At the age of seven, I told my mother that I wanted to be a professional dancer. I pictured myself as a professional of danza contemporánea. Even though mama’s resourcefulness, we lacked money. In my super magical mind, I thought that to achieve that dream, money was not necessary. Despite the lack of a professional dance school to attend in my home rural community back in El Salvador, at that age I won an informal contest among other kids in my barrio. Our traditional end of the year celebrations always included listening to trova, cumbia, salsa and Samba music! The patio of our home was my dance floor and the skylight was my spark of hope that for an instant, made me feel always powerful.
Though dancing for me was not about winning, but about bringing people together in joy and laughter – it was my prayer.
In my teens, I got to participate in community theater and a folklore dance group training by professional artists. I had the honor to have my brother Tito as my trainer and other facilitators who came from the city. We practiced twice a week, and unless we had a performance, we would practice new steps. We ended forming two groups because a lot of children wanted to participate in these workshops. We got to perform at various villages’ fiestas patronales. And one time, I recall we even got paid to perform at an art festival in San Salvador. Payment included transportation, food, and a little tour; for us, that was a door to many possibilities. With practice and teamwork, we developed the skill-set to feel comfortable in front of different audiences. I enjoyed wearing colorful costumes and embodying my artistic persona. Oh, how I miss those great times!
Growing up, my joy for music was rooted in the fact that with every beat, my body responded with a vai y ven. It felt as if the wind was dancing with me, my body transformed into a light masa that floated in a stage of trance, the pure connection of soul, body, and mind becoming one with Mother Earth.
¡Que deliciosa es la música!
Music brought me so much happiness because it was a collective ritual I shared with my family and during the community´s baile as we danced together. I still remember how my body wasn’t listening to words, but the beats. And the way each individual responded with bodily sensations to specific songs.
La danza colectiva es un ritual sanador.
Cumbia and salsa dancing have always had a profound meaning in my life. More than just merely dancing, it is a spiritual connection with my ancestors. The beats represent a radical creative hybrid culture – a connection of rhythms and beats of resistance, gratitude, love, and vision. Percussion, the folk sounds inherited by my Indigenous and Afro-Caribbean traditions through the various instruments that over time, communities have adapted in Central America. I am not a ‘professional’ dancer at all, I never took classes.
I’m a soul dancer.
Bodily movements have been an essential part of my life. I am a voyager and in every new community I visit, there is music that invites my soul to move. I recall the first time; I was in the middle of eighty young people in a Caribbean community in Honduras. People were playing various types of drums during a collective circle; this is where I learned about Punta dancing. I was impressed by how each of the beats made my heart follow the rhythm. A combination of bongo, conga, timbales, cajón, marimba, guitar, and many other instruments was a radical collective spiritual healing process. Bring it on.
This is one of my happy places on earth.
A turquoise ocean in front of me, a burning sun up in the sky, a salty, clean breeze touching my skin, and my bare feet holding my body as they lead my calves, my knees, my legs and hips, my Serpent spine in a mixture of soft and fast-paced movements.
Gratitude dance in Batalla, Honduras.
During my first year of college, I tried to join a professional dance school, but on the first day of training, I was bullied by the manager. He shared inappropriate comments about the way my body looked. He put me down which only pushed me to never return to that school. I am glad I did so. A year after graduating from college I challenged myself to try taking some dance classes again. In my spirit, there was this deep desire to learn hip hop but when I got to the Humanum Tempore school I fell in love with the empowering way the tribal fusion dance instructor taught and brought the cohort together.
Yes, every time I think about movement, I do it with a more meaningful purpose. The experience of using my inner-self for channeling creativity by moving my feet al compás of the beats, snapping with my fingers, tapping out sounds on my desk, on my legs, while riding on the bus. This is my recipe for movement. Get an empty bucket and hold it with your legs while using your hands to create sounds. That is the first step to connecting with the beats and feeling deep rhythm throughout the veins. You are all welcome to listen to the music of life as it beats with your soul. Just embrace movement as a natural essence of our humanity and your ancestral connection.
I also had the opportunity to share creative space with Zimi Heb. They are a creative group in constant evolution. They identified with diverse cultures and while at the same time belonging to none. In El Salvador with little opportunities and resources to create, they have accomplished creations in which they’ve mixed and integrated their history, their family, their roots, the technologies, and the new knowledge. Zimi Heb is a flexible group and their creations come from a balance between music, dance, poetry, and experimental film with or without themselves. Zimi Heb is characterized by improvisation and are limited by time. They don’t belong to any style except theirs – which is the result of fusion.
With Zimi Heb, we celebrated this concert dedicated to the rainy season, cicadas, and the intensity of life and time’s relativity.
A year later or so, we created space to embrace migrations as part of impermanence and movements globally with this concert honoring transitions.
Every culture has a connection with dance and music rituals rooted in our connection to Mother Earth. Let it flow.
Since I moved to Michigami, it has been important to keep that connection to music, dance, and movement, especially during the winter season. Honestly, I miss dancing on the patio of my mama’s home, but I’ve learned to adapt my dancing to an indoor type of celebration. Lately, I set a playlist with music from various artists including Totó la Momposina, Orishas, Lila Downs, Anita Tijoux, and Ibeyi. The list only goes on and on. In this apartment’s living room, in front of the altar created to celebrate humanity, I embrace my dancing as a ritual for my healing. Dancing and creating beats collectively is a powerful centerpiece for change.
Let’s move forward together!
What are dance rituals that make you feel connected within and with your collectives?
What are the stories of survival, resistance, and love learn through poetic music in your lineages?
Copyright © 2020-2021, Erika Murcia | All Rights Reserved