la vie est belle

Martinique. Not the first tourist island getaway that comes to mind. While the majority of seniors from my school headed to Cancun, Mexico for sun, sea, and fruity drinks, my dance company soared to the French Caribbean. Talk about an alternative spring break. Quickly, the nine of us learned that our lack of French speaking skills combined with our utter lack of preparedness would come together to create one hell of a week. The best part? It wasn’t about us. It was about sharing our art, our passion, and learning in return. Bluest colors, late night Desperados by the water, open air bus rides, and calm waters. Highlights…

Elementary School Visit in Schoelcher

The town of Schoelcher is home to the University, but also to a lovely elementary school, where we had the pleasure to teach and learn from an incredible group of about 50 children. While we could barely speak with words because of the language barrier, we shared through movement. A little ten year old aspiring ballet dancer was what made our visit worth it. So overcome with joy and hope after meeting us “professional dancers,” he expressed (through the words of our translator) that us being there was so touching. Tears welled in his eyes. We were able to change his perception of what being a dancer could mean. He CAN and he WILL do it. He needed a push. Fate brought us there that day.

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Learning the Native Dance

In a movie- like setting, we learned from the locals about the art of Bele dance. It’s not just movement, it’s a community. It’s the drummers and the singers and the dancers together as one. Many of the songs required call and response from the singer and the dancers. The most memorable? “Mama la vie est belle,” or “Mom, life is beautiful.” I can still feel the wind blowing through the open air wooden studio, cooling our humid bodies and bringing a chill to the permanent layer of moisture on our skin. Our bodies swirling, the patterns of our skirts combining to create a blur of energetic and lively motion. I never wanted to leave.

The Little Moments

Traveling in our open-air bus. Seeing the ruins of what used to be the most advanced theater in the world. Hiking to the 3,000 foot mark of a still-active Mount Pele. Ferry rides at sunset. Realizing that we were, in fact, in another country…getting to share what we love with complete strangers. It all came together I think when we performed. Kids from the elementary school, from the University, Americans that randomly saw our poster around town, dancers from the Bele class… people from every place we had touched over the week showed up and combined to create a 200-person crowd. If you don’t already know, dance is a difficult art form to get people to show up for. Two. Hundred. People. Goosebumps on my arms.

The Takeaway

  • Sometimes we are put in places, and things just happen. It isn’t up to us. In fact, those moments are entirely out of our hands.
  • Sometimes dance isn’t about performing. It goes beyond technique, beyond getting “better.” Sometimes dance is about sharing. It’s about giving people hope. It’s about taking the audience away from that place that they are and into another world. It’s getting people to think about their lives in new and abstract ways. It’s selfless.
  • Sometimes plans don’t go as planned. Especially in Martinique, nothing is on time, and no scheduled event was ever exactly on the mark. You know what? That’s ok.
  • Sometimes you have to live fearlessly. If you let every worry (What if we get the Zika virus? What if this weird looking chicken dish gives me food poisoning? Could I pass out from being in the sun this much?) cloud your vision, life is going to be significantly less enjoyable.

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I hope your spring break has been or will be enjoyable, relaxing, refreshing. Thinking of you, today and everyday, wherever you are.

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