. And so I signed up for a dance class in a tradition outside my familiarity in the hopes that it would force me to become comfortable with taking up space. I’ve noticed that about women who come from cultures whose dances call for abandoning one’s body to the drumbeat: they appear to move through the world freer, to open their mouths wider, to stake their claims boldly. That is not to say the women from my corner of the planet do not; but when your very tradition encourages you to spell out a phrase with your entire body, that does something to your mind.

I observed keenly as the instructor performed a series of steps that were so fast I could barely keep my eyes on each moving part. Before I could even translate it for my own arms and legs, it was time to go forward in threes and the dread set in. Do I go, and ruin the flow when everyone else seems to have magically figured it out? Or do I go just to get my money’s worth regardless? A third option crossed my mind — which was to flee the studio and never look back. (I’m proud to report that I did not succumb to the urge.)

From these two sessions alone, I feel as though I have invited myself into a rapid-fire discussion in a foreign language whose alphabet I don’t even know. There I am, trying to converse, somehow managing fragmented sentences, and being told it’ll get better the more I keep coming. Part of me knows that this is true, and the other part of me wants to just spare myself. Still, I did not flee! What I did do as soon as I got home, however, was look up other dance style offerings at the same complex. It’s not quitting if you seek out an alternative, right?

And then it rained on me on my walk home from the train — talk about adding insult to injury.

Let’s see what next week holds.

***

Wiki iliyopita, nilianza kwenda kujifunza ngoma aina ya sabar kutoka Senegal. Leo tu kidogo nighairi.

Hebu kwanza nijicheke. Ujue kuna mtu aliniambia zamani, sikumbuki alikuwa nani, eti “Sylvia bwana huwa unaghairi kirahisi mno.” Kweli?? Labda.

Kama somo la kwanza lilikuwa gumu, basi la leo lilinikomoa kabisa. Ndio kwanza nimefika nyumbani kama nusu saa iliyopita, nikizidiwa na hamu ya kuandika ili kuondoa hasira niliyokuwa nikiihisi kwa mwili wangu — lakini nitaukasiriakiaje mwili kwa kushindwa kutenda vema jambo ambalo ndio kwanza mara ya pili kulijaribu?! Hata hivyo, somo la leo halikusaidia.

Leo tulikuwa na mwalimu mgeni — mwanamke ambaye, aliposimama tu mbele ya darasa, mikono kiunoni, niliduwaa. Nilijiwazia, “Huyu ndiye mwalimu leo??” Kwanza, haikusaidia jinsi alivyokuwa mrembo, macho yake kama vile amekula makungu na nywele zake fupi kama mwanzafunzi; nami nimenyoa hivyo hivyo, lakini niliona zake zimempendeza zaidi. Akatuonyesha hatua alizotaka tuanze nazo, akijirusha kwa huku na kule kwa utaalam kabisa, ndipo nilipotambua kuwa pia alikuwa mjamzito. Mwe! Hapo basi hamu yote ya kujifunza ikaisha, nikatamani tu nikae chini nifaidi ufundi wake wa kucheza.

Pale studio pamejaa vioo — na vioo ni sababu kuu ya mimi kutopenda kwenda gym kunyanyua vyuma. Vioo kazi yake ni kumsaidia mtu ajue kama amepatia umbo, lakini kwangu ninaona zinanifanya nijione kituko anayehangaika kunyanyua kachuma ka kilo kumi. Nilipojiangalia leo kwenye kioo studio, niliona mikono na miguu inarukaruka tu hovyo. Umbile kama langu kwenye jamii moja inathaminiwa (mpangaji mwenzangu alinisifia leo hii eti nina mikono kama ya Michelle Obama), na kwenye jamiii nyingine inaonekana pungufu — nilipokuwa mdogo kaka zangu walikuwa wakinicheka eti “Msichana gani mwembamba hivyo?!”

Basi nipo hapa, nikikaribia miaka thelathini ulimwenguni, na bado sijafikia uelewa mzuri wa mimi mwenyewe ninauonaje mwili wangu. Nikiwa nimesimama pozi, ninaupenda kweli; nikiwa ninacheza, si sana. Basi nikajiandikisha kwenye darasa la ngoma ambayo sijawahi kujifunza, nikitumaini kuwa itanifanya nijikubali kikamilifu zaidi. Nimetambua jambo moja kuhusu wanawake wanaotoka kwenye makabila yenye ngoma za nguvu: huwa wanajiamini zaidi jinsi wanavyotembea, wanavyoongea, wanavyokuwa tu hapa duniani. Hivyo sio kusema kuwa wanawake wa kabila langu hawako hivyo; la hasha, lakini utamaduni wako unapoushangilia mwili wako mzima mzima, inakufanya ufikirie namna fulani tofauti.

Nilimtizama kwa makini mwalimu wa leo alipokuwa akionyesha hatua, lakini zilikuwa za haraka mno hadi nikashindwa kufuatilia. Kabla hata sijapata kuzikariri angalau kidogo, tukaitwa twende mbele watatu watatu — si nikatokwa jasho! Niende niharibu, au niende tu kwa kuwa nimeishalipia darasa? Wazo la tatu likanijia: nitimue mbio nisirudi kamwe. (Nina furaha kubwa kuwaambia kuwa nilijakaza nikabaki.)

Yaani leo nilijihisi kama vile nimejitosa kwenye majadiliano katika lugha ngeni ambaya hata sarufi yake siifahamu. Nipo hapo ninajaribu kuongea, nikiwezea kidogo hapa na pale, na wenzangu wananiambia nitaishika zaidi kadiri ninavyozidi kuja. Kwa upande mmoja ninawaamini, na kwa upande mwingine sitaki hata kujisumbua. Hata hivyo, sikukumbia! Lakini nilichokifanya mara tu nilipowasili nyumbani ni kuangalia kama kuna darasa la ngoma tofauti nitakayoweza kuhamia…kutafuta namna nyingine si kughairi, au sio?

Tena nikanyeshewa mvua nilipokuwa nikitembea kutoka kwenye treni kwenda nyumbani. Dah.

Haya bwana, tuone yatakayojiri wiki ijayo.

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