Easter with WON TAN NARA

So it’s Good Friday and I’ve already experienced a few Sabbaths so I know virtually everything will be closed Sunday except the tabac and maybe the odd fruit shop. I don’t know about Monday, my French isn’t good enough to decipher the opening hours over the extended period. So I go to the local Monoprix (one price) supermarket and stock up. Next coming days I plan to do nothing except lie about and eat lashings of dark chocolate.

Saturday I do just that, but feel terribly guilty so decide to go out and get some fresh air before the sun sets. Just as I’m about to leave via the last gate I see drums. African drums. Lots of them. On auto-pilot I walk in and immediately enquire if there’s a class- and YES. But it started at 4 and it’s already 4.20. Undeterred I go downstairs. I want a schedule.

A lady participating walks out of the class to inform me she is the company manager and this is a special master class held once every month or so and that it’s not too late for me to join in.

That’s all the encouragement I need so I make like a bullet train back to my joint to change. Watch out, this woman is on a mission and prepared to take out all obstacles. Lucky I’m technically on the same premises, The Cite des Arts complex. Next minute I’m sweating it out in a rare intimate class of 8 led by Fanta Debele from Burkina Faso, a dancer with the company called, WON TAN NARA meaning ‘we are together’ in Guinean.

As a NAISDA student we used to do Afro Jazz classes regularly and as a trained cultural dancer I am familiar with complex rhythmic patterns, but maybe it’s my age, or my eye is keener to detect nuance, maybe I have been doing too much of one thing, because I am a fish out of water and definitely not the sponge able to absorb different styles and techniques with ease as I thought was my strongpoint. For my feet stamp flat and my torso is proud but rigid in comparison to the rubber spines around me and my head flicks of its own free will as if I’m wearing a Dhurri, a Torres Strait Islander head dress.

I am frightened by the busy drums, yet missing the call to change steps consistently, my body the vocalist missing the opening bars of a song. I count, I mimic, I TRY HARD. My weight is different, my relationship to the floor too close. The girl next to me says I have to keep my weight on my toes and stop thinking too much, just enjoy it.

So what joy, I discover there’s another 3 hour workshop the following day- EASTER Sunday and I vow to return.

This time the class is packed, seems we all want to stave off the brown oval good-stuff. Instead we run, stomp, skip, ripple, clap and swing our arms with the relentless vigour of triathletes. I go through several sweats soaking from exertion. The participants are all ages and come from all backgrounds. Not all are dancers but the challenge is uniform. The energy is infectious as the smiles on our fatigued faces. I watch the girl from the day before, who is going out with the teacher’s brother. I try to copy her subtle knowledge. All too soon the class is over.

Verdict – best Easter ever.

(Micadanse studios are much bigger than I originally thought with approximately 5 studios extending across 3 buildings within the Cite des Arts complex. Micadanse website is http://www.micadanses.com/)