The Freedom We All Need

Veronica Vega

Graffiti Canales by Yasser Castellanos. Guagueros Park in Alamar. Fotos: Roberto Ruiz.

HAVANA TIMES — A recent and alarming cervical crisis led me to become aware of the long hours I spend sitting at my laptop in an unnatural and harmful posture.

I had forgotten that basic freedom that I thought had been recovered in the late 1980s when I discovered dance (or it discovered me), propelled into it by the autobiography of Isadora Duncan.

This exceptional woman claimed that modern civilization had atrophied the natural human need to move, to explore space with one’s body in a playful relationship that not only results in tangible benefits but also psychological ones.

All one has to do is look at our movements in the course of our daily routines: we get up, often abruptly, weighed down by stressful commitments, without even stretching our body (like cats so wisely do), and there begins our race against time.

If you work in an office or attend to the public, the alternatives are either to remain seated or to stand. The back and forth trip from home to the job (the vast majority of the time by bus) offers the same choices. Children and teens are subject to these same restrictions at school.

Even those who work in factories or fields, or those charged with daunting domestic inertia, maintain more or less limited positions in which the body cannot fully extend or withdraw itself. We cannot seek varying movements for the sheer enjoyment of recognizing them.

I remember, when under the influence of my dance classes, sometimes when walking down the street I would feel the urge to dance – and I did, even at the risk of being misunderstood (or ridiculed). How strange those times seem now!

I felt like that expression someone intimated when seeing Isadora dance: “A little girl dancing on the first morning of the world…” It was the freedom of innocence.

The dances that society creates and develops are conditioned by specific rhythms and trends of the times, ignoring the intrinsic needs of the body…and individuality even more.

Ballet and dance, as art forms themselves, are not immune to concepts of choreography and certain patterns of movement. Scholars such as Hungary’s Rudolf von Laban discovered principles in ritual dances that were a little more autonomous.

I remember one time a saw some crazy person dancing wildly on Havana’s Malecon seawall. Without music, he moved with a freedom and joy that — I have to confess — I’ve never seen in anyone else.

I always see in people who dance (in addition to their rhythmic patterns) an almost uniform sensuality and the tacit rule of vanity and/or competition.

Those who believe that freeing themselves through the stimulus of alcohol or drugs are confined to these substances, which they have to pay for with money and that do damage to their metabolism.

Even if we don’t have the coherence to defend ourselves from political controls (those of totalitarianism or the “democracy” of the First World, with its other forms of slavery), how would you like it if all of humanity suddenly discovered the need to move and dance, anywhere, with that minimal freedom that we’ve also allowed to be taken away!

It would be a global performance of innocence that would do so much good for children, adults, and the elderly…for civilians, the military…and also for governments.