Dance Around The World – Cartagena, Colombia
I was very sad to leave Guatemala, but I was pretty excited to visit Colombia. My anticipation grew as we boarded the plane, and the travel ads greeted me at my seat. The advertisement showed beautiful images from all over Colombia with quotes that couldn’t help but make you want stay there forever. I caught one of my favorite quotes on camera. Sorry it’s a little blurry, and the translation is a little off, but you can get the idea. It reads, “How can you not stay to live in a place where your feet don’t walk? They dance.” Needless to say I was sold on Colombia before we even left Guatemalan soil. All I could imagine was people dancing from place to place.
Sadly when I got off the plane in Bogota, the happy spirit I imagined the people had wasn’t there. It was a little like my first time using the NYC subway. It was crowded, people were pushy, and you would be trampled on if you stopped. I decided to take a deep breath in hopes that Cartagena might be the city to capture the happy dancing spirit the airplane promised.
When my husband and I finally arrived to Cartagena, I was thrilled to hear music filling the streets… now this is more like it! We sat down for dinner and right as dessert was served, a group of teens began to perform a traditional Afro-Colombian dance in the street. The drums started the entertainment and dancers followed, slowly taking their places. The group of three boys and three girls wore coordinating costumes of green, yellow, and red. The group demanded attention from all of the restaurant guests with their music, singing, and dancing. Even when a parked car backed up into their makeshift dance space, the group continued to perform. Although they kept dancing, like true performers, their energy was lazy and they weren’t well rehearsed. I often caught them glancing at each other to see what came next. The group performed about three pieces, each about a minute in length. Midway through the third dance, one of the dancers began walking around the crowd with a hat. She pretty much demanded money with her stern demeanor. Since I was documenting their performance, I gave them some money. However, I was not impressed with her attitude. It left me feeling like I had watched a flash mob gone wrong.
Ironically the next day we ran into another Afro-Colombian dance performance. This time it was in a plaza with tons of dance space and room for a crowd to watch. The drummers captivating rhythm beckoning me to come closer. I couldn’t help but bounce as I moved towards the performance. That’s when I knew this group was the real deal. As I teen, I took West African and Afro-Caribbean dance classes but, never have I seen dancers move like these professionals. Their bodies were literally vibrate. At times, it seemed they were controlling the music. I couldn’t figure out when one movement stopped and another began. It was incredibly fascinating and had me in a trance.
This group, like the last, also walked the crowd with a hat. But, this time the mood was different. The performers smiled and we gracious to the crowds donations. It truly was a performance… you just paid for your “seat” after the show. I happily donated.
Although I’m super grateful the dancers were performing their love of dance and culture, I was saddened that’s where it ended. It could be so much more! I wonder why they just resort to tips. Perhaps it is good money, but the business side of me sees their potential. To start, they could teach the crowd and offer a dance class right then and there. It would be a perfect way to grow and double their income. I know following their performance I was ready to dance, and I bet others were too. However, maybe my advice is best kept quiet. The experience of running into this performance had a lot of charm, and the dancers genuinely seemed to be happy. I’m a firm believer that you should always do what you love and what makes you happy! So, I will sit back and enjoy the experience and push my crazy entrepreneurial ideas to the side.
Here’s little video I captured from the professional Afro-Colombia dancer. Enjoy!
Join me for my next post as I share my experience learning a few traditional Colombian dances.
Moving and Shaking through South America!
The Offbeat Ballerina