My cat, Fiona, likes to do uncomfortable things like squeezing herself into the narrow well at the base of my window. She only does this with one window in the house – the one in my bedroom that receives a blinding amount of sun no matter the time of year. As a kitten, she fit quite neatly into this space that is all of 3 or 4 inches wide. Now her fur spills over in a soft cascade. She likes to stretch her paws out and push against the jamb where window meets wall. The screen is peppered with single strands of tabby fur that wave like little flags in the breeze.
The rhythmic drumming in my African dance class is intoxicating in a way that nothing else is. My rather ungraceful body often betrays me with twitches of movement I know I am not initiating – a foot tap, a flutter of the fingers. This seemingly innate need to move to the slapping of hands satisfies something in me that I didn’t even know needed satisfying – like the way fried pickles at the Memphis Taproom satisfy a craving, a hunger you never knew existed – for spicy, sour, salty, savory grease.
We move our bodies in wide-open, exaggerated movements – skipping, jumping, windmilling arms, and stomping feet. There is no ballet precision in this room; no rigid lines or sharp, bony angles protruding from underneath gauzy pink. Everything is loose and flowing: the drum rhythms connecting every body, dictating our speed, beckoning our hips to offer sensual, uncensored undulations. Everyone is of “traditional build”. That’s what women in African countries might say to describe their wobbly, unrestrained flesh – pendulous breasts, softly rounded hips, pouched stomachs, sturdy things.
There are no delicacies in the room. These dances are for sturdy people whose movements are wholehearted conveyances of joy or of sorrow.