Universal Dancer This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By , Oakland, CA
West-African dance class. In accordance with an unspoken rule, the white girls (all three of us) move to the back of the room. It's not our fault, really. It's in our genetics. We don't have hips or breasts, or if we do we certainly don't know how to move them. We look at each other, uncomfortable and out of place. We've been learning these steps for weeks, adding more and more, and now, finally, we have a full piece of choreography. I mentally prepare myself for another hour of feeling awkward, uncoordinated, and utterly out of my element.

But to my surprise, something happens to me once the drumming starts. The polyrhythms wash over the classroom, reaching the back corner where we white girls are huddled. I start to tap my feet to the beat. Soon, I'm swaying my hips. The teacher moves to the front of the room, and the drums signal us to start dancing.

The polyrhythms envelop me like cool water. Their pulsating branches wrap around my wrists and their roots encircle my feet. I feel a light, an urge, something I can't name, radiating from my solar plexus, out my eyes, the top of my head, and the bottoms of my feet. I let go. I dance like I've been doing nothing else my whole life.

When the drumming stops I awake from my trance, breathing hard. The teacher smiles and nods her head in my direction. I beam, wiping sweat from my forehead.

During the subsequent classes, I stand in the front row. I still trip and stumble, but now I know what it's all about. I've been let in on a wonderful secret. When the spring concert rolls around, I dance with the same indescribable joy. I move to center stage, by myself, and do my solo. I leave the stage a free person, embodying the universal dancer.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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