Head trips: Rhythm vacation

National Post Nov 19, 2011

National Post Nov 19, 2011

I’m no dancin’ machine, so the thought of participating in African dance classes — or any dance class for that matter — gave me pause as I headed to Rancho La Puerta, a fitness resort and spa nestled amid 3,000 acres of mountains and meadows just south of the U.S./Mexico border. Still, there’s no better time to try something new than when on vacation, I reminded myself — failures, like bottles of liquids at the airport, are a threat to security one must leave behind. Much to my amazement then, I discovered I could bring the memory of the dance class home with me. Moments in, I was twisting and turning, panting and burning, keeping up and throwing down with a room full of strangers, in an activity aimed at connecting with one’s inner self through bodily expression. 

“There’s a saying in Africa that if you can walk, you can dance,” explains Connie Bennett, the instructor, pointing out that here in North America, dancing is seen more as a skill or talent than something you’re simply born to do. “In Africa, everyone dances; if you are not dancing, your spirit is sick.” 

Instead of precision-based actions and techniques, the movements of African dance are free-flowing, easy to visualize and execute. “We’re digging in the dirt, digging in the dirt,” Connie calls out as we all shuffle sideways scooping our hands down and then pulling in our arms. Based on everyday life, and Africa being an agricultural culture, chopping, planting and harvesting-type movements make up most routines.

“We’re celebrating,” Connie squeals and we all raise our arms to the heavens and shake our hips jubilantly. Dance, be it African, Latin, hip hop, Broadway, jazz, striptease or a variety of other styles, is taught at the Ranch to improve physical and spiritual wellness. It’s meant to be as good for your heart as it is for your soul. Movement to music is natural, Connie insists. Sure it burns off calories, but it also unleashes your creativity, your inner joy. Read more...

This articles was published in National Post Nov 19, 2011 to read the full article please Click here for PDF version