Sunday, December 12, 2010

Practice Recital

The rehearsal space is like a steam room.  the kids are half smiles half concentration.  the young girls start the dance; all with braided hair, wearing shorts and no shirts (but they're so young it doesn't matter). The base movement of the dance is when they open and swing their arms back and forth across their chests and stomp their feet with the rhythm.  A fast-djembe break, and they switch to a pounding, stomping move. One of the girls calls out in song and ushers in the next rhythm, is a digging like movement. The next change they get on hands and knees and thrust their backs and do a somersault and then start back in with the arm swinging again.  The boys in back beat furiously at the drums, some dance and jump and bob in time, in place - especially when the teachers not watching, they're quite the comic crew. One of the drums is tilted the wrong way (or maybe slipping away on the tiles) so the professor grabs some jelly sandals and shoves them underneath to create the needed balance. When the girls finish and rotate out, the group of boy dancers comes out and without the music stopping, goes through the same dance. In the performance they'll all be together, but there's not enough space here in the small classroom for them all to dance together.  Just yesterday, they even moved out the bookshelves on both sides of the room to open up the tight, dimly lit space.  As i sit and watch, sunlight filters into the room, and kids stand on the building's ledge, and look in through the window by hanging onto the bars outside so they can see the performance, too (I always laugh at this because it looks like they're in jail).  I learn too late that i am apparently sitting in the danger zone, and i get tumbled onto two times during the somersault part.  The girls huddle together and close to the wall when the boys come on because they're afraid of getting whacked or kicked (the boys are pretty unpredictable, i don't blame them).
        In the pause, a girl with 'wari' (boiled sweet potato) on her head, comes to make stomachs happy.  Moreover, with the amount of energy the boys have after they eat, i would think they were laced with something - potato power !  One of the boys seems to be the ringleader and dances all sorts of silliness. Breakin, boastin, singin, swaggin, hand-standin, and making a comedic situation out of everything - nonstop, I don't think he's comfortable sitting still. He even leads the other boys in a dance, and they all join in. Maybe this was how Chris Rock was when he was 10.
This same kid also has an amazing voice; I think he trained to sing with a marabou.  Its a touching, almost forlorn, echo that rises up from deep within - too big of a sound to come from a 3'10" boy.  i listen intently as he sings a "love Africa" song.  He takes this as a cue to go in the recital space and pic instruments up and play and sing (they're not supposed to be in the room playing around while the teachers not there, but I didn't really realized this).  The professor hears and gets a little upset, but one of the other boys said that i told him it was ok.  I laugh because i did nothing of the sort,  but i am enjoying hearing hims play.  I don't mind if the little stinkers use me as a scapegoat, let them have their fun.  

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