Dance Knowledge

In the past 20 years or so, there has been much research exploring the effects of dance and movement therapy in people recovering from trauma.  Although my intention here is not to shed light on that specific research, it is important to mention that the incorporation of dance in healing practices provides validity to the strategies  many cultures have used in their quest for emotional and spiritual health.  Several Afro-Atlantic religions rely on music (drums), song and dance to create a collective consciousness that allows participants to find identity and healing.  They are meant to provide guidance, emotional and psychological wholeness and above all to create community.

It is important to mention that these songs and dances, removed from their religious context, provide techniques for body movement that require minute exploration and study.  Music is tightly linked to movement, so both must be learned to embody the call and response between dancer and drummer and the aesthetic beauty of these dances lies in the subtle complexities of the movement.   Although the artistry of these techniques cannot be fully embraced and embodied without a basic understanding of the cultures and histories that support them, I will further suggest that the performativity of these dances call for a deeper transformation.  Understanding culture and history is part of our logical brain and it is necessary to create a strong framework to work from.  My interest is in demonstrating that we need to go a step further.  We need to incorporate the feeling part of our brain to embody these dances.

In the nonviolent philosophy feelings are essential to our human development.  With much research to support it, it is understood that every emotion in our body has a physical response.  When those emotions get triggered they cause chemical reactions that require a physical release in order for our bodies to become self-regulated.  For example if we become extremely excited, we might be overwhelmed with joy, causing us to jump up and down, scream or cry.  In creating emotional competency is important to develop a list of sensory tools in order to process ALL our emotions in a safe and life-serving way (see Emotional Intelligence).

These findings are relevant I believe because in the performance of African derived dances, specifically Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian movement, our logic must be intrinsically linked to the tapestry of our emotions.  Abstract and concrete concepts must be incorporated. In order to embody Changó/Xango we must call upon the power of the thunder and a sense of pride and justice.  In order to embody Ochun/Oxum we must call upon the power of the sweet waters, and sensuality, laughter and joy.  The complexity of the movement technique is further enriched by the processing of emotions in our body.  A moving body is transformed into an embodied being.

I will continue to expand on this somatic emotional intelligence in my research and findings, for the exploration of these movements is constantly evolving.  Please the section below for suggested reading.  Also check my blog under the categories Dance, and Emotional Intelligence.

Afro-Cuban Orisha Movement


Afro-Brazilian Orixá Movement

Samba de Roda & Capoeira

Suggested Reading