by Erika

At the age of nine I told my mother that I wanted to be a dancer, a professional dancer. In my mind what I pictured of myself was being a professional of danza contemporánea (contemporary dance). Of course, I didn’t know that to achieve that dream I needed many resources that my mother didn’t have. Despite the lack of a professional dance school to attend in my home rural community back in El Salvador, at the age of seven I won an informal contest among other kids in my barrio (neighborhood). Our traditional end of the year celebrations always included listening to Trova, Cumbia, and Salsa music! The patio of our house was my dance floor and the skylight was my spark of hope that for an instant made me feel powerful!

My joy for music was rooted in the fact that with every beat my body responded with a vai y ven (continual side to side movements.) As the breeze was dancing with me, my body transformed into a light maza that floated in a stage of trance, the pure connection of soul, body and mind becoming one with Mother Earth! Music brought me so much happiness because it was a collective ritual I shared with my family as we danced together! I still remember how my body wasn’t listening to words but the beats! Cumbia and Salsa dancing have always had a profound meaning in my life. More than just merely dancing, it is a spiritual connection with my ancestors. The beats represent a meztizaje (mixture) of sounds inherited by my Indigenous and African traditions through the various instruments that over time communities have adapted in Central America! I am not a ‘professional’ dancer at all, never took classes, but I’m a soul dancer!

Movement has been an essential part of my life! I am a voyager and in every new community I visit there is music that invites my soul to move! I recall the first time, I actually was in the middle of eighty young people in a Caribbean community in Honduras playing all types of drums during a collective circle where I learned about Punta dancing. I was impressed how each of the beats made my heart follow the rhythm! A combination of bongo, conga, timbales, cajón, marimba, guitar and many other instruments was so powerful to experience!

Yes every time I think about exercise, I do it with a more meaningful purpose, the experience of using my inner-self for channeling creativity by moving my feet al compass (to the rhythm) of the beats, snapping with my fingers, tapping out sounds on my desk, on my legs, while standing on the bus. This is my recipe for movement. Get an empty bucket and hold it with your legs while using your hands to create sounds. That is the first step to connecting with the beats and feeling deep rhythm throughout the veins. You all are welcome to listen to the music of life as it beats with your soul. Just embrace movement as a natural essence of our humanity!

Since I moved to Michigan and especially during the winter season, it has been important to keep that connection to music and movement. Honestly, I miss dancing in the patio of my mother’s home, but I’ve learned to adapt my dancing to an indoor type of celebration! Lately, I set a playlist with music from various artists including Lila Downs, Ruben Blades, Anita Tijoux, Alejandro Filio, Orishas, and Ibeyi.

Photo above: Tertulia offered for Erika’s good voyage to MI, Ely and other friends joined the celebration. Photo taken by Alejandro Ronquillo

The list only goes on and on. In my apartment’s living room, in front of the altar created to celebrate humanity, I embrace my dancing as a ritual for my healing. Dancing and creating beats collectively is a powerful centerpiece for change! Shall we dance?